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.
With five straight wins the Sky Blues had taken Division Two by storm, scoring 16 goals & conceding just five. But how long could Jimmy Hill's team keep up the incredible form. Two away trips in four days would seriously stretch the Sky Blues, starting with a midweek game at Derby's Baseball Ground.
City were unchanged for the sixth consecutive game whilst Derby, managed by Tim Ward, had former City goalkeeper Reg Matthews between the sticks – the first time Reg had faced his old club since his world record transfer to Chelsea in 1956.
City were supported by around 10,000 travelling fans in a 32,720 crowd – the biggest at the Baseball Ground for eight years. The interest in the game was so great that Derby had to close the gates before the kick off with several thousand fans unable to gain admittance. City started confidently but were stunned by a 14th minute goal.
In an electric atmosphere left-winger John Bowers ran 30 yards, weaving and darting inside before unleashing a fine shot that beat Bob Wesson. Five minutes later Bowers was carried off after a hard but perfectly fair tackle by Brian Hill – and he stayed in the dressing room for 20 minutes before returning with a foot strapped up to limp on the wing. As is often the case 10 fit men seem to work harder to compensate for the unequal numbers and Derby rarely looked at a disadvantage. They hammered away incessantly at the Rams' rearguard for long periods in the second half but failed to find an equaliser.
Former England 'keeper Matthews was at his irrepressible best with some of his saves stirring the memories of older City fans & it seemed at times that only he stood between City & the equaliser that could have led so easily to them winning the game. At the other end Wesson had a lot less to do with County only having seven or eight shots. City, for once were unable to take two golden opportunities when they arose.
First, after 37 minutes, Ken Hale chipped the ball perfectly over Matthews' groping fingers, and there was George Hudson, ideally placed in front of a gaping goal and unmarked – but he headed it over the bar. The second, after 57 minutes, was at the height of City's domination, when Humphries cut in with only Matthews to beat but shot straight at the keeper from eight yards. A Kirby header beat Reg but full-back Ferguson cleared it off the line.
Nineteen minutes from time Derby scored a second. City's defence was all at sea when Buxton got a cross in from the right which Thomas met to beat Wesson with a snap shot. Despite the home fans chanting: 'Easy, Easy', City never gave up & in the final minute John Smith, having arguably his best game in City's colours, hit a low cross which Rams' defender Jack Parry could only hit into his own net. It was too little however & the game ended 2-1 with City's 100% record gone.
Four days later City travelled to the North East to face Newcastle United, a team that had lost only one of their five games. City were unchanged again but had to reoganise after only six minutes when Brian Hill pulled a hamstring. He was off the field for just 12 minutes but in an era before substitutes he was brought back on and played on the left wing with his thigh strapped. City tried several defensive shuffles with Smith, Farmer, Rees & finally Humphries playing at right-back but the injury seriously affected City's attacking capabilities. The game was not a pretty one with bad tackles overlooked by a poor referee from the start. City came off worst in many of the ill-tempered fouls & body checks, and sadly resorted to retaliation at times. The violence culminated with Newcastle's Ron McGarry being ordered off for punching Ronnie Farmer in the mouth.
City were undone by two goals early in the second half. Left-winger Colin Taylor was fed by Stan Anderson, the home side's best player, Taylor unleashed a a cross-shot that swerved violently at the last minute, hit the far upright & flew into the net. Nine minutes later Hilley's effort hit Mick Kearns on the line, but as Kearns tried to head clear, £45,000 striker Barry Thomas, boot upraised, bludgeoned the ball & the City man into the back of the net. City appealed in vain for a free-kick but the referee didn't even see a prostrate Kearns on the goal-line & prepared for a kick-off. Only when George Curtis brought Kearns to his attention did the referee signal for a trainer.
City had few chances & their best fell to Hudson near the end but from ten yards & with only the keeper to beat his effort was weak.
So the Sky Blues had lost two consecutive games but were still perched at the top of the table, ahead of Norwich on goal average. Two home games in a week would give Jimmy Hill's men a chance to redeem themselves.