50 Years Ago: 1964/65 December – A Christmas Miracle
Mike Minihane continues his look back 50 years to events at the County Ground. Following Swindon Town’s first season in the ‘big time’ Division Two during 1963/64, Town looked to consolidate; however football isn’t that simple…
Top of the Charts: I Feel Fine – The Beatles
Our first game of the month was at Northampton Town who had been promoted with us two seasons previously, they as Champions and us as runners-up. Since that time our fortunes had gone in dramatically different directions. Northampton were proving to be the Division’s surprise package and deservedly led the table. In contrast we were down in 20th position, also deservedly. Given our dismal away form no one was expecting us to get anything out of this fixture.
It came as no surprise then that we lost, although only 1-2 and that after we had taken the lead through Dennis Brown’ first goal for the club after his transfer from Chelsea. Two late goals however were to be enough to give the Cobblers the points and we duly slipped from 20th position to 21st and into the relegation zone. Dennis went on to become a big favourite at the County Ground scoring 37 goals in 92 games. He was certainly one of my favourite players with his ability to create space for himself and always looking likely to score. His scoring brought him to the attention of other clubs and in February 1967 he moved on, but why he went to Northampton Town I’ll never understand!
A home game to Bury gave us the chance to seek some revenge for the 1-6 drubbing we’d had at Gigg Lane in the first game of the season and to put our two previous heavy home defeats to Bolton and Newcastle behind us. We were rewarded for a much better display with a 2-0 win and two precious points, the goals coming from Don Rogers and Keith East, his second in four games since he’d broken into the team. For some unfathomable reason East didn’t play again that season but the following season he was to become a scoring sensation scoring nine goals in two games, still a Town record. Captaining Bury that day was Gordon Atherton who had a fine game. He clearly impressed the Town hierarchy because during the following week he signed for Town and made his debut the following Saturday at Leyton Orient.
The following Saturday the miracle of Christmas arrived. We were at Leyton Orient, with Gordon Atherton making his debut. Whatever else he certainly brought us some luck because Dennis Brown gave us an early lead and then went on to score two more for his first ever hat trick in League football and we ran out 3-0 winners. Some statistics are required to put this miraculous away win in perspective. We had lost our ten previous away games in this season. Taking the previous 1963/64 season into account we had failed to win away in almost fourteen months, our last victory being at Plymouth Argyle in October 1963. Since then we had played twenty four away games, drawing two and losing twenty-two.
Heartened, we looked forward to our home Boxing Day clash with third-placed Norwich City; could we make it three wins in a row? As it turned out we couldn’t, as although playing well we fell to the sucker punch of a very late Gordon Bolland goal. The miracle of Christmas had moved on. We were however back up to twentieth in the League, and with two wins out of four and two clean sheets by our standards it had been a decent month. That said, we were still in deep trouble and looking very likely to drop back into Division Three.