Last Saturday was a day that will be remembered by Coventry City fans for many a year. For their team to score four goals in a game is a rare enough event (it was only the sixth time in ten seasons since the move from Highfield Road) but to score four in ten minutes left City's long-suffering fans open-mouthed in disbelief. For people like me that follow the club's history and stats, it was a dream day. I don't apologise for focusing this week on some of the records that Tony Mowbray's men are setting.
City's goals were officially recorded at: 33m 59s, 36m 11s, 40m 06s and 43m 12s. I had to scour the record books to find the last time a City team scored four as quickly in a competitive game. I had to go back almost 60 years, to September 1956 in a home game with QPR in Division 3 South. With 13 minutes remaining the score stood at 1-1 then City went mad with goals from Pat Woods (77mins (own goal)), Ken McPherson (81 & 85 mins) and Dennis Churms (83 mins) to make the final score 5-1. That was four goals in eight minutes. The only other quickest salvo of goals in the post-war period came in a 6-0 home win over Newport County in a 2nd Division game in January 1947 when Ted Roberts, George Ashall and George Lowrie (2) scored four goals in 10 minutes between the 59th and 69th minutes. Pre-war goal-times are notoriously suspect but there may have been a faster four goals than eight minutes. I did discover a friendly game at Nuneaton in 1967 when City scored four in seven minutes in a 7-3 victory with John Tudor netting all four.
Moving on to Jacob Murphy's hat-trick – only the second by a City player since the move from Highfield Road (Freddy Eastwood scored the other against Peterborough in 2009), which was timed at 10 minutes. The question on Saturday evening was, was it the fastest hat-trick ever by a City player. I quickly ascertained that it was the fastest in the post-war era, beating Peter Hill's 15-minute spree in a 3-0 home victory over Leyton Orient in September 1952. Fellow historian Mike Young helped me out with the pre-war years and identified some spectacular feats. In 1928 a gentleman called Walter Johnstone scored three in nine minutes in a 6-1 home win over Merthyr Town in Division Three South. Johnstone, signed from Falkirk in 1927, played only 31 games for the club, scoring 12 goals in total. Two weeks after his quickfire hat-trick he signed for Walsall but played only three games for the Saddlers before returning to Scotland where he fell off the radar. That feat was equalled in 1933 by Billy Lake who scored three in nine minutes in a 7-0 thrashing of QPR. And five years later, Lake was at it again, hitting three goals in 10 minutes in a 4-1 win at Luton..Billy Lake
I thought the legendary Clarrie Bourton, who netted six hat-tricks in 1931-32 alone, might have scored a faster one but his quickest was in a 6-1 home win over Bournemouth in his momentous season. He scored three of his five goals in 12 minutes!
Prior to Murphy, the last player to score a first half hat-trick was Kevin Gallacher against Nottingham Forest in that famous 5-4 League Cup victory in November 1990. The last in a league game was Willie Carr against West Brom in a 3-1 home win in August 1969.
On the question of goal times, Ellis Romero asked when did the Sky Blues last lead a game 4-0 at half-time. The answer is 2005 in that famous last game at Highfield Road against Derby. Goals from McSheffrey (2), Adebola & John, gave City a 4-0 half-time lead and John and Whing scored after the break with Derby scoring two in reply to make the final score 6-2.
The win over Gillingham which took City to the top of League One, was City's fourth successive league victory, something they had not done since December 2002. Then, with Gary McAllister in charge the team beat Stoke and Wolves (away) and Derby and Reading (home). Unfortunately the roof fell in and the side only won once in the next 21 league games and escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth. By coincidence the Sky Blues went top of the league exactly 50 years after going top of Division Two with a 1-0 win at Birmingham under Jimmy Hill.
The draw on Tuesday night at Bradford City extended City's unbeaten league run to ten games – the best run by a City team since 2001-02 when Roland Nilsson's managerial career commenced with an 11-game unbeaten run. That was the best unbeaten run since Jimmy Hill's Division Two championship team of 1966-67 went 25 games unbeaten – a feat never likely to be repeated. After a defeat at Huddersfield on 19th November 1966 the Sky Blues did not lose another game. Jimmy Hill's team of 1962-63 went 15 unbeaten in the league, and 22 unbeaten including Cup games whilst before the war, Harry Storer's side started the 1937-38 season with a 15-game run without loss and two wins at the end of the previous season meant it was a run of 17 unbeaten in total.