|Euro Glory for Town|
Written by clivebleedingthomas on Thursday, 14th May 2020 09:00
This was the season in which we had a realistic chance of winning the Treble - it sounds like complete fantasy now, but it happened. Our hopes of FA Cup glory had been finished, along with Kevin Beattie’s career as a Town player, at Villa Park.
Our battle to capture the First Division championship was ended by two second-half goals at Middlesbrough. The Town squad had been tested beyond its capacity by the 66-match fixture burden and by injuries to key players. How we regretted knocking Villa out of the FA Cup. We even beat them twice in the league too.
It wasn’t only the fans who regarded the possibility of winning the UEFA Cup as a consolation. Bobby Robson and his players expressed similar feelings, but it made them even more determined not to blow their last chance of a trophy.
Town’s opponents had just been crowned Dutch league champions, their confidence was high. Prior to the kick-off the town of Alkmaar’s other claim to fame, their Edam cheeses, were carried around the pitch; a rather odd prelude to a cup final. Sir Alf Ramsey and former president of FIFA, Sir Stanley Rous, were present in a below-capacity 27,532 crowd.
The Town really rose to the occasion, showing no respect for the Dutch team’s reputation they tore into them with attacking football immediately. So overwhelmed were the visitors that they were resorting to desperate fouling measures and one or two were lucky not to have been booked for repeat offences.
Eric Gates was causing great problems and was brought down in the penalty area. The crowd showed their displeasure towards the East German referee, Adolf Prokop, when he turned down appeals for an obvious penalty.
In the 28th minute the deadlock was broken when Paul Mariner’s goal-bound shot was handled on the line by Hugo Hovenkamp. John Wark netted his 13th UEFA Cup goal of the campaign, making it 34 for the season.
Before the interval Frans Thijssen, tormenting his fellow countrymen, went close a couple of times but the half ended with Town deserving much more than a narrow lead.
However, within 49 seconds of the restart a goal of the highest quality doubled Town’s lead. Gates found Alan Brazil with an inch-perfect pass. Holding off a challenge, the Scot played the ball into Thijssen’s path. His shot hit keeper Eddy Treytel and spun up into the air giving Thijssen the opportunity to head the ball home.
Ten minutes later, Brazil, who was having the game of his life, played a key role in the build-up for Town’s third. Receiving a superb pass from Arnold Muhren, Brazil rounded Richard van der Meer and crossed a low ball into the box where Mariner arrived to touch the ball into the net.
Blues fans were enjoying their evening and it was not until the 67th minute that AZ had their first corner. The visitors brought on Kurt Welzl for Kristen Nygaard in the 75th minute in an attempt to give them more power up front.
They created one good chance that went begging but there was to be no important away goal. Town held out and left the pitch to a standing ovation. It was indeed a night to savour and remember.
Bobby Robson said after the game: “Before the match I would have settled for 2-0, but to win 3-0 is a bit of a bonus. In fact they were lucky to get off with a 3-0 defeat because we tactically outwitted them. They never quite solved Eric Gates.”
Town: Cooper, Mills, McCall,Thijssen, Osman, Butcher, Wark, Muhren, Mariner, Brazil, Gates.
AZ ’67 Alkmaar: Treytel, van der Meer, Spelbos, Metgod, Hovenkamp, Peters, Jonker, Arntz, Kist, Nygaard (Welzl 75), Tol.
The return leg was held two weeks later on 20th May in the Olympic Stadium, Amsterdam, AZ’s ground having been deemed too small for the occasion.
The 7,000 Town fans present feared the worst, having memories of Bruges in 1975, when AZ stretched their lead on the night to 4-2 with 16 minutes left.
But our defence rallied and held off the late siege on our goal as the Dutchmen sought the two goals they needed.
Terry Butcher and Russell Osman played outstanding defensive roles, the latter had played in all of the 66 matches played by Town during that memorable season.
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