Late goal wins point before I hobble home with a London Claret
It was another draw for Burnley on their travels in 1972, this time it was at Middlesbrough where late goals saw us take a point when, with not too many minutes of the game left, it looked as though the unbeaten run was coming to an end.
Burnley announced in the week that the town was about to go green. It was all about, it was reported, a ‘Green Lung’ bringing the surrounding countryside into the centre of Burnley. This was the move afoot after following the acquisition of the 30 plus acre Bank Hall Colliery site by the local authority. This, it was said, was no idle pipe dream. The area would link up with the two nearby parks and, with the work qualifying for a Government grant, it was intended to start the work very quickly. The area would provide picnic areas, a pitch and putt course, a vast open space linking into Thompson’s park, a tie in with the nearby river for amenity purposes, such as the provision of a boating marina, direct pedestrian only links with the parks from Burnley’s central area via landscaped walks and extensive car parking facilities.
Not quite world breaking but Alderman T. E. Gallagher, chairman of Burnley’s Development Committee, confirmed: “This project will be one of the biggest green lungs near to a town centre in the whole of North East Lancashire.” Confirming that the existing colliery wharf would be transformed into a boating marina, he added: “It will be one of the biggest leisure pursuit projects ever taken up by the borough, and we are thinking in terms of also providing an under-pass to take people on to the riverbank.”
A local bricklayer got himself into a spot of bother when he was followed home by a group of men from a local public house, one of whom he had been arguing with. The 30-year-old wanted to frighten them so on getting home he went into the house and came back out with a loaded shotgun and fired it. There were two problems here. One, he had no licence for the gun and two, I don’t think even with a licence he would have been entitled to fire at anyone, argument or not, even though he did miss his target. He initially denied the offence but eventually admitted in court: “I know I was foolish, but I was pushed into it. I fired it, but I only wanted to stop them. I didn’t want to hit them or I would have done. I’m a good shot.” He was fined £20 for having the gun in a public place and £10 for having no licence. There didn’t appear to be any further penalties for actually firing it.
In another court case, a recorder warned of dangers in Burnley from ‘gangs of Nazis’ who he claimed were armed with knives and wearing steel toe-capped boots. It all came in a case where the chief prosecution witness admitted to being a member of a Hell’s Angels gang and wore such boots and carried a knife. The recorder, Mr A. J. Price, warned: “I hope the authorities in Burnley take notice of what I say.” The two Nazis appearing, after what was called a brutal attack, were both bound over to keep the peace in the sum of £25. They’d had a right go at each other but with other witnesses unable to offer anything substantial there was little else the court could do.
The first Ugandan refugees arrived in town and spoke of the horrendous situation in their own country. The 30-year-old schoolteacher and his family had been given a 24-hour ultimatum to get out from General Amin’s soldiers. They were fortunate, they’d been able to get out of the country with around £55 but it was all they had apart from a change of clothes in a small bag. Everything else they owned had been left behind and any attempts to rescue anything would have almost certainly have cost them their lives.
Ahead of the trip to Middlesbrough, midfielder Doug Collins spoke about the change of fortune that had seen him become a first team regular. Collins had hardly played in the previous season and as the 1972/73 season approached, admitted: “I was really down.” He said the change had followed a meeting he had with manager Jimmy Adamson towards the end of the previous season. “It all stemmed from that meeting I had with the manager. He said he could not see me fitting into his plans. But that changed my attitude. I made my mind up that I was going to play as well as I could no matter which team I was in. I just kept doing my best but really, I was playing to get away from Burnley. I thought my days were numbered, but the manager did tell me that I always had a chance of getting back if I played well.”
Collins had got back in and was now a regular in the team and was named in the number 10 shirt in what was an unchanged team for the trip to Middlesbrough. The only doubt for Burnley was Frank Casper but he’d recovered from a hip injury sustained in the draw at Millwall. Frank might have been fit but I certainly wasn’t and almost missed my first game of the season. I’d played 5-a-side on the previous evening and suffered a bad tendon injury in my right foot. In truth, I was struggling to walk let alone get from Sheffield to Middlesbrough but I was determined to be there. I’d missed the game at Ayresome Park in the previous season and wanted to ensure I made it this time.
It was a painful trip, no doubt about that but it was a train journey when I first met a fellow Claret who was travelling from the South East. Travelling alone on the train was Danny West. This was around four years before the formation of the London Clarets but Danny, who has been a proactive member since its formation, was even then a very committed Claret. Forty-eight years Danny. I don’t think either of us can claim to be young any longer, but we’ve remained good friends and long may that last. I have to say that he was a great help as I limped, very badly, from the station to the ground to witness an amazing late comeback by the Clarets to retain our unbeaten start to the season.
With around ten minutes of the game to go we trailed 3-1 and there could be no argument about the scoreline. Middlesbrough had played us off the park. We’d been run ragged by a team which, on the day, was far superior, but we refused to lie down, we rolled up our sleeves and really came out fighting. We’d nothing to lose and pushed defender Colin Waldron and midfielder Martin Dobson into the attack. It was the gamble of a desperate team and it paid off.
Incredibly, and against all the play, we had taken the lead in the 21st minute of the game. Mick Docherty went through. He was pulled back but broke clear only for the referee to give us a free kick. Collins placed the free kick into the box where it was headed out to David Armstrong who kicked wildly and that allowed WALDRON to thump in a fierce drive from 20 yards. The lead, somehow, lasted over a quarter of an hour before the home side deservedly drew level. Eric McMordie broke down their left and his cross cleared the defenders for David MILLS to stoop and head in via the post. It was all level at half time and we didn’t think the second half performance could be anything like as poor as the first half. After all we were the league leaders and we’d shown nothing to suggest we deserved that lofty position.
We didn’t improve in the second half, far from it, and just two minutes in we found ourselves behind. It was a shocking goal too. John Craggs hit a long ball into the box from just inside our half. Alan Stevenson remained rooted to the line, no defender went for the ball and that allowed McMORDIE to score with ease. It looked as though there might be no further damage, although not for one minute did we look as though we might get back into it. Then, with 12 minutes remaining, the game was up as Middlesbrough went 3-1 up. Centre half Stuart Boam, probably tired of having nothing to do defensively, went on a barnstorming run down the right wing. He got past Keith Newton and to the goal line and crossed perfectly for John HICKTON to head in an easy far post goal and wrap up the points for the home side.
Burnley were facing a first league defeat of the season, but this side wasn’t top of the league for no reason and with ten minutes to go we got a lifeline with a second goal. We won a free kick and the wonderfully accurate left foot of Collins played its part. He placed the ball into the box and Paul FLETCHER magnificently rose above the Middlesbrough defence to head home a superb goal. Suddenly we thought we were back in it. With Waldron and Dobson pushed forward we started to put real pressure Middlesbrough who were now doing all they could to ensure they held the lead.
With three minutes remaining we worked the ball down the right and eventually got it to Leighton James who had crossed wings. He fired over a hard cross that eluded Fletcher and defender Willie Maddren but there was DOBSON coming in. He launched himself forward to head the ball powerfully into the net. We’d done it. Against all the odds we were coming home with a point. Dobbo celebrated like nothing on earth but there was a story of Dobbo and Ayresome Park that had just taken a turn for the better. It was his third appearance at the ground. In his first, a friendly in 1970, he broke a leg and in the league game in the previous season he scored an own goal to give Middlesbrough a 1-0 win.
No wonder he was delighted. “After breaking my leg and scoring an own goal I was saying, before the match, that the only thing left was to get booked or sent off. The other players were pulling my leg about it and saying that every time I ran into our own penalty area Colin Waldron or Jimmy Thomson would mark me to stop me scoring another own goal. All bad things must come to an end, and I’m delighted with the way this has turned out. My goal came at a time when everyone was pushing forward in the hope of snatching an equaliser.
“Colin Waldron, who had moved up into midfield, pushed the ball out to Leighton James on the right wing. He looked up and drove the ball hard into the goalmouth. One of our forwards and a defender went up for it, but the ball just cleared their heads. As soon as they missed it I knew it was my ball. I ran in on the blindside and flung myself at the ball. I tried to get as much power as I could behind the header, but once I had connected I didn’t see what happened. I was thrilled to bits when I realised I’d scored.”
He added: “To be honest, at 3-1 we did not think we had a chance. Most of the match Middlesbrough were in control. We were doing a lot of running without getting the ball. They are a difficult side to beat and they played very well, but we just kept fighting and it came good in the end. Possibly the worst thing they did was to score that third goal. If it had stayed at 2-1 they would have kept playing as they were and probably would have held their lead. But at 3-1 they, perhaps, relaxed a bit and then when we got our second straight away, as often happens in these circumstances, they started to panic. They were probably undecided whether to carry on playing as they had been or to drop back in defence. After 80 minutes I thought it was the end of our unbeaten run, but after this recovery against a side as good as Middlesbrough we were saying afterwards – who can stop us now?”
The teams were;
Middlesbrough: Jim Platt, John Craggs, Frank Spraggon, Nobby Stiles, Stuart Boam, Willie Maddren, Eric Gates, John Hickton, David Mills, David Armstrong, Eric McMordie. Sub not used: Malcolm Smith.
Burnley: Alan Stevenson, Mick Docherty, Keith Newton, Martin Dobson, Colin Waldron, Jim Thomson, Geoff Nulty, Frank Casper, Paul Fletcher, Doug Collins, Leighton James. Sub not used: Billy Ingham.
Referee: Mr R. Tinkler (Boston).
Despite dropping another point it proved to be a good day for us at the top of the league with none of the top eight winning. QPR and Aston Villa, the two teams behind us with two points less also drew. QPR were held at home by Hull and Villa at Sunderland.
So, despite two more draws, we were still two points clear at the top of the league. We’d been the only unbeaten side in the Football League for some time but we’d now extended that to 16 league games and, given we’d won the last six games of the 1971/72 season, we were now on an overall run of 22 league games without defeat.
How much longer could it last? It had been another good day although it did get a little bit concerning at the station as the home fans descended looking for trouble. I don’t do a Teesside accent but I can, on occasions, keep quiet. I had to, that foot injury wouldn’t let me run.
Second Division Results
Friday 3rd November 1972
Orient 1 Preston 2
Saturday 4th November 1972
Blackpool 0 Carlisle 0
Brighton 2 Cardiff 2
Fulham 5 Bristol City 1
Huddersfield 1 Sheffield Wednesday 0
Luton 0 Swindon 1
Middlesbrough 3 Burnley 3
Nottingham Forest 3 Millwall 2
Oxford 1 Portsmouth 3
QPR 1 Hull 1
Sunderland 2 Aston Villa 2
Burnley’s Goalscorers (League Only)
8: Paul FLetcher, Leighton James
4: Martin Dobson, Dave Thomas
3: Frank Casper
2: Colin Waldron
1: Doug Collins