Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Robinson slashes wide against Wednesday

"I've made three or four penalty saves in my career, but I suppose that has to go down as one of the best." By the time City had edged past third division Sheffield Wednesday after a huge scare, this run of the mill 1979-80 2nd round League Cup tie had managed to throw up a slightly strange penalty legacy.

This was the start of Malcolm Allison's first full season back at the helm, the Great Messiah's second coming, a huge rumbling freight train destined to jump the tracks a little further down the line. Having cleared away practically every recognisable star from Tony Book's more than capable late mid-seventies side, Allison's summer purchases had included Michael "Mick" Robinson and Bobby "Missed Again" Shinton from Preston North End and Wrexham respectively.

Allison had started the season with the likes of Dragoslav Stepanovic and Colin Viljoen alongside the 17 year old debutant Tommy Caton and Polish World Cup captain Kaziu Deyna.
It was heady mixture of untried second tier pros, Mal's teeny boppers, exotic imports and a smattering of leftovers from the good times. Tommy Booth and Willie Donachie and --of course -- Joe Corrigan were the names to have survived the coach's mighty talent cull.

Whilst City were about to be swamped by Allison's over-complicated tactics and desperate desire to start from scratch, Wednesday were making the slow climb back into the limelight which would carry them up into the first division by 1984, ironically at City's expense. (City finished 4th in the famous three horse promotion race that year).

The many Wives of Mal
Still at this point a Division Three outfit, Wednesday came into this tie on the back of a less than impressive 0-3 home reverse to Blackburn Rovers, both of whom would end the season in promotion berths behind champions Grimsby Town.

City had started their first division campaign in typically unpredictable style, drawing on the opening day with Terry Venables' highly acclaimed Crystal Palace side (the so-called team of the 80s, that would be relegated within two years), getting thrashed at Middlesbrough and squeaking a 3-2 home win over Brighton.


Colin Viljoen is congratulated after opening the scoring
Corrigan's penalty heroics in the first game, drawn 1-1, would be matched in the second leg, where, amazingly, he saved again, from the same player. That player was ex-Arsenal midfielder Bryan Hornsby, who saw a firm spot kick saved by a flying City 'keeper in the initial game and -- when presented with the big chance just nine minutes from the end of an as yet scoreless Maine Road return -- stuttered in his run up, only for the huge frame of Corrigan to parry that attempt too.

Referee Colin Seal did not approve of Hornsby's run up, however, and ordered the kick to be retaken. With Hornsby wisely opting out of tempting fate further, Mark Smith stepped up to bury the second chance and put Wednesday close to a famous upset.

The tie was saved --for once -- by Malcom Allison's irresistible urge to tinker. Mike Channon had played in the initial game but was about to be added to the vast conveyor belt of talent leaving the club with a move back to Southampton the following day. This meant that long-term reserve Tony Henry (a midfielder) found himself in attack and he duly obliged with an unlikely 88th minute equaliser and followed that up with a 90th minute winner.

To a seasoned tightrope walker like Allison, this will have been food and drink, but for the 24,074 breathless fans inside Maine Road, it had been quite an escape. Within days, Big Mal had paid Wolves £1.5 million for Steve Daley and Stockport County £80,000 for Stuart Lee. City were changing rapidly. Into what nobody seemed to know.

The Blues went out to second division Sunderland in the next round of the League Cup and would be playing Sheffield Wednesday in the 2nd division three years hence. Allison, needless to say, would not be there to witness it, long since dispatched by the trigger happy Peter Swales.

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