When Shay McCartan put City ahead in the 18th minute against Cheltenham Town in April it meant City had scored in 26 consecutive Football League matches but little did anyone know at the time it would prove to be our last goal of the season and the remaining four matches would, to use a Chris Ashton saying, not see the oppositions onion bag bulge.
It is just the 19th time in our Football League history that four consecutive games have seen City goalless and on four of those occasions, the run extended to five games.
Since McCartan’s goal City have played a further 432 minutes without scoring, a run that makes it the eleventh longest Football League goal drought the club have suffered just eclipsing the 428 minutes between 17/04/1908 and 11/09/1909 (the club were in the Midland League in the season in between!) and the 425 minutes between 04/04/1903 and 05/09/1903 when again the last four games of the season failed to produce a goal.
What do these five former Imps Lennell John-Lewis, Jimmy Hartley, Kingsley Black, John McGinley and David Puttnam, have in common?
A goal in the first twelve minutes of our opening game next season will see the current run remain in 11th position as the tenth longest run is 444 minutes although that only included three scoreless games due to the goal times as Alex McCulloch scored in the first minute of a 4-1 defeat against West Ham United on September 6th 1919 and after three scoreless games Billy Egerton scored in the 85th minute as we lost 6-1 at Tottenham three weeks later.
Failure to score in the first half will see us surpass the 472 minutes set in 2010/11, the 473 minutes from 1910/11 and the 477 minutes in 1913/14 which again due to the goal times was one of the four matches that included five consecutive scoreless games.
50 scoreless minutes need to elapse to overtake the 481 minutes set in 1958/59 although on the occasion the scoreless run was ended in spectacular fashion as Ron Harbertson’s 43rd minute goal to end the drought was quickly followed by strikes from Andy Garver and John McClelland as City scored three in ninety seconds!
For those keeping count, there are five longer goalless runs extending beyond 481 minutes and the answer to the question is the five City players pictured are the ones who ended those long barren spells.
487 minutes between Dany N’Guessan scoring at home to Gillingham in October 2008 to Lennell John-Lewis netting at Exeter City is the fifth longest whilst the gap between Richard Cooper’s 69th minute goal at home to Burnley in January 1987 and John McGinley’s 23rd minute opener at Halifax Town was 494 minutes. That run extended to five goalless games.
Just three occasions have seen City go over 500 minutes between Football League goals with David Puttnam ending a 507 minute drought in the 75th minute at Torquay United in March 1991 following a Paul Casey goal after 18 minutes at Chesterfield in February whilst 569 minutes separated Tom Pyle’s 6th minute winner against Darwen in January 1897 and Jimmy Hartley’s 35th minute consolation in a 3-1 home defeat against Small Heath in March but at just three minutes longer it was as recent as March 2002 that the club record was set when Kingsley Black scored in the 86th minute on the 30th, also at Exeter City, to register the first goal since Justin Walker had found the net in the 54th minute at Hartlepool United twenty-five days earlier.
Whilst the above relates only to Football League games it is worth noting that during World War One the 1917/18 City team managed to go seven complete games without scoring (one was only played over 70 minutes) totalling 692 goalless minutes between Jack Parrish’s 68th minute goal at home to Barnsley on September 1st and the same player scoring in the 60th minute at Nottingham Forest on October 27th.
With the above figures, there is a caveat (in fact two) and that is that in order to have conformity all matches are considered to be ninety minutes long. No one knows how much time, if any, referee Mr Hines added on at the end of the game versus Darwen in January 1897 or in any of the other games during any run until the more recent occurrences.
Secondly, the time of any of the goals scored is subject to what was recorded. Again, for more recent games most sources agree on the time but Tom Pyle’s goal in the Darwen match is recorded at either 6, 7 or 8 minutes depending which report is read. Where there are discrepancies preference has been given to a time recorded in the Lincolnshire press be it Chronicle or Echo but on occasions, other sources have had to be used.