CITY 3 QUEENS PARK RANGERS 1
League Division 1
21 st April 1979
City Silkman(8) Owen(73 & 79)
Ref Derek Richardson
City Corrigan, Donachie, Power, Viljoen, Watson, Bell, Owen, Deyna, Silkman, Hartford, Barnes – Sub Henry
QPR Richardson, Clement, Gillard, Busby, Howe, Roeder, Shanks, Francis, Walsh, McGee, Goddard – Sub Allen
It had been a long, arduous season for City when QPR came north. The Blues were lying in 17th position and had won only once in nine games.
Things were even worse for Rangers. The previous season had seen them avoid relegation by the skin of their teeth, by one point, in fact, and this time around they were doomed along with Birmingham City and Chelsea.
The result on the day meant that Manchester City were safe. Malcolm Allison had returned to Maine Road … there had been changes, and there would be many more.
“I know results have been going against us;’ said Tony Book before the game, “but since Malcolm came back as chief coach, there has been a significant improvement in our play.”
One of the basic differences between the two sides was the distribution of that very important quality … luck. The visitors had very little; City had dollops.
It took only eight minutes for the Blues to take the lead. Goalkeeper Derek Richardson’s long clearance was coming down towards Dave Watson and Rangers’ Mickey Walsh. The City defender outjumped Walsh and sent a long, looping header to Polish international Kazi Deyna, who played a first-time ball towards recent arrival Barry Silkman.
His unstoppable shot found the top corner of the net from fully 20 yards out, his third goal in six games.
Gerry Francis was the power behind the Londoners’ equaliser after 16 minutes. The City defenders were back-pedalling in admiration as Francis found Martyn Busby with a sweetly-hit pass and Busby stepped forward and hit a piledriver from 30 yards with foe Corrigan grasping at fresh air.
The game went off the boil early in the second half and the crowd were getting a little restless. Asa Hartford calmed them down somewhat by going close on a couple of occasions, but his finishing was not of the highest quality.
Then, after 72 minutes, came the moment when luck ran out on Rangers.
First of all, City were awarded a corner, though Rangers’ centre half Ernie Howe later claimed: “I played the ball but it hit a City player’s foot before it went out.”
Over came the corner and everyone was astonished when the referee – another Derek Richardson – blew for a penalty. It did seem a case of “ball to hand” or, to be more exact, arm, of full back and acting captain Ian Gillard.
“The ball reared up, hit me in the stomach and then the upper arm;” he said afterwards. Gillard was booked for his protests and Rangers, with some justification in the eyes of those who saw the incident, felt that the decision was responsible for sending them down to the Second Division.
Gary Owen sank QPR with two late goals. Owen stepped forward as the Blues’ regular penalty expert and placed the ball on the spot. And more luck for the Blues when Gary had his shot parried by the ‘keeper but followed up and put City into the lead.
Seventeen minutes from the end it was Owen who increased that lead with a rasping drive from 20 yards. “May dad’s always going on at me to have a go at scoring when I get the chance:’ he said. “But in the past, I’ve been a bit unselfish and made a pass to players in a better position.
“This time dad’s words hit home. When I got the ball, I decided to make a run and the defence opened up. By the time I’d got to the penalty spot, I’d got a great view of all the goal, and let go. It made dad smile!”
The two goals were Gary’s 10th and 11th League strikes of the season and made him joint top scorer that Saturday night with Mike Channon.
ADAPTED FROM AN ARTICLE IN THE CITY PROGRAMME 3RD FEBRUARY 1996