Sunday, 1 April 2018

Jim's column 31/3/2018

The Sky Blues excellent 4-0 victory over Grimsby was not only the team's biggest win since the 6-0 hammering of Bury in February 2016 but extended the team's unbeaten run to a season's best six games. In fact you have to go back to the autumn of 2015 to find the last run as good – Tony Mowbray's side went 11 league games without defeat. It's just the sort of run the team needed at this stage of the season especially after the three straight defeats at the start of February which caused many fans to give up their hopes of promotion. The run has also coincided with a loss of form amongst some of their rivals in the race, Luton and Notts County especially. With eight games remaining (before yesterday's game at Newport), it is clear that the race for the automatic and play-off positions will go right to the wire. On paper City have a relatively easy run-in (if there is such a thing in this grim division) facing only two of the top nine sides (Notts County and Lincoln) whilst Notts County have to play Luton, Accrington and Wycombe as well as the Sky Blues. Accrington, the favourites for top spot, feature on the outstanding games for Exeter, Wycombe, Lincoln, Swindon and Mansfield. City's chances of an automatic promotion spot could hinge on the results of these six-point games.

Mark McNulty has emerged as the 20-goal striker that City fans have been praying for and his hat-trick last week took his total to 18 league goals and 21 in all competitions. He is up there with the most prolific City goalscorers in the last 50 years. In league goals he has equalled Dion Dublin's best season in 1997-98, is two behind Adam Armstrong's 20 in 2015-16 and three behind the best since 1967, 21, held by Ian Wallace (1977-78) and Callum Wilson (2013-14). Looking at goals in all competitions we might be looking at the highest scorer for fifty years. Since Bobby Gould got 25 in City's 1966-67 promotion season the highest scorers are:

23 Ian Wallace (1977-78)
23 Dion Dublin (1997-98)
22 Callum Wilson (2013-14)
20 Adam Armstrong (2015-16)
19 Terry Gibson (1983-84 & 1984-85)

McNulty has overtaken Gibson and Armstrong and must be favourite to overhaul Wilson, Dublin, Wallace and possibly even Gould. The next target will be George Hudson's haul of 28 goals in 1963-64, then Terry Bly's 29 in 1962-63.

Arthur Warner's memories of watching Coventry City go back to the early 1950s and he wrote to me recently following my piece on long runs of home victories. He remembers, as a ten-year old, the 1954 run of eight wins and Bristol City ending the sequence. City had won their last four home games of the 1953-54 season and had a great start to the 1954-55 season. On the previous Wednesday they had lost their unbeaten record (and top spot) at Gillingham 1-2. Bristol had taken over the league leader's position and had won four games in a row. There were 29,879 at the game including a few thousand from Bristol, the biggest crowd at Highfield Road since the club were relegated from Division Two in 1952. Arthur recalls that expectations were high amongst City fans.

Close season signing Tommy Capel put City ahead but John Atyeo (2) and Jimmy Rogers sealed a 3-1 away win. Also in the Bristol side that day were Jack Boxley and Jim Regan, who both later joined City. Centre-forward Eddie Brown, who had netted eight goals in eight games that season was sold to Birmingham City soon afterwards and manager Jack Fairbrother resigned in protest. Bristol were promoted and City finished 9th.

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