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Q. Does anyone have any facts about the effect of a very early goal on a football match? My impression is that the team that scores in the first minute, or very soon after, rarely goes on to win the match.

A. Teams that score early first goals do badly only in common folklore. In Fred Eyre's splendid Kicked into Touch, he tells of a coach who complained when his side scored from the kick-off because, by getting the goal, they had not followed his defensive instructions - his team went on to lose 2-1. But a quick glance at last weekend's (24 April) English football results proves the opposite is true. Arsenal took an early lead and won 6-1, as did Leyton Orient. The record of the 14 teams who scored in the first 10 minutes was won 11, drawn 3, lost 0, goals for 43, goals against 16 - something akin to championship-winning form. It seems to be a trick of the memory - we remember that Juventus scored early against Manchester United, but not that Arsenal did against Middlesbrough.


Hagley, Worcestershire

A. I have been aware of this phenomenon for years where the "perfect start" is a "poisoned chalice". In 65-70 per cent of matches where a side scores very early they do not go on to win - most often drawing, sometimes losing. However, if two goals are scored early then most often the team wins.


Bray, Co Wicklow

Q. With the first-class season starting earlier than ever, there must be a fair chance that someone will score 1,000 runs by the end of May. But who was the quickest to 1,000 runs?

A. It all depends what you mean by the quickest. In 1895, Gloucestershire's W G Grace at the age of 46 was the first to score 1,000 in May. He made 1,016 (ave: 112) in 10 innings and took just 22 days, the same as Wally Hammond (also Gloucestershire) in 1927. In 1938, however, Don Bradman struck 1,056 runs (ave: 150) by the end of May - he had the advantage of batting on 30 April, when he scored 258. His 1,000th run came on 27 May (the earliest date the milestone has been reached) but he had needed only seven innings.


Maidstone, Kent

A. Graeme Hick was the last to do it in 1988, scoring 410 of his runs in April - a record for that month - and failed by just one day to match Bradman's feat of scoring 1,000 runs by 27 May.



Answers please

Q. The Scottish Third Division champions, Ross County, regularly attract crowds of more than 3,000 for home games at Dingwall when the population is around 5,000. Have any other clubs attracted crowds which exceed half the town's population?


London W12