Coventry City's poor form continued at Barnsley on Tuesday night with a 2-0 defeat to the division's form team. This following hard on the heels of Saturday's home defeat to Fleetwood means City have won only one of the last eight games and three of the last fifteen (since that incredible performance against Gillingham. With only two home wins in eight, the team's form is of great concern and it is only the inconsistent form of the clubs around them that keeps them in the top six before today.
City fans have become accustomed to these slumps but they are not usually from such strong positions and I thought I would recall two such dips in form. In 2002, City's first year down from the Premier League, the Sky Blues, under Roland Nilsson had an impressive autumn run which enabled the fans to forget about the woeful start which cost Gordon Strachan his job as manager. At the end of October they briefly reached top spot but over the winter despite their form being inconsistent they kept in touch with the top six. In February six wins in eight games pushed them up to fourth and with seven games remaining a play-off place looked on the cards. Then disaster struck and the side recorded just a solitary point from 21 and finished tenth. In the final reckoning if City had got nine points from those seven games they would have clinched a play-off place. The slump cost Nilsson, somewhat unfairly, his position and since then the club have never been near the play-offs.
In 1963-64, when there were two points for a win) Jimmy Hill's team were nine points clear at the top of Division Three on 3rd January after a stunning first half of the season. 68 goals in 27 games and 18 wins out of 27 had in most people's eyes clinched promotion to Division Two. Then the wheels fell off and the team went until the last Saturday in March (11 games) before recording their next win. The results were as follows:-
January 11 (a) Reading drew 2-2
January 18 (h) Luton drew 3-3
January 22 (a) Oldham lost 0-2
February 1 (h) Hull City drew 2-2
February 8 (a) Mansfield lost 2-3
February 15 (h) Brentford drew 2-2
February 22 (a) Wrexham drew 1-1
February 29 (h) Bournemouth drew 2-2
March 7 (a) Watford drew 1-1
March 13 (h) Southend lost 2-5
March 21 (a) Bournemouth lost 1-2
By the end of February the Sky Blues' lead had been cut to one point with Crystal Palace on their shoulders and Watford a further point back. On 14th March Palace, with their tenth win out of 12, sailed past the Sky Blues and City fans, unable to see another victory were giving up on promotion (there were no play-offs in those days and only two were promoted). A week later Palace extended the lead to four points and Watford drew level with City, and with a game in hand, with several other clubs on their heels. Finally on 28th March City recorded a win, beating Oldham 4-1 at Highfield Road thanks to new signing George Kirby's hat-trick.
Two draws and two more wins put City back on tracks and on top with three games remaining but a draw at Millwall and defeat at Peterborough meant they went into their final game at home to Colchester two points behind Palace and level with Watford but with a superior goal average. Older fans will know the story had a happy ending – Palace and Watford both lost what looked easy games on paper, City scraped a 1-0 over Colchester and finished top. Interestingly Palace failed to win any of their last seven games.
This week, as in March 1964, some City fans are writing off the prospects of finishing in the play-off places. Some are saying that with our form our chances have gone. I believe form is a small part of the equation over the coming weeks. City's form in 1964 indicated that promotion was out of the question but that massive win over Oldham turned the tide for Jimmy Hill's side and although they had to rely on other team's mishaps, they regained their composure and achieved their goal. 1964 was a leap year, let's hope that is an omen for Tony Mowbray's team.
Hats off to former City boss Steven Pressley last week. He set up his Fleetwood side to frustrate the Sky Blues and took three points away to help their fight against relegation, before following up with a victory over Gillingham on Tuesday evening. He was the first former City boss to return and win a league game in Coventry since Harry Storer in 1947. Since then numerous managers have returned but failed including Jack Fairbrother (with Peterborough), Gordon Milne (Leicester), Bobby Gould (Wimbledon), Iain Dowie (QPR), Micky Adams (Sheffield United) and Mark Robins (Scunthorpe). Gould did manage a Full Members Cup victory at Highfield Road in 1989.Harry Storer
Storer, for many as important to the club's history as Jimmy Hill, left City to join Birmingham City in 1945, after revolutionising the club in the eight seasons leading up to World War Two. He brought the Blues to Highfield Road for a Second Division game in October 1946 and got a 0-0 draw but in August 1947 the Blues won 1-0 on their way to promotion to Division One. Walter Aveyard scoring the goal in front of 30,558. Just over a year later Storer amazingly resigned from his job at St Andrews to return to the Highfield Road hot-seat and steered the club away from the relegation zone.