On Tuesday evening a sparse crowd of 5,437, the lowest home crowd since 1985*, watched City’s debut in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy against League Two side Burton Albion. The suffering fans were subjected to a lacklustre ninety minutes football followed by a thrilling 19-goal penalty shoot out culminating in a Coventry City victory courtesy of the hero of the hour Joe Murphy. The Irish goalkeeper has taken a lot of stick from some fans since he stepped into Keiren Westwood’s shoes last season, but on Tuesday evening he not only saved Burton’s tenth and eleventh penalties but stepped up to score the twenty second penalty of the night to make it 10-9 to the Sky Blues and secure a place in the last 32 of the competition.
For the Sky Blues it was their first penalty shootout since 2001 when, in a League Cup tie at Peterborough, after the teams had been level at 2-2 after 120 minutes, City triumphed 4-2 on penalties. The few hundred fans who travelled to Peterborough that day probably remember it as the day that Manhattan Twin Towers were destroyed by Al Queda (11 September) and the game should not really have gone ahead in respect of the dead. City’s successful penalty takers that night were David Thompson, Jay Bothroyd, Lee Hughes and Lee Carsley with only Magnus Hedman missing. Before Tuesday Hedman was the only Sky Blue goalkeeper to take a penalty in a shootout.
Penalty shootouts were introduced into domestic football in 1976 when the League Cup adopted them if a replay was inconclusive after 120 minutes but other lesser competitions introduced them for swifter conclusions and City’s first shootout was in 1988 in the Simod Cup semi-final at Reading. With the scores level at 1-1 after 120 minutes City lost the shootout 4-3 after leading 2-0 and the Second Division side went on to Wembley.
The only other shootout in a City competitive game was in the FA Cup in 1998. After defeating Aston Villa in round five City were hot favourites to beat Second Division Sheffield United to clinch a semi final place. However a laboured 1-1 draw at Highfield Road saw the Sky Blues travel to Bramall Lane for a replay. An early paul Telfer goal looked to have won the tie but the Blades equalised with virtually the last kick of the game and a goalless extra time meant penalties. Kicking into the rabid United Kop end City’s penalty takers froze (including the normally deadly Dion Dublin) and the Blades triumphed 3-1.
During the summer I received an email from Alan White of Binley regarding the ‘other’ Jimmy Hill who played for Coventry City in the 1950's. Alan believed he was a Binley boy and that his late Dad often used to tell him that he knew him well. He recently acquired a programme of the Millwall v Coventry game played at the Den on Boxing Day 1955 in the old Division 3 South. In the City line-up at no.11 is Hill.J , along with Matthews, Austin, Timmins, Jamieson, Kirk, Harvey, Moore, Uphill, McPherson and P.Hill.
Although Jimmy possibly lived in Binley he came from Wishaw in Scotland where he was born in 1931. As a 17-year old Jimmy Hill looked set to be an outstanding left-winger as he dazzled for City’s youth team, Modern Machines FC and was given his debut at Hull in 1949. His first team chances however were limited and it was only after Norman Lockhart left for Aston Villa in 1952 that Hill won a regular place. He played 68 games and scored eight goals before losing the left wing berth first to Colin Collindridge then later to the prodigious Ray Sambrook and he moved to Millwall in an effort to get first team football. His stay at the Den was short and he went on to play for Wisbech Town and Shrewsbury. I am pretty sure he lived in Coventry until his death in 1993.
* In 1985 1,086 watched a Full Members Cup game at Highfield Road against Millwall when neither side could progress in the competition.