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/
Coventry City’s excellent start to the Second Division campaign had been brought down to earth by two away defeats in four days, at Derby & Newcastle, but they still topped the table going into the midweek return game with Derby at Highfield Road. A crowd of 38,278, the second biggest post-war league crowd, watched Derby snatch the points with two second half goals.
The Rams, captained for the occasion by former City goalkeeper Reg Matthews were already the division’s top scorers with 18 goals, one more than the Sky Blues, from seven games. Injuries forced Jimmy Hill to make the first changes to his line up since the opening day. Brian Hill was replaced by the young reserve Bill Tedds & John Sillett came in for Mick Kearns at left back.
City started like a train and for the first twenty minutes Derby were rarely able to get out of their own half. The pressure was intense but often the final ball was poor & the only real chance of a goal came when the Derby centre-half Young had to hook a Ronnie Rees effort off the goal-line. The experienced Derby defence kept their cool & a clean sheet with City’s shots failing to hit the target.
The longer the match went on, and the more desperate became the Sky Blues’ attempts to score, the more confident the Rams became. Then in the 55th minute Eddie Thomas – the man whose second goal had sealed the victory at the Baseball Ground – put the visitors ahead. A Kirby header had just shaved the upright when Derby broke away to pounce on a stretched City defence. Buxton chipped the ball through from the right and Thomas hooked the ball past Wesson from 10 yards.
In the 72nd minute it was curtains for the Sky Blues. Buxton shrugged off the close attentions of George Curtis to pull the ball back for Alan Durban who scored with a close range low shot. After that Derby never looked in danger of conceding one goal let alone two and left Highfield Road in high spirits having jumped to second place behind new leaders Rotherham with City down to third place.
The following day manager Jimmy Hill replied to rumours linking him with the vacant manager’s job at First Division Wolves stating that: ‘I wouldn’t go there if they offered me £10,000 a year. I’d rather work where I am happy, than get a lot more money somewhere else, and not be as happy’.
Another home game loomed on the Saturday with local neighbours & old rivals Northampton in town. Northampton had started the season modestly with three wins from seven games but with only seven goals were finding scoring difficult.
Mick Kearns was fit again & took the place of Tedds but Hill changed his tactics & reverted to a sole centre-forward, leaving out George Hudson. John Smith moved to inside-forward allowing Dietmar Bruck to play his first game at the higher level.
On a fine, sunny day 30,069 watched the Cobblers came to defend and succeed. They closed down the key providers in the City team & reduced Kirby’s service to trickle. Inside-forwards Smith & Hale were marked out of the game by the big Northampton wing-halves & with Humphries a pale shadow of the player that had tormented defences so recently, it was left to Rees. Sadly his efforts were to no avail against the well-marshalled defence.
After a goal-less & poor first hour, City seemed to be getting on top for the first time but then ironically Northampton struck. It was an error by Bob Wesson which cost City the goal. After saving a shot, he tried to set City moving again quickly but threw the ball straight to Charlie Livesey’s feet. The wily, experienced, centre-forward seized on the mistake like a flash & seeing left-winger Tommy Robson unmarked, he switched a short pass, and Robson fired past the stranded Wesson.
The Cobblers saw out the game to clinch the points & inflict a fourth successive defeat on the Sky Blues. More worryingly was the fact that City had failed to score in three of those four games. The defeat meant City slipped to sixth place, two points behind the new leaders Newcastle.
A home League Cup tie with Ipswich three days later gave City the chance to partially atone & restore some confidence. Hill made several changes including dropping Wesson & Kirby in favour of Dave Meeson & Hudson, resting Humphries & Hale allowing John Mitten & Graham Newton to get a game and dropping John Smith to allow the return after injury of Ernie Machin.
For 70 minutes City struggled to get some form & trailed the side they had already beaten twice in the league. Colrain had given Ipswich a 52nd minute lead from Hegan’s cross but then Ronnie Rees took the game by the scruff of the neck to set up a victory. Ronnie had been clapped on to the pitch at the start in recognition of his first full international call up for Wales & playing on the right-wing for a change he set the game alight with 20 minutes remaining. He surged through to hit the upright and Mitten netted the rebound, then two minutes later the Welsh wizard cut inside his marker & fired across goal for Hudson to score on the turn. Four minutes later he was on the score-sheet himself, hitting a fierce shot that beat Bailey for pace. City made it 4-1 three minutes from the end when Machin’s shot was only palmed away & Hudson followed up to score.