BY STEVE MITCHELL
UNITED & ALBION SERVE UP AN EIGHT GOAL THRILLER AT OLD TRAFFORD:
On a Saturday that was once again hit by the wintry weather, Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion played out what was undoubtedly the game of the season so far at Old Trafford this afternoon.
Eight goals and a host of talking points had the 50,000 plus crowd inside the Theatre of Dreams enthralled until the final whistle but in the end, it was the visitors who claimed two vital points in the race for the league title.
The ugly side of football once again reared its head as Albion’s three black players – Cyrille Regis, Laurie Cunningham and Brendon Batson – were racially abused every time they touched the ball. Any neutral watching the game was sure to now be supporting the away side but it was the hosts who took an early lead when Brian Greenhoff hit a superb volley following a corner by Sammy Mcllroy.
Cunningham then played a key part in Albion’s equaliser as his run down the left then found United fan Tony Brown in the penalty area who slotted it past Gary Bailey. The visitors then got their noses in front after Cunningham and Regis combined to beautifully set up Len Cantello who despatched a fierce shot past a helpless Bailey.
As the snow started falling inside Old Trafford, United rallied and when they were awarded a free-kick just outside the Albion penalty area, Stewart Houston’s cross was met powerfully by the head of Gordon McQueen to make it 2-2.
In an incredible first-half, it was then United’s turn to take the lead for the second time after goalscorer Cantello was caught napping with ball before Mcllroy produced another scintillating finish. On the stroke of half-time however, Albion were level once again after Cantello’s back header fell invitingly into the path of Tony Brown to get his second of the afternoon.
The second-half carried on in the same vain and Brian Greenhoff was forced to clear off the line from a header by Ally Robertson. Cunningham, who was having a superb game, was now operating on Albion’s right and another weaving run by him saw an effort by Regis expertly plucked out of the air by Bailey.
The visitors were now in control and always looked likely to get their noses back in front and it was surely poetic justice that Regis and Cunningham were involved in their side’s fourth which culminated in the latter placing the ball past Bailey. Regis almost made it five but was once again foiled by the United keeper.
He didn’t have to wait long however to tie up the contest; Cunningham playing a ball into the path of Ally Brown who in turn rolled it into the path of the onrushing Regis who smashed the ball home for what was surely the highlight of a pulsating afternoon.Embed from Getty Images
After the match Albion boss Ron Atkinson explained to reporters that; “I went in and told them that they didn’t deserve to be losing 3-2 and that there was no reason in the world why we should not grab an equaliser.
“They all just sat there and looked at me like I was mad. Then Tony Brown said: “Boss, it’s 3-3. I have just equalised. Bomber had just run through and put the ball in at the Stretford End but I had heard a whistle blow. I thought it had been too late. I thought it was half-time already. And there he is staring at me as if I had just lost my marbles. So I just told them: Fair enough. Then go and get me a winner then”.
WEEK 23 ROUND-UP:
With Liverpool’s match at Southampton postponed, Everton had the chance to go top of the table for New Year but missed out after a 1-1 draw against Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park. Skipper Mick Lyons was on target for the home side, Colin Lee netting for the visitors.
Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Birmingham City at Highbury means they stay ahead of Nottingham Forest in fourth after the champions also had their home game called off against Norwich City. Frank Stapleton, Pat Rice and Alan Sunderland got the goals for the Gunners with million pound rated Trevor Francis grabbing a consolation for Blues from the penalty spot.
Leeds United enjoyed their day in the capital as they ran out convincing 4-1 winners against Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road. John Hawley (2), Carl Harris and Eddie Gray did the damage for Jimmy Adamson’s men with Peter Eastoe getting Rangers goal.Embed from Getty Images
Bristol City go into 1979 in seventh after a 1-1 draw with Manchester City at Ashton Gate. Tom Ritchie was once again on target for the Robins, Ron Futcher grabbing City’s reply. It was a similar scoreline at Molineux where Wolves and Coventry City took a point apiece. Highly rated striker Steve Daley got the home side’s goal, Tommy Hutchinson finding the target for the visitors.
After two shut-outs, Danny Blanchflower’s Chelsea side were hit for five at Portman Road this afternoon by Ipswich Town. Russell Osman, Arnold Muhren (2), John Wark and Paul Mariner gave the FA Cup holders a convincing win; Tommy Langley getting a consolation for the West London side.
FIRST DIVISION RESULTS – SATURDAY DECEMBER 30:
Arsenal 3-1 Birmingham City (Stapleton, Rice, Sunderland; Francis pen)
Aston Villa v Bolton Wanderers (match postponed)
Bristol City 1-1 Manchester City (Ritchie; Futcher R)
Everton 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur (Lyons; Lee) (FULL MATCH PROGRAMME BELOW)
Ipswich Town 5-1 Chelsea (Osman, Muhren 2, Wark, Mariner; Langley)
Manchester United 3-5 West Bromwich Albion (Greenhoff B, McQueen, Mcllroy; Brown T. 2, Cantello, Cunningham, Regis)
Middlesbrough v Derby County (match postponed)
Nottingham Forest v Norwich City (match postponed)
Queens Park Rangers 1-4 Leeds United (Eastoe; Hawley 2, Harris, Gray E)
Southampton v Liverpool (match postponed)
Wolves 1-1 Coventry City (Daley; Hutchinson)
League Division One table after close of play on 30 December 1978
|3||West Bromwich Albion||20||13||5||2||43||18||25||31|
|19||Queens Park Rangers||21||4||7||10||18||30||-12||15|
UPCOMING FIXTURES – MONDAY JANUARY 1:
Bolton Wanderers v Everton
W.B.A v Bristol City
SATURDAY JANUARY 13:
Arsenal v Nottingham Forest
Aston Villa v Ipswich Town
Bristol City v Tottenham Hotspur
Chelsea v Coventry City
Derby County v Bolton Wanderers
Leeds United v Manchester City
Liverpool v Birmingham City
Manchester United v Q.P.R
Middlesbrough v Everton
Norwich City v W.B.A
Wolves v Southampton
NEXT SATURDAY, LOOK OUT FOR OUR FA CUP THIRD-ROUND SPECIAL FEATURING THE START OF AN EPIC ENCOUNTER BETWEEN SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY AND 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