Thirty Years Ago — 1983-84: League Cup Round 5
Oxford United awaited Everton at the Manor Ground for the quarter-final tie of the Milk Cup where the winner of the tie would be one step closer to Wembley. Andy Gray had to sit on the side-lines as he had been cup-tied due to having played for his previous club Wolves in an earlier round of the competition. Owned by Robert Maxwell and managed by that wily old fox, Jim Smith, Oxford United remained unbeaten in the major domestic cup competitions and had recently beaten Burnley at the Manor Ground in an FA Cup Third Round Replay.
In the first round of the Milk Cup, Oxford United had drawn at home to Bristol City (1-1) in the first leg and had beaten them in the second-leg at Ashton Gate (1-0), their reward had been a money-spinning tie away to Newcastle United (1-1) and, following the draw at St. James’s Park, they had beaten the Magpies (2-1) at the Manor Ground. Another away draw at Elland Road against Leeds United (1-1) provided them with a replay against the Yorkshire side and Oxford had duly put them to the sword (4-1). Their sternest test awaited them in the 4th Round as they had been paired with Manchester United at the Manor Ground. The first game had ended in a one-one draw and the replay at Old Trafford (1-1) had also ended all-square following extra-time. The third game staged at the Manor Ground ended in arguably the club’s most celebrated result ever, when they had eventually managed to overcome Manchester United (2-1) after extra-time to set up the encounter with Everton.
[NB – apologies to those readers of the previous League Cup article where I mistakenly said that the third game between Manchester United and Oxford United had taken place at Old Trafford.]
In the previous round, Oxford United had proved that they were a difficult side to play against and, although they were a Third Division side, they had all the required attributes to be taken seriously in any game. Most of the top division sides would have been proud to have overcome the likes of Leeds United, Newcastle United and Manchester United in the Milk Cup; Oxford United had beaten all of those sides and had found themselves in with a real opportunity of walking out at Wembley and would therefore present a difficult and dangerous opponent for an Everton side who harboured their own dreams of gracing Wembley in 1984.
Oxford United had faced Everton previously in a major competition on just one occasion, it had also been in the League Cup and the tie had taken place at Goodison Park on 11 November 1981, when a goal from Eamonn O’Keefe had been enough to see Everton through to the next round, although a last-minute clearance off the line had prevented Oxford United from earning a replay. Coincidentally, Eamonn O’Keefe was plying his trade with Port Vale at the time of the 1983-84 Quarter-Final tie and he was their leading scorer with just four goals for the club who occupied bottom place in the Third Division.
The Everton side the night that Eamonn had scored the winner against Oxford United, showed how much Howard Kendall had altered the team in his time at the helm: Everton: Arnold; Stevens, Bailey, Higgins; Lyons, Lodge, McMahon; O’Keefe, Ferguson (Ainscow), Biley.
Everton had managed to escape from the Manor Ground with their Milk Cup hopes intact, but it had been a fraught evening of lively cup football and, with only 9 minutes remaining, it had looked as if Evertonians dreams of Wembley would remain unfulfilled as a goal scored by Bobby McDonald (67’) – a player who was not revered by the fans at Goodison – had given Oxford United the lead and another giant-killing had been on the cards... but up stepped Kevin Brock – a player who had scored three times for Oxford in his team’s progress to the last eight; under severe pressure from Peter Reid and Alan Irvine, he had played a ball back towards his keeper, but smart work from Adrian ‘Inchy’ Heath had seen the diminutive forward latch onto the ball and punish the Oxford player’s error to the full, as the little Number 8 had managed to squeeze the ball into the net and keep Everton’s hopes of Wembley alive.
This had been a rare cup game for me personally as I had not been able to attend... Loathe as I was to listening to the radio commentary. I decided to keep away from the happenings at the Manor Ground until BBC’s Sportsnight came on with the highlights of the game. Sat in my front room, watching and trying to gauge how much longer the game had to run following Oxford’s goal, it seemed as if the Toffees had been dealt a massive blow and were heading out... but, when ‘Inchy’ scored the equaliser, I went crazy for a little while and leapt around the front room like a man possessed, much to the amazement of my family who couldn’t understand the need for my leaping about the furniture due to something that had been shown on the telly. At least I knew that I would be at Goodison for the replay and the dreams of Wembley were still very much alive.
1983-84 — League Cup Round 5; Wednesday, 18 January 1984
Oxford United @ Manor Ground, Score: 1-1 (Heath), Attendance: 14,333
Everton: Southall, Stevens, Ratcliffe, Mountfield, Harper, Reid, Irvine, Heath, Sharp, Johnson (Richardson), Sheedy
In the programme for the retun game at Goodison Park, I discovered two things: Which Everton player in the 1983-84 campaign had the middle name McGregor? Which former Everton player had the Christian name Seamus? But due to an error in his original registration forms was known by another Christian name until he corrected the mistake in the summer of 1983, apparently the players called him Seamus around the training ground but the public knew him by his registered name.
After all the nervousness that had been on show at the Manor Ground, Everton had progressed to the Semi-Final stage with a thumping win at Goodison Park, over the underdogs of Oxford United... although, to be fair to them, they never at any time gave up the ghost and they continued to perform to a level that belied their league status. Kevin Richardson (7’) struck early and Kevin Sheedy (34’) got another goal in the first half. An early goal in the second-half from Adrian Heath (52’) and another from Graeme Sharp (90’) following a consolation for Oxford United scored by Paul Hinshelwood (89’) meant that a two-legged tie with Aston Villa and a reunion with former Everton player Steve McMahon awaited the Blues and a place at Wembley was tantalisingly close.
1983-84 — League Cup Round 5 Replay, Tuesday, 24 January 1984
Oxford United @ Goodison Park Score: 4-1, (Heath, Sharp, Richardson, Sheedy), Att: 31,001
Everton: Southall; Stevens, Ratcliffe, Mountfield, Harper; Reid, Irvine; Heath, Sharp, Richardson, Sheedy. Unused Sub: King.
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306 Posted 18/12/2013 at 08:43:55
352 Posted 18/12/2013 at 12:57:23
There are two comments that stick in my mind from that night: a paranoid blue shouting his frustration that the game would be abandoned at 4-1 because of the snow.... bad luck was part of our recent history back then, Hamilton 'goal' and Ratcliffe getting sent off for butting Hutchison in the 81 quarterfinal were still fresh memories' back then......come to think about it 30 years on nothing changes!!
The other comment came as a response to my mate who had took me to the game that night. When we went 4-1 up, he shouted out, "Save some for Gillingham", with whom we were in the middle of a 3-game marathon in the FA Cup; the response from the guy next to us... "Fuck Gillingham, let's have 5." Happy days, struggle to believe its 30 years in May since Ratcliffe lifted the FA Cup at Wembley.
460 Posted 18/12/2013 at 23:57:54
By the way, Patrick, I reckon the two mystery players are Trevor McGregor Steven - so nearly a Scotsman - from Berwick, and Jim McDonagh the goalie from Bolton.
I’m sure he was called Jim there as well, which suggests he was one lazy so and so, not getting his proper name of Seamus registered for many years. His one season at Goodison, before returning to Bolton in 1981 was memorable for him being a good shot stopper, but dodgy on crosses. Also, rushing out of goal in the FA Cup quarter final at Goodison when we led 2-1 and giving Paul Power a simple lob over him for their equaliser! We lost the replay with a certain Bobby McDonald scoring their first goal.
465 Posted 19/12/2013 at 01:05:53
571 Posted 19/12/2013 at 22:06:41
I remember travelling back to London on a train packed with Spurs fans after we knocked them out of the FA Cup at Goodison in1983. Three of us squeezed into an old first class carriage with 5 Spurs fans and hundreds more on that train. It was the quietest two hours and fifty minutes you could imagine. They were gutted, having won the cup the previous two seasons and there was no way we were gonna rub it in!! The lights kept going out as well!
I really don’t think that the younger fans realise what we went through in those days. It really was dangerous, but as you say we were young and not so much more foolish, just thought we were fireproof!
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