Sunday, 1 January 2017

Jim's column 31.12.2016

There was another disaster at Bristol Rovers on Boxing Day as City again capitulated to a more physical team in what is becoming a predictable occurrence this season. The defeat means seven straight league defeats for the Sky Blues since their last victory over Chesterfield on 1st November. It equals the run at the end of the 1972-73 season for Gordon Milne's team in Division One. Two potentially tough games face the team in the next few days with a trip to Peterborough today and a home game with Bolton Wanderers on Monday. There have been only two worse losing runs by the club since they joined the Football League. In 1924-25 City, then a Second Division outfit, lost eight in a row between early November and 3rd January 1925 when they managed a 0-0 draw at Stockport. Two weeks later they recorded their first victory for almost three months, a shock 1-0 victory over league leaders Manchester United.

If City lose today and on Monday they will equal the club's worst ever run set in 1919 when, newly elected to Division Two following World War One, they lost their first nine games in the Football League. It really doesn't bear thinking about!

City's first ever visit to Bristol's Memorial Ground and their first competitive game with Rovers since 1964 certainly showed new manager Russell Slade that there is a great deal of work to be done to keep the team in this division. If the defeat wasn't bad enough, to witness Billy Bodin score a hat-trick was truly embarrassing. The winger, who is the son of former Welsh international Paul Bodin, had scored only once in 21 appearances before Boxing Day. His penalty was the 23rd consecutive successful spot-kick by Bristol Rovers.

Bodin's hat-trick comes just three weeks after Cambridge's Luke Berry scored four in the FA Cup, and is the first league hat-trick conceded by the Sky Blues since Tranmere's Ryan Lowe scored three in the 5-1 defeat at Sixfields in November 2013. Since City left the Premier League in 2001 Bodin is one of only five players to score league hat-tricks against them, the others being Jamie Cureton (QPR), Vincent Pericard (Plymouth), Nahki Wells (Bradford) and Lowe.

Matt Partridge was surprised that the Sky Blues had two away games over the Christmas period but none at home and asked if this had happened before. In 2012-13 City played at Stevenage on Boxing Day and at MK Dons on 29th December, winning 3-1 at Stevenage and 3-2 at MK. City were in a golden spell at the time and the two wins made it 10 games unbeaten under Mark Robins. At Stevenage Richard Wood, Carl Baker and David McGoldrick scored the goals whilst Frank Moussa and Stephen Elliott (2) wrapped up the points at MK.

The previous occurrence was in 2001 when City won 1-0 at Grimsby on Boxing Day and lost 2-1 at Nottingham Forest on the 29th. City also played away twice the previous Christmas (Everton and Middlesbrough), in 1991 (Sheffield United & Wimbledon), in 1989 (QPR & Derby) and on various other occasions. Normally when this has occurred the fixture computer has given City a home game on January 1st.

Until the late 1950s clubs played the same opponents, home and away, on Christmas Day and Boxing Day (unless one of those days fell on a Sunday) and often they weren't local derbies meaning long journeys for teams and supporters over the festive period. So, for instance, in 1950, City played at Cardiff on Christmas Day and entertained the Welsh side on Boxing Day, and in 1953 played Ipswich home and away in successive days. Most clubs played their Christmas Day home games with an 11 a.m. kick-off so fans could get home for their Christmas dinner. During the 1950s the appeal of going to a game on Christmas morning faded and attendances fell. In 1959 City were one of the last clubs to play on Christmas Day, beating Wrexham 5-3 in front of 17,000.

The tradition of playing the same opponents home and away over Christmas continued until 1967. City's final opponents in a Christmas double-header were Liverpool, who they were playing for the first time in the League. City entertained the Reds on Boxing Day in front of over 42,000, the sixth highest gate in the club's history at the time. World Cup winner Roger Hunt gave 'Pool an early lead before Ian St John got his marching orders for felling City's Brian Lewis with a left hook. Gerry Baker equalised before half-time and although Bobby Gould had several chances the game ended 1-1. Four days later City travelled to Anfield and lost the return to a solitary Ian Callaghan goal.
                 Bobby Gould challenges Liverpool's Tommy Lawrence in the Boxing Day 1967 game.

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