Lincoln United's Ashby Avenue

Lincoln United’s hopes of promotion back to step four didn’t materialise as they feel in the play-off semi-finals to Skegness Town.

Now the dust has settled, vice-chairman Sam Wilkinson spoke exclusively to The Linc about how it was still a campaign to be proud of.

The Whites fell into step five of the non-league pyramid following relegation in 2022/23 and were hoping to bounce straight back.

Speaking on what the ambitions were for the club at the beginning of this season Wilkinson said: “Well, the hope was to get promoted, not to say that was the expectation, we just wanted to solidify the club, but yeah of course we were hoping to bounce straight back. We gave the manager a good budget to go and compete at the top of the league and that’s what happened so we can’t be disappointed.”

The 23 game unbeaten run:

Lincoln United vs Romford
The Whites ended the season with a trophy, two cup semi-finals and a second-placed finish. Credit: Ed Mayes Photography

Lincoln began the season in scintillating form, losing only three times prior to Christmas, setting themselves up for a title charge. That form culminated in a 23-match unbeaten run stretching from October until January.

Wilkinson said: “There’s not probably one specific reason [for the unbeaten run], there’s a lot of things that went into it but we just tried to make all the players feel comfortable and do things as professionally as possible.”

That run eventually was ended by Sherwood Colliery on January 23 with a 0-2 defeat at The Sun-hat Villas & Resorts Stadium. At the time, The Whites and Sherwood were the two contenders for the league title, but that defeat just started to put it out of reach for Chris Funnell’s side.

Wilkinson though felt it was their next game where the season took a turn, saying: “Sherwood were the better team on the night but I felt it was the Sleaford game where we lost 1-0 the following weekend, we gave away a really poor goal there and didn’t give a good account of ourselves.”

FA Vase and County Trophy Successes:

Lincoln then fell away in the league over the following months with their form becoming increasingly patchy. Despite this they were able to come away from the season with one trophy. The Whites defeated Boston Town on penalties at the Jakemans Community Stadium to claim a first-ever Lincolnshire FA County Senior Trophy for the club.

On the triumph, Wilkinson said: “It’s a great setup at Boston [United] and it was great to play there. That of course was penalties, and I don’t think either team deserved to win. It was really deserved though because the boys have worked so hard and put so much effort in so to come away from the season with nothing would have been harsh.”

Lincoln United win Lincolnshire FA County Senior Trophy
Lincoln United ended the season with one piece of silverware. Credit: Ed Mayes Photography/Lincolnshire FA

It would be impossible of course to talk about Lincoln United’s season without mentioning their historic Isuzu FA Vase run. The team reached the semi-finals of the national competition for the first time in their history and were a penalty shoot-out away from a final at Wembley Stadium.

They lost 9-10 on penalties to Essex-based Romford FC after a nail biting two-legged affair couldn’t separate the two sides.

Wilkinson emphasised how “special” the run was for the club, as they went the furthest in the competition they ever have, beating their previous record of a quarter-final finish in 1974/75.

He said: “It was incredible, it was a bit of a journey, there were so many penalties weren’t there hopefully we’ll see a few less of them next season! But, to go away and win at South Liverpool and away at Hallam, I’ve never seen Lincoln United supporters celebrating in another team’s clubhouse like that it was great.”

“Then the Deal game was just incredible to get so many supporters there and win the penalties, and of course then the two Romford games, apart from the result, were special as well,” he added.

Preparation for the 2024/25 season:

Lincoln eventually finished second in the table but in truth were not favourites for the play-offs after their stuttering form towards the end of the campaign. Their eventual loss to Skegness Town in the semi-finals concluded an eventful season and meant it will be another year in step five for The Whites.

Lincoln United manager Chris Funnell and assistant Matt Evans
Chris Funnell left his post as Lincoln United men’s manager, but remains in charge of the women’s team. Credit: Ed Mayes Photography

You would have been forgiven for thinking the drama stopped there, but on April 26 the club announced that both chairman Allen Crombie and men’s manager Chris Funnell were stepping down from their roles.

Wilkinson said: “We’ve already started advertising for the managerial position, and we’ll be speaking to some more people this week. Chris is a tough act to follow he did such a good job, but I also feel it is an appealing club to be at.

“We knew it was getting a bit much for Allen, so we’re really thankful for the way he stepped in and helped. Nothing will be official until our AGM in July, but we think someone from the board will step up.”

It was a season of extreme highs, but one that ultimately didn’t end how many involved with Lincoln United were hoping it would. They’ll return in step five again next year with a new boss and a fresh start, and will get another go at reaching Wembley in the FA Vase.

Feature Image Credit: Ed Mayes Photography

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