The Big Freeze Of '63

Fifty years today, a postponement at Sincil Bank brought about the start of an FA Cup record for the Club...

Having defeated Darlington and Halifax Town in the opening two rounds of the 1962/63 FA Cup competition, Lincoln City were set to entertain Jimmy Hill's Coventry City at Sincil Bank on January 5th 1963 but with the majority of England under snow, which had been falling since Christmas Eve, the match, along with 28 other Third Round ties, fell victim to the adverse weather.

It wasn't until March 6th - 63 days and a record 15 postponements later - that the two clubs eventually locked horns. Here's how the action - or lack of it - unfolded:-

December 1962

Fri 28 - City's match at Aldershot is postponed due to heavy snow which started falling across the country on Boxing Day, making it one of 35 postponed Football League matches that weekend.

January 1963

Wed 2 - Hopes are high that the FA Cup Third Round tie against Coventry City at Sincil Bank will take place. "The pitch is not in bad condition," said Imps' manager Bill Anderson. "There is practically no snow on it, and though it is hard, I think it is playable at present."

Thu 3 - A covering of snow settles on the Sincil Bank playing surface. The Club ask the FA for advice. If the Cup tie against Coventry is postponed then the new date will be January 9th.

Fri 4 - Two pitch inspections take place with the second at 3.00pm seeing Lincolnshire referee Norman Saywell postpone the Coventry match. Around 1½" of snow lay on top of a frozen pitch.

Mon 7 - With temperatures rising over the weekend, things are looking good ahead of the rearranged match. "If this thaw goes on then all will be well," says Mr Anderson.

Tue 8 - An overnight snow shower sees the pitch once again under 1½" of snow and ice.

Wed 9 - Local referee Bernard Goldson carries out a 9.30am pitch inspection before postponing the Coventry game. Over an inch of ice lay below a blanket of snow. "It is far too dangerous for play. I wouldn't like to referee on it, never mind play," says Mr Goldson. "It's like a skating rink," added Mr Anderson. The game is rescheduled for Wednesday 16th.

Fri 11 - Mr Goldson has no hesitation in postponing the home League fixture against Chesterfield.

Tue 15 - City ground staff take a light roller to the pitch in a bid to level off the rough snow and clear off the ice. "If it stays as it is there are great hopes of the game being played," says Mr Anderson.

Wed 16 - Overnight wintry showers leaves the pitch covered in 3" of snow. Mr Goldson carries out a 9.30am inspection and takes just a few minutes to declare: "Too much snow to be playable." The match is now set for the 21st.

Thu 17 - The prospects for the away game at Oldham Athletic look promising.

Fri 18 - Oldham still hopeful that the game will go ahead on their snow-covered pitch. Manchester referee Mr Cowan passed the pitch fit although the final decision will be made by match official Ernie Crawford.

Sat 19 - City make a 4-hour rail-coach-rail journey to Oldham and get to the ground with 50 minutes to spare. The match goes ahead as planned with the home side winning 4-1. "I don't think this game should have been played," says Mr Anderson.

Mon 21 - Another five inches of snow sits on top of the frozen Sincil Bank pitch, forcing Mr Goldson to postpone the Coventry match again. "It's just hopeless to think of playing on such a pitch," bemoans Mr Anderson. New date is Saturday 26th, forcing the Gillingham home League game to be cancelled.

Thu 24 - Three inches of snow still covers the bone hard playing surface, which itself is frozen solid up to a foot deep. "If anything the pitch is in worse condition now than it was two to three weeks ago," concedes Mr Anderson. "There is little hope for Saturday."

Fri 25 - Mr Goldson postpones the game. New date is now Wednesday 30th.

Mon 28 - Pools of water sit on top of thick ice as the Sincil Bank pitch comes under threat of waterlogging. With the St Andrews training pitch also frozen over, the players are only able to train on the tennis court or in the gym.

Tue 29 - The Coventry match is postponed for a sixth time. The flooded pitch made Mr Goldson's decision a formality but manager Mr Anderson is hopeful that Saturday's League game against Barrow will go ahead as planned.

Wed 30 - The ice is still thick and groundsman Jack Ranshaw faces a thankless task to clear the huge pools of water. The Barrow match is rated 50-50 and it is reported that the Club may try to counteract the ice by spreading fertiliser over the ice patches.

February 1963

Fri 1 - Efforts to clear the melting snow and ice are thwarted by an overnight frost and further snow. The Barrow match is postponed whilst the Coventry tie on Monday is rated doubtful.

Mon 4 - Coventry match is postponed again and rearranged for Wednesday evening but a further postponement seems inevitable. Around 2-3" of snow hides the thick rutted ice which encrusts the entire playing surface. In response to the Football Association's plan to ask clubs to play outstanding ties on any fit pitch, Coventry manager Jimmy Hill, whose side played a friendly against Manchester United in Dublin on Saturday, said it was "a great idea but how many clubs would give up ground advantage? If we were drawn at home we would certainly want to play at home but as it is we are drawn at Lincoln at the moment. Sure we'll play them anywhere... even in Dublin."

Tue 5 - As expected, the Coventry tie is postponed for an eighth time with a large amount of snow and ice on the pitch giving referee Bernard Goldson no alternative but to call the game off. Monday 11th February is the new date.

Thu 7 - The players train in The Drill Hall with manager Bill Anderson pleased with "a satisfactory session."

Fri 8 - Heavy overnight snow in Hartlepool sees local referee Kevin Howley immediately postpone Saturday's League game against the Imps following an afternoon pitch inspection.

Sun 10 - Four inches of ice with even more in patches force another postponement of the Coventry match. Now rearranged for Wednesday 13th.

Tue 12 - Coventry tie is postponed for the tenth time with Monday 18th the next scheduled date in the diary.

Thu 14 - The home League match against Darlington on Saturday is expected to be postponed as there are still vast expanses of ice on the Sincil Bank pitch.

Fri 15 - Referee Mr Goldson postpones the Darlington game following another visit to Sincil Bank.

Mon 18 - With the pitch showing no signs of improvement, the Coventry match is postponed and rearranged for the Wednesday evening when it's almost certainly going to be postponed again.

Tue 19 - Thick ice remains on the surface as the Coventry tie is postponed for the 12th time. The pitch is in a "shocking state" according to manager Bill Anderson. The new date is Monday 25th.

Wed 20 - The players have a trip to the seaside where they managed to get a training session in on the North Shore sands in Skegness.

Thu 21 - Several tons of sand are laid on the pitch at Workington ahead of the weekend's League match. "On a sandy surface City could find training on the Skegness sands a tremendous help," reports the Lincolnshire Echo.

Sat 23 - Brian Punter is sent off after just 19 minutes for arguing with the referee as the Workington match finishes all-square at one goal apiece. Albert Scanlon scores the City goal.

Sun 24 - The Coventry match is postponed for the 13th time as the Sincil Bank pitch remains under a layer of ice. We'll try again on Wednesday.

Tue 26 - Off again. Thick ice. An inevitable 14th postponement as the tie moves into March. Monday 4th is the new date.

Wed 27 - Friday's home League game against Mansfield Town is an almost certain casualty with the pitch still under 3-4" of ice. In the shade of the South Park stand, 2-3" of snow covers the ice. "The Imps might as well consider playing on the Brayford as on this dangerous surface," writes the Echo reporter.

Thu 28 - The Club appeal for volunteers to clear the ice and snow from the pitch. Workmen using a drill and compressor, kindly lent to the Club by Vice-Chairman William Wright, make a start on the operation.

March 1963

Fri 1 - The postponement of the Mansfield game is confirmed by Mr Goldson. As well as the outstanding Coventry tie, City now have a backlog of 10 Football League games to play. Volunteers responded to Thursday's appeal and armed with shovels and brushes they were kept busy trying to shift the ice from the playing surface, broken up by the drills.

Sat 2 - With the exception of an 18-yard strip stretching the width of the pitch under the shadow of the South Park stand, the playing surface is clear of snow and ice. Over 30 boys aged 12-14 spend most of the weekend helping out.

Mon 4 - Referee Bernard Goldson postpones the Coventry tie for a 15th time with Wednesday night pencilled in for the next attempt. During the morning the players put in an hours' worth of ice-clearing before training whilst in the afternoon 12 braziers are used to soften the remaining ice. "There is now a 70-30 chance of us playing on Wednesday," said Bill Anderson. "We are grateful to those people who responded to our appeal for assistance. We do, however, particularly thank those enthusiastic youngsters who turned out on Saturday and yesterday. They have done a wonderful job in helping the workmen."

Tue 5 - The ground is completely clear of ice and the Coventry tie, postponed 15 times, is poised to take place 63 days after it was originally scheduled to.

Wed 6 - "IT'S ON AT LAST" reports the Echo. The pitch, by all accounts, is in good condition, although there's a lot of mud at the South Park end, as Lincoln City and Coventry City meet at Sincil Bank. Within 15 seconds the visitors' Jimmy Whitehouse scores and the Sky Blues romp home 5-1 victors. Was it really worth the wait??