City play Burton Albion this weekend, a fixture that has never occurred before in the league (or indeed, any other competition). Until the trapdoor system was introduced 30 years ago, brand new fixtures between teams in the four divisions were very rare indeed. Here we look at the last five ‘new’ opponents City faced in the league…
1: Yeovil Town
November 2003, and newly-promoted Yeovil come to the Circle to fight out a cravenly featureless goalless draw. Rubbish way to begin a new rivalry, really. Fortunately, the return fixture the following May became one of the most famous matches in the modern City era and the 2-1 for the Tigers had two effects: one, it got us out of the bottom division after eight crummy years; and two, it ended our brief association with Yeovil, as we’ve not played them since. Until this weekend they remain – jointly* – the team we have played the fewest league games against.
2: Boston United
November 2002 this time, and handy to note that a first-ever league season against new opposition proving historic in some way started before we played Yeovil. Boston’s first jaunt to East Yorkshire was as Boothferry Park was preparing its long goodbye, and although it wasn’t the last game at the old place, Damien Delaney’s winner was the last City goal scored there, as the Tigers scraped a 1-0 win. City won three more league fixtures before, again, the promotion of 2004 parted the two teams forever, and Boston have the honour of being the only team against who City have a 100% record.
3: Rushden & Diamonds
October 2001, and City’s first game against a semi-manufactured side who joined the Football League in the summer was a bonkers one indeed. It ended 3-3, with Mike Edwards scoring one of those own goals that the protagonist has no idea about as the home side went in 3-1 up at the break. City clawed back to get a draw in the second half. Three more games were contested between the two during an eventful baptism in the bigger leagues for Rushden, who won the title in 2003, swapped places with a resurgent City the following year and then returned to non-league squalor in 2006 before being liquidated. A phoenix club is currently in the seventh tier of the game.
4: Kidderminster Harriers
December 2000… but wait! We had played them competitively before thanks to the FA Cup first round draw sending Cliff Britton’s men to Aggborough back in 1964/65, with the Tigers winning 4-1. Kidderminster were on the periphery of the big leap throughout the 90s – controversially being denied promotion in 1994 despite winning the Conference, thanks to a wooden stand at Aggborough – and eventually came up in 2000 under a certain Jan Mølby. The first season yielded two draws – the 2-2 at Aggborough far more entertaining than the goalless first one at Boothferry Park – and the sides ended up as divisional bedfellows for four straight years prior to City’s rise in 2004, and Kidderminster’s return to non-league obscurity a year later. Mølby’s actions at Kidderminster earned him the City job in 2002; ironically, it was a defeat to Kidderminster within a matter of months that then got him the sack.
5: Cheltenham Town
August 1999, but, hang on…. yes! Another former FA Cup foe, right here… and we go back to 1947/48 for this one. City cuffed the non-leaguers 4-2 in the second round of the competition, thanks in the main to a George Richardson hat-trick. More than half a century later, City’s third game of a new campaign was at the windswept Whaddon Road ground and Cheltenham won it 1-0 thanks to a first half penalty. The two played each other for four of the next five seasons – Cheltenham’s promotion in 2003 and immediate drop back down prompted the gap – before, again, the heroics of 2004 rendered this fixture obsolete for the time being (though they did knock us out of the FA Cup that season). Cheltenham, like three of the above, ended up back in the non-league pyramid eventually but to their credit, clawed their way back up again.
*We played two league games against Wigan Borough in 1930/31, winning neither, before they went out of business.