Club Historian Jim Brown looks back on the 1964/65 Second Division season in this PUSB programme feature...
Coventry City club historian Jim Brown contributes the 'The Sky Blues Story 50 Years On' feature to the PUSB match-day programme and during the off-season period, we're showcasing these great features on www.ccfc.co.uk.
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After a brave but pointless performance at Deepdale on Boxing Day the Sky Blues hosted Preston in the return at Highfield Road two days later.
There had been no improvement in the weather & it was a bitterly cold evening in Coventry & the pitch, which had a fair bit of snow on the surface, was like an ice rink. Jimmy Hill named an unchanged side but Preston manager Jimmy Milne was forced to replace the injured teenage prodigy and scorer of the Boxing Day winner, Howard Kendall, with debutant Bill Cranston.
The first-half was as one-sided as one could imagine a game & City should have led 4-0 at the break. As it was they mastered the conditions with aplomb & led 2-0. Ernie Machin warmed the frozen fans with the first goal after five minutes when Glazier's long punt had the Preston defence reeling. George Hudson headed the ball sideways unselfishly to Machin who used his head to prod the ball neatly past Barton into the net.
Fifteen minutes later Machin should have scored again but hit an upright when it looked easier to score & the Preston goal had numerous hair-rising escapes. City's dazzling display was rewarded five minutes before half-time when the irrepressible Hudson scored one of the finest goals seen at the ground. Rees fed the centre-forward who, surrounded by defenders & with Barton rushing out, nonchalantly chipped the ball over the goalkeeper's head . Barton's fingers touched the ball but it tucked under the bar & into the net.
Five minutes after the break the game was as good as over when City scored their third goal. Cranston was penalised for a foul on Machin & from the free-kick Brian Hill swung a teasing free-kick into the Preston area. Hudson nodded it on & with the Preston defence at sixes & sevens, Humphries ran in to flick it home from close range.
City's defence gave little away & Preston had just one chance in the whole game – 15 minutes from time when Wilson set up Brian Godfrey but the Welsh international dragged his shot wide. Soon afterwards Hudson, in dazzling form almost repeated his chipped goal but the ball bounced off the cross-bar into a relieved Barton's hands.
Nemo in the Coventry Telegraph was impressed: '..Jimmy Hill's men defied the elements to serve up a brand of entertainment which I rate as their best performance of the season'. As for Hudson's display, Nemo could not contain himself: 'Hudson has never given a more masterly exhibition since he joined the club. Ninety-five percent of what Hudson achieved was accomplished to perfection.'
Five days later on the first weekend of 1965 City travelled to Middlesbrough, again unchanged. City won 3-2 to continue their resurgence from the lows of early December & make it seven points out of ten. On another icy pitch which City skipper George Curtis reckoned was worse than the frozen grounds at Preston & Coventry for the Christmas games, City were the better side for long periods. Machin put the Sky Blues 1-0 up in the 25th minute when the Boro defence blundered. Goalkeeper Connachan & full back Jones both left Rees' cross & Machin pounced. Boro were level six minutes later when Ian Gibson, the home team's best forward, made a goal out of nothing & they were on top for a while with Bill Glazier having to make several good saves.
It took City a little time after the break to get into their stride again, but once they did Middlesbrough were in for trouble. They took the lead for the second time in the 66th minute through locally-born Ken Hale who smacked in a shot off the upright & City looked set for the points. Boro had not given up however & with four minutes left they equalised through a calamitous goal. Defender Mel Nurse's shot spun off Curtis' leg & past Glazier towards the goal line. John Sillett, racing back, had time to clear, but stumbled on the frozen pitch & sprawled on the line as the ball rolled into the goal.
Big John's blushes were saved two minutes later when Hudson received the ball in the home penalty area. The ace striker, in the form of his life, was surrounded by defenders but calmly controlled the ball with his chest before hammering past the helpless goalkeeper. The late goal silenced the 16,000 home crowd & sent the 250 City fans delirious.
City's great start to the New Year, their fifth away win of the season, lifted the Sky Blues up to 11th place & gave the team & fans confidence ahead of the FA Cup Third Round tie at Villa Park the following Saturday.