Monday, August 29, 2011

29 August 1987 - The Football League's Mystery Milestone

On 29 August 1987, somebody scored the English Football League's 400,000th goal. But nobody knows who it was.

Established in 1888, the Football League governed the top four tiers of English football until 1992, when the uppermost division broke away to form the Premier League. It is believed that the league's first goal was scored by Aston Villa full back Gershom Cox, who put the ball into his own net in the 30th minute of a match against Wolverhampton Wanderers on 8 September 1888. The other contender for the honor, though, is Fred Dewhurst, who netted from Preston North End in the third minute of their match against Burnley on the same day. Although Preston's match started after Villa's, lack of precision in the exact start times makes it impossible to say with certainty which goal came first.

Similarly, lack of details in match timing makes it impossible to say who scored the 400,000th goal. The records only make clear that it came on 29 August 1987. The day's 43 matches provided a total of 110 goals, with only four scoreless draws among them.

The day's highest score came from Division Three's Gillingham, who beat Southend United 8-1, while the highest tally in the top flight was Arsenal's 6-0 victory over Portsmouth. Darlington came close to that in Division Four, beating Hartlepool United 2-5. Sheffield United delivered the top score of the Second Division with a relatively modest 3-1 win over Blackburn Rovers.

It took almost nine years for the league to reach 500,000 goals, with Huddersfield's Gary Taylor-Fletcher collecting the honor with a strike against Rotherham United.

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