50 Years Ago: 1964/65 March – A Glimmer of Hope

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…

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In 19th place, two points above the relegation slots and with the three teams below us having games in hand there was no doubting that we were in serious trouble.  With games against league leaders Northampton Town and fifth placed Bolton Wanderers coming up in March there was little cause for optimism. The ‘easier’ games, against Ipswich Town and Plymouth Argyle, in 9th and 10th places respectively were hardly a breeze either.

With our dismal away record there was little expectation of picking up anything at Portman Road where we were playing Ipswich in our first game of the month. It therefore came as a very pleasant surprise when we picked up a deserved point in an entertaining 0-0 draw.

Encouraged by this rare away point we were optimistic about our chances at home to Plymouth the following Saturday. An opening goal from Argyle’s winger Barrie Jones was quickly cancelled out by Roger Smart only for Mike Trebilcock to give the visitors a 2-1 half time lead. Jones got his second just after half time and again the response was prompt with Mike Summerbee immediately pulling one back. Despite a lot of Town pressure there were no further goals and the outcome was a very disappointing 2-3 home defeat. Mike Trebilcock’s prolific goal scoring led to a move to Everton later in the year and he went on to play for Everton in the 1966 FA Cup Final scoring two goals in their 3-2 win over Sheffield Wednesday.

The chance to respond to this disappointing defeat came the following Tuesday night with a home game against promotion contenders Northampton Town who had lost only four of their 34 games. No one really was giving us a chance in this one.  A group of us stood glumly on Stratton Bank expecting the worst. Northampton had a decent goal scorer in Bobby Brown, an ex-England Amateur international in an era when there were such things. Our pessimism looked totally justified as he opened the scoring with a superb volley from outside the penalty area at the Bank end, probably one of the best goals he’d ever scored. Just to prove that it wasn’t a fluke he scored a carbon copy goal shortly after giving Northampton a 2-0 half time lead.

The only issue seemed to be how many goals they were going to rack up in the second half. What followed was nothing less than magical and still lives in the memory. Within five minutes of the restart Ernie Hunt pulled one back to give us some faint hope and a minute later it was 2-2 following a Summerbee goal. Suddenly we were steamrolling them and dominating the game. Ten minutes later a second Hunt goal put us in front for the first time in the game and from then on the result was never in doubt. A fourth goal from Don Rogers five minutes from time put the final gloss on a glorious comeback in a 4-2 victory. On top of that all six goals had been scored at the Stratton Bank End which certainly gave us all great value for money. If we could play like that in our remaining seven games then we would certainly stay up.

Three days later we were at Bolton on a Friday night in front of a crowd of over 20,000. Bolton had plenty of scoring power with Wyn Davies and Francis Lee up front and were closing on the leaders Newcastle United and Northampton Town with three games in hand. When Francis Lee gave them the lead from the penalty spot (where else?) they looked odds on to narrow the gap at the top of the table but a superb performance from Dennis Brown culminating in his late equaliser meant that they had to settle for a point.

We had finished the month in 16th place, albeit having played more games than the teams around us. Being this far up the league was heady stuff. All we had to do was maintain our rediscovered good form for six games and all would be well. Given how we’d played in the last two games we really thought that salvation was at hand. Looking at the April fixtures however there was rather daunting; we would certainly need that little bit of luck that can make all the difference.

1964-65 March Table

Table and results from Statto.com

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