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.
For more features and content from Jim Brown, head to his website here: http://jimbrownsjournal.blogspot.co.uk/
The Sky Blues had made a stunning start to their season in Division Two with three wins from three games & were perched at the top of the table.
After two consecutive away trips they now faced two home games in four days. On Tuesday 1st September Ipswich Town came to Highfield Road followed by Middlesbrough the following Saturday. Interest in the city was high and a bumper crowd of 37,782 – the highest league crowd at the ground since 1949 – watched a thriller with the Sky Blues running out 5-3 victors.
City were unchanged from the win at Bolton whilst Ipswich had drafted in a young Danny Hegan, destined for a long career with the East Anglian side. City started the stronger side & could have been ahead before Ipswich, as in the game at Portman Road, grabbed a surprise lead after 21 minutes. George Curtis let in the nippy Gerry Baker mid-way between the centre circle & the goal & with Bob Wesson slow off his line the centre-forward had an easy job to score. Within 12 minutes City had scored twice to take the lead with two more magnificent George Kirby headers. The first from a Brian Hill cross the second a bullet header from Willie Humphries' cross which bounced off the turf, hit the underside of the bar & went in.
In an action-packed game of 54 shots on goal (36 from City) there was never a dull moment & the second half was practically a long series of City sorties as they encamped themselves in the Town half. The crowd erupted at two Ken Hale goals within a minute. After 64 minutes Rees, Humphries & Kirby combined to set him up for shot just inside Bailey's left-hand post. Then, with the crowd still cheering, John Smith carried the ball 25 yards before his pass set up another for the Geordie to make it 4-1. Then came a burst of three goals in three minutes. 20-year old Hegan shot home from 30 yards after 74 minutes but a minute later with the crowd shouting for the 'Old Five' Kirby headed down a Curtis free-kick for Hudson to make it 5-2 before Frank Brogan completed the scoring with a goal which looked suspiciously off-side. City continued attacking to the final whistle and Rees & Farmer forced Bailey to make spectacular saves.
Some City fans were critical of the team for letting Ipswich score their two late goals but manager Jimmy Hill was typically upbeat after the game, saying: 'I wish we could concede three goals in every game – and win at the same time.'
An unchanged City faced an unbeaten Middlesbrough side four days later in front of another massive crowd – 36,086. After the Ipswich game expectations were high for another thriller but 'Boro were a more physical side & gave City a lot less room whilst they didn't have the guile in attack to seriously threaten the Sky Blues. Nemo writing in the Coventry Telegraph felt that 'Boro started the rough stuff & soon there were physical clashes all over the pitch which the referee Mr Hamer had failed to control. 'Boro's Nurse & Gates were the prime instigators but Kirby & Rees gave as good as they got. Ironically the visitors' strong-arm tactics rebounded on them in the 37th minute when what looked like a foul by Rees on goalkeeper Connachan while the pair were on the ground was overlooked & City's opening goal was scored as a result. Rees appeared to hold down the Scottish international as he tried to get back to the ball near the by-line & Humphries was in quickly to force it in from close range. The angry 'Boro defenders appealed to the referee in vain with the goal standing.
'Boro had no complaints with City's two other goals. Kirby netted the second in the 52nd minute, his fifth in five games, with a header at the end of a slick move involved Hale, Humphries & a cross by Smith. Then five minutes from time George Hudson was released down the middle, he swept past one defender, dribbled around the 'keeper & gleefully hammered home the third goal.
City had won all five league games & led the division by two points from Norwich City. How long could they keep up this amazing form?