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Away day travels: jinxed by an imp, saved by Connor Wickham’s magic hat: Lincoln 1 FGR 1

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For FGR’s first big excursion of the season, Simon Hacker braved baking temperatures for a day out in Lincoln.

Saturday for Forest Green Rovers marked a hot date in Lincoln, so my son and I set an alarm for stupid, cranked the A/C knob to three and mostly hit the A46.

Back in Roman times, given the vestiges of dead-straight lines on the map that lie between home and away, Nailsworth may not have been so disconnected from Lincoln as the 170-mile gap on the map first suggests.

IMG 8816 1 | Away day travels: jinxed by an imp, saved by Connor Wickham's magic hat: Lincoln 1 FGR 1
Lincoln Pic: Simon Hacker

Bath and Leicester enjoyed swift marching links via the Fosse Way (those Romans really did level up), and the evolved road, having wriggled a little over the centuries, now of course bears the same number, A46, connecting Nailsworth to Lincoln. So there’s a conversation starter next time you meet a Lincolnian and want to avoid football. After Saturday, they might like that.

Most people who run electric cars are the type who plan meticulously and have an app for everything. But seeing as being a road tester is my job, I retain a casual disdain for range anxiety, believing a steer-it-and-see approach will deliver a greater truth about our EV charging infrastructure. So first prize in my shout-outs of shame goes to Welcome Break Leicester Forest East Services, a refuel point that, logic suggests, might be perfect when your EV has a range of 164 miles (you do the maths). 

IMG 8814 | Away day travels: jinxed by an imp, saved by Connor Wickham's magic hat: Lincoln 1 FGR 1

Established in 1966, it straddles the M1 with a Terence Conran designed bridge restaurant that once offered silver service, so you could dine while marvelling at all the British Leyland machinery whizzing back and forth below. Fifty-six years on, it’s a scabious, litter-clogged slap in the face for travellers, its north-bound Gridserve car chargers shrouded in tattered tape.

IMG 8805 | Away day travels: jinxed by an imp, saved by Connor Wickham's magic hat: Lincoln 1 FGR 1
Lincoln

Ever the optimist, we would later try the south-bound offering on the way home; it had one functioning charger, its regular user telling me both sides had been virtually inoperable for months. Such is EV life. Elsewhere and closer to Lincoln, we visited designated services which didn’t even have chargers, let alone the type that don’t work.

Maybe such challenges are the curse of the Lincoln Imp. The city’s team clearly has a good relationship with this mischievous mythical fellow.

IMG 8831 | Away day travels: jinxed by an imp, saved by Connor Wickham's magic hat: Lincoln 1 FGR 1
FGR players thank the travelling fans

Thanks to some tale of how he caused mayhem in the cathedral (they want £9 to get in, that’s nine pounds, so I’m using Google here), he’s LCFC’s mascot and, if you visit the Lincoln City club shop down in the cooled underbelly of the Westgate shopping centre, a welcome retreat when passive smoking in the High Street gets too much, you’ll see the ugly imp thing is the club’s schtick. As the Green Devils, we do subversion of the sport for environmental improvement, they do a goblin who likes to smash things up. It’s a funny old game.

Nevertheless, that imp won’t be forgotten by Baily Cargill when, at minute 63, he became the last player to touch the ball as it bounced past our keeper, Luke McGee. Lincoln’s fans, outnumbering us by exactly 46.67 to one, made a lot of vocal fuss about this.

IMG 8818 | Away day travels: jinxed by an imp, saved by Connor Wickham's magic hat: Lincoln 1 FGR 1
On the way to Sincil Bank

Up until then, the home team had really not shown what you might call clinical skill; indeed, the stats show that they suffered from a poor ability to finish, offering a succession of shots often comically wide of our goal.

Our own shots on goal were reassuringly more potent, but put it down to the relentless heat or a relentless referee who appeared to have shares in the home club, the drift was not in our direction.

IMG 8830 | Away day travels: jinxed by an imp, saved by Connor Wickham's magic hat: Lincoln 1 FGR 1
FGR go through a warm up in 32 degrees of heat

After a goal-less first half, Lincoln finally went one ahead at 63 minutes, the ball rebounding from Anthony Scully’s cross. We wiped the sweat from our eyes and surely wondered whether the odd tear might follow. Lincoln’s got that super cathedral and some lovely old buildings (think Gloucester with sexier undulations), but it’s an awfully long way to go for zero points on the table. 

Oh me of little faith. Connor Wickham’s unstoppable levelling goal, just nine minutes of bated breath later, was a multiple gift, triggering my first hearing of a new chant, a pleasant ditty about Wickham’s apparent possession of a magic hat, said apparel being imp-proof.

IMG 8811 | Away day travels: jinxed by an imp, saved by Connor Wickham's magic hat: Lincoln 1 FGR 1

For 158 Forest Green loyalists who had endured the slow roast to show their support, Wickham’s leveller triggered an explosion of celebration that slapped the stadium’s vocal hoard into silence. For manager Ian Burchnall, it was a moment to underline yet another solid choice he has made since taking the reins.

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FGR fan Rupert Hacker visits the Lincoln City club shop

For League One managers watching FGR’s form, it’s another indicator that we harbour an ever-increasing array of goal-scoring options. And for Baily Cargill, a player who puts so much heart and soul into every minute he gives us on the pitch, it banished that horrible deflection into the heat haze. 

Soon after, that’s where we headed too, soothing sunburnt brows but nursing a warm feeling about FGR and our prospects as a formidable series of home hurdles approach: Accrington, Plymouth Argyle, Brighton Hove Albion (a Carabao Cup clash) and another away date, apparently at some team in a place called Sheffield? FGR kept their cool and Lincoln couldn’t beat us; with just two goals in the game, neither came from them.

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