The Charlton squad head up to Sincil Bank (or, technically, the LNER Stadium) on Sunday for a competitive match against Lincoln for the first time for thirty four years and for the first league game for almost exactly sixty years.
It was the 8th October 1986 in The Littlewoods Cup when a late Robert Lee goal earned us a 1-0 win up there and a 4-1 aggregate passport into the third round. According to Colin Cameron it was "the dismal atmosphere" at the sparsely attended (2,319) home game at Selhurst the previous week that triggered Mercury sports editor Peter Cordwell into launching the paper's campaign for a return to The Valley.
Our overall record against the Imps is very good - played 12; won 7; drawn 4 and only lost one. Our last league game up there was a 2nd division 2-2 draw on 24th Sept 1960. Lincoln finished that season nine points adrift at the foot of the table and have never achieved second tier status since. In fact they have endured two spells out of the league altogether and most recently returned to League Two from The National League as champions in 2017. This was the start of their resurgence under Danny Cowley who subsequently led them to promotion to League One in 2019 before departing for Huddersfield. He was replaced by Michael Appleton and the team finished in a comfortable sixteenth place when the season was curtailed in March.
But all that is history. In contrast to Lee Bowyer who has only been permitted to make two signings and bring in one loanee, Appleton has brought in ten new players and his team have made a highly impressive start. In the league there have been wins against Oxford (2-0) and at Milton Keynes (2-1) and in the League Cup they won at Crewe (2-1) and at Bradford (5-0) to earn last night's tie with Liverpool. Their 2-7 defeat to the Champions demonstrated the gulf between League One and even a makeshift Liverpool team but probably tells us little about this weekend's game.
Charlton's performance against Doncaster last week was probably the most dispiriting we have seen under Lee Bowyer's management. He put it down to complacency from players who don't think their place in the team is under threat. There may also be some demoralisation arising from the off-the-field events and the inability to strengthen the squad. Nevertheless, we still thought that the team which took the field should have been able to see off Doncaster. On Sunday the starting line up will be further weakened by the absence of Alex Gilbey who has suffered an injury in training. Fans watching the game on Valley Pass will be looking for a gritty and bolder performance throughout the team and a hard-fought draw might not be a bad outcome.
Details of how to watch the game can be found below along with a statement from the club about what they are doing about the major problems that have been experienced in the audio transmission of the last two games: