CITY 1 LINFIELD 0
European Cup Winners Cup 1st Round 1st Leg
16th September 1970
City Corrigan, Book, Pardoe, Doyle, Booth, Oakes, Summerbee, Bell, Lee, Young, Towers – Subs Mulhearn(unused), Bowyer(unused), Hill(unused), Smith(unused), Jeffries(unused)
Linfield Humphries, Frazer, Patterson, Andrews, McAllister, Bowyer, Millen, Magee, Hamilton, Sinclair, Cathcart – Used Subs McAteer(80), Scott
COLIN BELL BAGS THE ONLY GOAL OF THE GAME
FROM THE PRESS BOX
ALMOST A ‘MIRACLE,’ LINFIELD
BILL IRELAND WRITING IN THE BELFAST TELEGRAPH 17TH SEPTEMBER 1970
Fortune favours the brave. So it was with Linfield at Maine Road last night when the courageous Irish League part-timers came within seven minutes of achieving the modern miracle of a goalless draw with European Cup Winners Cup holders Manchester City, one of the best club sides in Britain.
They were denied the distinction of a sensational result, and even greater glory by one error of judgement in the crucial 83rd minute.
Centre half Ivan McAllister, who like the remainder of his diligent defensive collaborators, had not put a foot wrong, failed to cut out a lob from wing half Alan Oakes and England inside forward Colin Bell was able to head the ball in.
McAllister revealed afterwards that he was dazzled by the floodlights, but even then the goal might never have happened. Just before the pass which produced it Isaac Andrews, the heroic Linfield sweeper, had retired with a badly gashed eye.
Linfield were still sorting themselves out after his tragic departure when Oakes caught them with their guard down for the first time. There was no cover on when the ball eluded McAllister, Bell being unmarked as he swooped to score.
It was the one time when the Linfield defensive blockade devised by manager Billy Bingham with all the meticulousness of a military operation, had looked vulnerable.
For all but this fleeting and fatal moment they had coped magnificently with what is reputedly one of the most lethal forward lines in Europe.
Linfield, and for manager Bingham this was a triumph for tactics and psychology, reduced the City super stars to the realms of ordinary mortals. They showed no respect for reputations and played to a carefully laid pre-match plan.
Bingham whose know-how and experience have never been more vividly illustrated, pulled off a master stroke by casting the rugged Andrews in the role of “spare man”.
How the red haired Isaac, who loves the atmosphere and challenge of big match occasions, relished the responsibility. He was in his element, directing operations and taking on big names like Lee and Bell with the utmost elan.
The City strikers were obviously surprised by the ‘meat’ in some of the Linfield tackles and frequently showed flashes of temperament as they became increasingly frustrated.
Mike Summerbee, too, reacted to the tight marking with a display of petulance which scarcely becomes a performer of his standing and quality.
The exasperated international winger was astounded by the effort and prodigious running which Linfield were able to put in. City clearly expected the Blues, playing in all red because of a colour clash, to capitulate under an intense build-up of pressure.
The Manchester men just could not break down this stern and stout-hearted resistance and this was where the fitness of Linfield, who have trained practically as full-timers since the advent of Bingham, came into it.
The Northern Ireland team boss, whose assessment of the tie was spot on all down the line, maintained that his team would “run” City. Few people believed him, putting it down to a manager attempting to boost his players, but nobody’s laughing now, least of all City.
Linfield knew that they would have to stand up to a pounding and Bingham set out to ensure that the buffeting would not lead to a goal blitz. He switched big Billy Millen from centre forward to play in midfield.
Again, it was a shrewd piece of thinking. Millen, who often won the ball more often than any other player in the game, was one of the men spotlighted subsequently by volatile City coach Malcolm Allison.
And no wonder Billy gave so much to the Linfield cause that he was violently sick at half-time and had to be substituted, suffering from cramp, near the end.
It was a night when the Blues had no failures, and only on rare occasions do sports journalists have the opportunity to pay such a compliment. No praise is too high for the men who did their club and Irish football proud.
Goalkeeper Derek Humphreys, completely in command of his domain, gave a faultless display, never hesitating to move out and meet the City attackers as they pounced on high balls constantly pumped into the goal area by wing-halves Mike Doyle and Oakes.
Full-backs Alan Fraser, a talented teenager who will surely be transferred before long, and long-serving Jackie Patterson were equally effective.
Fraser, still a fortnight away from his 18th birthday, showed not the slightest trace of nerves, and Patterson completely subdued the sulking Summerbee.
Andrews, who had five stitches inserted in his eyebrow, emerged as the man of the match, and McAllister, apart from that one blemish, also comes in for a lot of credit, along with Eric Bowyer, what a shame he has been dropped by the Irish League selectors, and that terrier-like little Scot Billy Sinclair.
The Blues also owed a lot to the men isolated from the defensive entrenchment to act as strikers, Eric Magee, Bryan Hamilton and Dessie Cathcart,
All of them, particularly the tireless Magee, a tremendous pre-season capture by the Linfield manager, were prepared to run with the ball and take on opponents.
They knew their hard pressed colleagues needed some respite and did their best to provide it. In fact, early in the second half Hamilton almost snatched a shock goal.
He worked a sweet one-two with Magee, but the alert Joe Corrigan raced from his goal to smother the shot. It was the only time he had to make what could genuinely be classed as a save.
All the action and excitement came at the other end, City, pressing forward without ever moving with the sophistication and subtlety expected of them, chalked up a series of near misses.
Bell, one of the few who did not flop, headed over the top three times, and the inevitable Andrews, who withdrew from the fray with the greatest reluctance, made at least two goal-line clearances.
City, surprisingly for a team of their stature, did not vary their approach to any great extent. They failed to stretch the Linfield defence or pull them out of the goal area, with only admirable skipper Tony Book showing any real grasp of what the situation required.
He tried to alter the direction of the play with sweeping passes, but Linfield refused to be lured. They continued to tight mark and picked as opponents Manchester became more frantic.
It looked like a night when City were fated not to score, and it was a big disappointment for the Linfield players to lose such a ‘bad’ goal when they were within sight of a memorable result.
Still the Blues gave their fans, some 1,000 of whom made their vociferous presence felt on the Maine Road terraces, something to remember. They have paved the way for what should be a sell-out second leg at Windsor Park on Wednesday night week.
Linfield have given a prestige-lifting indication of just what the often maligned part-timers of Irish League football are capable of.