Two home games at Sixfields in the last seven days have witnessed pitifully low crowds. City fans have become used to small attendances in their temporary Northampton 'home' but the gates against Crewe Alexandra & Hartlepool plumbed new depths. The 2-2 draw with Crewe was watched by the club's lowest ever league crowd of 1,618 whilst on Tuesday night for the FA Cup replay with Hartlepool there were only 1,214 in the ground, the lowest FA Cup crowd for a home game since records were kept. Low crowds are the norm for FA Cup replays these days. City's last home replay in the completion four years ago, against Premiership Portsmouth, attracted just over 7,500 - less than half than the crowd three days earlier for a league game with Barnsley. Compare that to some of the crowds for home replays in the 1950s & 60 - 23,500 that watched Huddersfield in 1955, 25,000 for Pompey in 1963 & almost 28,000 for Crewe in 1966. The FA Cup just doesn't get the pulses racing like it used to. One record still intact is the lowest home crowd for a competitive game set in 1985 when 1,086 turned up at Highfield Road for a meaningless Full Members Cup tie with Millwall. Who, that night, would have thought that eighteen months later a quarter of a million people would turn out in the streets of Coventry to acclaim the Wembley heroes.
Talking of Barnsley, City's replay victory earned a trip to the Championship club on the first weekend in January and early indications point to a large City following at Oakwell. Barnsley might be struggling in the league but with Danny Wilson appointed as manager this week and an excellent FA Cup pedigree in recent seasons, they will be tough opponents. The clubs have never met in the FA Cup but City's recent record at Oakwell is good. They have lost their last two visits there but before that had registered four consecutive victories.
The Sky Blues travel to Swindon today for a league game & their record at the County Ground does not augur well. Since 1953 City have won just one of 12 league visits to the ground although they have won two FA Cup ties there (1966 & 2001). I can also vividly remember a League Cup tie there in 1968-69 season. Swindon, then a Third Division side, had held First Division City 2-2 at Highfield Road and most City fans relished a trip to Wiltshire to put their lower status opponents back in their place. Swindon, inspired by the irrepressible Don Rogers blew City away and deserved their 3-0 victory. The Robins went on to win the League Cup final at Wembley adding other First Division scalps Burnley & Arsenal on the way to lifting the trophy.
Leon Clarke continued his impressive scoring record on Tuesday night, netting twice to take his season's tally to 14 from 22 appearances. Since making his debut on 1st January he has scored 24 goals in 38 appearances (36 starts & 2 subs). Tuesday's brace was his fourth of the season, equalling David McGoldrick's record last season. The last player to score five braces in a season was Michael Mifsud in 2007-08. It is four years this month since Freddie Eastwood scored City's last hat-trick and maybe Leon can crack that record before the season is out.
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