Reds play their first game on a Sunday since 2015 against Fleetwood this weekend – but games on the so-called day of rest are not that unusual, writes John Barnett.
Let’s discount games over the Christmas period when either Boxing Day has fallen on a Sunday, or our weekend-after-Christmas match has been on the Sabbath rather than Saturday, though a couple were notable for John Gregory’s first home win as manager (29 December 2013, 1-0 against Notts County) and Dean Saunders’ first match in interim charge, a goalless draw at home to Colchester in 2014 when we only had one fit defender.
There were sad circumstances surrounding the moving of a home fixture with Halesowen in September 1997, the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales having taken place the previous day when all sporting fixtures were postponed. With us in our early days at the Broadfield Stadium, a bumper crowd of over 1,500 saw a 0-0 draw.
The 2000-01 season was very wet, meaning not just Tuesday games but Thursday as well. On Sunday April 21, having lost to Tamworth the previous day, we made the short trip down to Havant & Waterlooville and drew 0-0.
By the time of our next outing on the Sabbath, not only were we in the Conference (or Blue Square Premier as it was by then), but there was a broadcasting deal with Setanta who decided to show our 1-0 defeat at Forest Green Rovers – when the winning goal was a penalty – on a Sunday night at 7pm!
And it was TV scheduling that led to our next Sunday encounter the following November 2008. Having hosted Ebbsfleet United on Thursday 20th, our weekend visit to York City was put back by 24 hours, though it looked like we had not turned up for the first half when we trailed 2-0, but we produced an excellent second-half comeback to draw 2-2.
It is not clear why our next Sunday showdown was rearranged later that season, but a weak Weymouth side – decimated by a mass exodus following financial problems – visited us on March 8th 2009 and Reds ran out 4-2 winners.
It was not until October 2010 that we next played on Sunday, when the Thursday night televising of our top-of-the-table clash with AFC Wimbledon meant a trip to Rushden & Diamonds was moved. Reds fans will recall the virtual lap-of-honour AFC embarked on after replacing us at the summit that night, but three days later while they were losing to Kidderminster a Matt Tubbs goal was enough for us to take the spoils and return to top spot.
That same season, and the final round of matches were moved back a day for broadcasting purposes, though with Histon already assured of a play-off spot and the Reds unable to finish ninth there was nothing at stake. When the visitors raced into a 3-0 lead at the interval it looked like we would finish with a whimper, but Steve Evans’ side launched a thrilling comeback to win 4-3 thanks to a goal eight minutes from time.
Jumping ahead slightly, our first season in League One and a home clash with Portsmouth proved tempting for Sky Sports who rescheduled for Sunday viewing as we attempted to go top of the table. However, first half red cards and some dreadful refereeing saw us lose 3-0.
The following season (January 2014), Coventry City’s ongoing ownership issues saw them playing home games at Northampton’s Sixfields Stadium so we headed there on a Sunday because the Cobblers had been at home the previous day. The Sky Blues led 2-0 eight minutes from the end, but Jamie Procter and Andy Drury netted in the next five minutes as we rescued a point from a 2-2 draw.
Our final three occasions were of huge significance. 19th February 2012 – exactly a year since our FA Cup fifth round tie at Old Trafford, and we were in the last 16 again as we entertained Stoke City. This time it was ESPN who moved the kick-off time sensing a possible upset, but a first-half Jon Walters’ penalty and a Peter Crouch header ended our quarter-final dreams.
The televising of the final day of the 2014/15 League One campaign meant another Sunday lunchtime kick off. While the cameras were focusing on promotion, there was just as much at stake at the other end of the table where victory over our visitors Coventry would guarantee our safety – quite possibly at their expense. When Matthias Pogba gave us an early second-half lead, the escape was on and scores elsewhere meant Coventry were safe as well.
But 17 minutes from time Marcus Tudgay silenced the home crowd with an equaliser. With us now having to chase the game, recent England debutant James Maddison pounced on a mistake to condemn us to a return to League Two.
Finally, one for the older generation of Reds fans.
In our final month at our former Town Mead home in 1997 we were heading for relegation until a remarkable double on the weekend of April 19-20. A highly unlikely victory away at promotion-chasing King’s Lynn was a huge bonus, and 24 hours later we hosted Nuneaton with eight of the previous day’s team starting. One change was striker Jon Warden, signed on dual forms with Bromley, and not for the last time he was our hero with the only goal. Victory in our final home game a week later secured our survival but that double-header was critical. Hands up those who went to both games.
Picture: Andy Drury celebrates our late equaliser against Coventry City in 2014.