BY STEVE MITCHELL
FORMER EVERTON STRIKER SINKS LIVERPOOL AT ASHTON GATE:
A 75th minute strike by former Everton striker Joe Royle condemned league leaders Liverpool to their third defeat of the season this afternoon at Ashton Gate to give Bristol City a famous win.
Having only lost away to Royleâ€™s former employers and Arsenal this term, Liverpool were expected to pick up both points against a Robins side that has cemented itself in mid-table despite pre-season predictions that they would be fighting relegation.
The Merseyside giants have been gaining plaudits all season long with many sports writers proclaiming them to be the best club side in the world, but City tore up the script in front of a delirious Ashton Gate crowd who could scarcely believe what they were witnessing.
The visitors came flying out of the traps with Graeme Souness and Terry McDermott looking to stake midfield superiority over the home side led by former Anfield favourite Peter Cormack. The opening quarter of an hour was like a practice match for Liverpool as City struggled to settle into the contest.
The match began to change however on 25 minutes when the hosts were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the Liverpool penalty area. Royle was used as the decoy for David Rodgers to head towards goal although goalkeeper Ray Clemence was not troubled.
Bristol City now had a foothold in the match and some over-zealous challenges on Souness, McDermott and Alan Hansen sent Liverpool trainer Ronnie Moran onto the field three times in quick succession to administer treatment.
Shortly after, Royle went close with a header for the home side then Kenny Dalglish felt the full force of veteran defender Norman Hunter who stopped the Scottish international in his tracks with a crunching challenge. On the stroke of half-time, Rodgers almost gave City the lead but his volley flew agonisingly wide of the goal.
After the re-start, Gerry Gow was the first to trouble Clemence who was sporting a brand spanking new pair of goalkeeping gloves; the England custodian pulling off a fine save. Dalglish now moved out to the left to try to orchestrate the visitors attacks and only a last ditch tackle from Trevor Tainton prevented Steve Heighway from putting Liverpool in front.
As time ticked by, it always looked like one goal would settle the contest and on 74 minutes, Gow pumped a long ball into the Liverpool box which Don Gillies headed back into the path of Royle who smashed home from eight yards.
Liverpool must now pick themselves up for Tuesdayâ€™s second-leg of their European Super Cup Final against Anderlecht at Anfield which the European Cup holders currently trail 3-1.
BLANCHFLOWER SUFFERS NIGHTMARE START TO HIS REIGN AT CHELSEA:
After being presented to the media earlier this week, new Chelsea boss Danny Blanchflower must be wondering what he has let himself in for after seeing his new charges thrashed 7-2 by Middlesbrough at Ayresome Park this afternoon.
3-1 down by the interval, Blanchflowerâ€™s half-time team talk failed to inspire his players in the second-half as the Teesside club racked up their biggest home win of the season.
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The match was a personal triumph for Micky Burns who scored four of his sideâ€™s goals. Mark Proctor, David Armstrong and Terry Cochrane completed the rout for the home side. Peter Osgood and John Bumstead got the Londoners consolation but on this evidence, Blanchflower will have to perform miracles to keep Chelsea in the top-flight.
WEEK 20 ROUND-UP:
Everton failed to capitalise on Liverpoolâ€™s slip after being held to a 1-1 draw by Leeds United at Goodison Park. John Hawley gave the visitors a first-half lead before Trevor Ross levelled things after the break. The Toffees can still go top if they win their game in hand.
West Bromwich Albion remain in title contention after another five-star display this afternoon by Ron Atkinsonâ€™s exciting young side saw them beat Wolves 3-0 in the Black Country derby at Molineux. It was the Brown show with Alistair grabbing two of the goals and Tony getting the third.
Arsenal are fourth after a 2-0 home win over Derby County; David Price and Frank Stapleton getting the goals for the Gunners. After seeing their 42 match unbeaten run come to an end at Anfield last weekend, champions Nottingham Forest got back to winning ways at the City Ground against Birmingham City; Scotland international Archie Gemmill grabbing the gameâ€™s only goal.
Manchester Unitedâ€™s young striker Andy Ritchie scored his third goal in two outings this afternoon as the Red Devils beat Spurs 2-0 at Old Trafford. Northern Ireland midfielder Sammy Mcllroy got the other as Dave Sextonâ€™s side move into sixth place in the table.
Coventry City suffered a setback on the south-coast as they crashed 4-0 at The Dell against Southampton; Malcolm Waldron, Trevor Hebberd, Phil Boyer and Graham Baker inflicting the damage on the Sky Blues.
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FA Cup holders Ipswich Town found some much needed form at Portman Road this afternoon as they disposed of Bolton Wanderers by three goals to nil. Paul Mariner, Eric Gates and Brian Talbot got the goals for Bobby Robsonâ€™s side who now sit in 16th spot.
Aston Villa and Norwich City shared the spoils at Villa Park, a result which leaves both sides in mid-table. Kevin Reeves was on target for the Canaries, but a Mike McGuire own-goal gave the hosts a share of the points.
Queens Park Rangers moved out of the relegation zone thanks to a 2-1 win against Manchester City at Loftus Road. Billy Hamilton scored both goals for the Hoops with Mike Channon picking up Cityâ€™s consolation.
FIRST DIVISION RESULTS â€“ SATURDAY DECEMBER 9:
Arsenal 2-0 Derby County (Price, Stapleton)
Aston Villa 1-1 Norwich City (McGuire o.g; Reeves)
Bristol City 1-0 Liverpool (Royle)
Everton 1-1 Leeds United (Ross; Hawley)
Ipswich Town 3-0 Bolton Wanderers (Mariner, Gates, Talbot)
Manchester United 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur (Ritchie, Mcllroy)
Middlesbrough 7-2 Chelsea (Proctor, Burns 4, Armstrong, Cochrane; Osgood, Bumstead) (FULL MATCH PROGRAMME BELOW)
Nottingham Forest 1-0 Birmingham City (Gemmill)
Q.P.R. 2-1 Manchester City (Armstrong 2; Channon)
Southampton 4-0 Coventry City (Waldron, Hebberd, Boyer, Baker)
Wolves 0-3 W.B.A. (Brown A. 2 Brown T.)
UPCOMING FIXTURES â€“ FRIDAY DECEMBER 22:
Birmingham City v Ipswich Town
Bolton Wanderers v Manchester United
W.B.A. v Southampton
SATURDAY DECEMBER 23:
Chelsea v Bristol City
Coventry City v Everton
Derby County v Aston Villa
Leeds United v Middlesbrough
Liverpool v Wolves
Manchester City v Nottingham Forest
Norwich City v Q.P.R.
Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal
FOLLOW THE WHOLE 1978-79 SEASON IN THE ENGLISH FIRST DIVISION WITH STEVE MITCHELL HERE ON THE FOOTBALL PINK. FOLLOW HIM ON TWITTER @barafundler
PROGRAMMES COURTESY OF MILES MCCLAGAN https://www.flickr.com/photos/114058793@N05/sets