Second Division Bristol City in the fifth round of the FA Cup
in February 1974, Leeds United were enjoying a healthy advantage
at the summit of the First Division, still unbeaten and nine points
clear of second-placed Liverpool with 29 games played.
That said, their superlative displays of the autumn months had
dissipated to be replaced by a series of increasingly scratchy
performances, punctuated far too frequently by draws. Though they
won the two games immediately prior to the Cup-tie, against Arsenal
and Manchester United, five of their previous seven fixtures had
seen them drop a point.
After a drab goalless draw at Everton on 19 January, the Guardian's
Paul Wilcox wrote: "The days when Leeds United have to be content
to stand and endure seem to be becoming more frequent as their
unbeaten record continues… United are becoming more reserved in
their outlook. And the fault surely lies in the maintaining of
"While not wishing Leeds any harm, it seems about time, in their
interests as well as football and the spectators, that they get
that record burden off their backs. Don Revie insists that his
players never discuss the possibility of going through a season
undefeated. But the thought must be on their minds, with a consequent
lessening of the adventure which typified their play in the first
few months of the term.
"What is obvious is that their opponents certainly discuss ending
the run - although it is difficult to name a team capable of doing
so - so that matches which should be examples of skill and technique
flounder in the highly-charged atmosphere. Saturday was a good
example. Everton were too furiously eager, and Leeds' enforced
defending and fast clearances brought about a situation in which
neither side was able to settle or stand back."
United's progress to the fifth round of the Cup saw them overcome
Wolves after a replay before hammering Fourth Division Peterborough
4-1. Their challenge there seemed straightforward enough, a tie
at Bristol City, struggling in the bottom half of Division Two.
City's 3-1 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday, 10 February,
left them fifteenth, seven points above the relegation zone and
casting anxious glances over their shoulders.
The previous day, City manager Alan Dicks had been at Old Trafford
to observe "Leeds in the flesh", as he put it; he watched United
beat Manchester United 2-0 with goals from Mick Jones and the
ever-improving Joe Jordan, scorer of two a week earlier against
back to top
There was nevertheless a degree of shock when Don Revie selected
the young Scottish
striker ahead of the fit again Allan Clarke for Ashton Gate, intent
on capitalising on the twin aerial threat of Jordan and Jones.
Clarke was named sub, with Johnny Giles given his first start
since the end of October after a successful outing with the reserves.
Norman Hunter was also available for selection and played after
an appeal against his latest booking delayed a potential suspension.
Dicks: "We have a high respect for them, but we are certainly
not afraid of them. We shall be going all out to win, and Leeds
can be beaten, as was shown when Colchester knocked them out of
the Cup a few years ago."
When it was revealed that all 37,000 tickets were sold for Ashton
Gate, Dicks commented, "We would have needed to hire Wembley to
house all the people from the West Country who want to see this
game. There were three people clamouring for every ticket we sold."
The crowd included 9,000-plus who had travelled from Yorkshire.
With Giles contributing little, Leeds failed to impose themselves
on well-motivated opponents. Nevertheless, they survived City's
frenetic early pressure and everything seemed well set when Billy
Bremner gave them the lead four minutes before the interval. His
right footed strike from 25 yards capped a tremendous individual
display by the Scotland captain, one of the few by a United man
on the day.
Tom Freeman in the Times: "Leeds were saved from ignominy
by Bremner. Better writers than I have long ago run out of superlatives
to describe the little man. I daresay he has played more spectacular
games but never, I venture to suggest, a more valuable one. If
he occasionally found himself in trouble with the referee, with
the Bristol players, and with the crowd, it was understandable,
for there were times when he seemed to be carrying the whole of
Leeds' burden on his narrow shoulders, covering up weaknesses
in the middle, the front and the back. Apart from this, Bremner
produced the one decisive strike in the first half, a wonderful
shot from 25 yards out that ended plumb in the corner of the net
and put Leeds halfway along the road to victory.
"Not the least of Bremner's problems was having alongside him
Giles, a man struggling to regain his form after a long lay off.
There was also the lack of thrust in front, where Jones had a
poor day. If Clarke, who surprisingly made only a brief appearance
as substitute ten minutes from the end, had been there all the
time, it might have been different."
A spirited performance by the home side saw them take most of
the plaudits from a 1-1 draw. The replay was secured for them
by the transfer-listed Keith Fear when he equalised with a tremendous
lob from the edge of the area after being put away through the
yawning gulf between the United centre-backs. From then on it
was the home side which enjoyed the better of things.
The Robins were denied what would have been a deserved victory
by the save
of a lifetime after 68 minutes when Harvey somehow got a hand
to a header from Don Gillies, four yards out.
"That kept them in the tie," commented Alan Dicks, while Don
Revie claimed, "It was one of the best saves I have seen in my
life. He read it well but had no right to save it."
"I don't know what made me go that way but I could see Gillies
was going to get the header in as the move built up," said Harvey.
Conceding that Bristol's performance was "wonderful," Revie continued,
"You can take nothing away from them."
The Robins' success was built on their dominance of midfield,
as reported by Barry Foster in the Yorkshire Post: "Leeds
had Madeley out of touch, Giles back after four months and in
need of the game, and the tireless Bremner possibly Leeds' best
player but with too much to do.
"Gow was Bristol's tiger, winning almost everything he went for
and Ritchie made the most of the space Bristol won. With Hunt
and Tainton supplementing their efforts in midfield and Fear and
Gillies a striking spearhead, Bristol looked a lot better than
a struggling Second Division side."
back to top
David Lacey in the Guardian: "Sweeney's diligence, Tainton's
pace and Hunt's podgy cunning opened up a store of riches for
Bristol on the wings. The game in consequence remained open and
"At half time the pattern of events had accorded to the usual
Leeds plan. They appeared to have survived the best that their
opponents' attack could offer, a marvellous pivoting shot by Fear
that rebounded from the bar, and had taken the lead in the forty-first
minute with a stunning goal by Bremner, the ball struck perfectly
from some 25 yards.
"In these circumstances the losing side often fall victims to
their own desperation, allowing Leeds to retain possession and
control the rhythm and flow of a game. But Bristol never lost
their accuracy and to the last retained the ability to take the
ball past defenders in and around the penalty area.
"They went extremely close to winning the match. In the sixty-fifth
minute, Gow, snapping up the ball once more near the centre circle,
sent an excellent pass through the Leeds defence and Fear chipped
the coolest of shots past Harvey. Three minutes later Fear drew
McQueen to the right of goal and centred cleanly. Hunt headed
the ball back first bounce and Gillies' short sharp header was
punched up and over by the Leeds goalkeeper; afterwards someone
asked Revie whether this save was comparable to the one made by
Montgomery for Sunderland in last year's Cup final. Revie thought
it was - but he appeared to be wincing at the memory.
"In between Bristol's goal and Harvey's save, McQueen kept a
brief painful appointment with Fear, and both players were cautioned
as a result. But this was the only sign of retaliation in a hard
match, though the Bremner of five years ago might not have taken
some of the treatment he received with such stoicism."
Alan Dicks was buoyant after the game, quickly announcing an
unchanged side for the Elland Road replay the following Tuesday.
"The boys must be full of confidence but when they name Allan
Clarke as substitute you start to wonder what kind of side you
are playing… We took the game to Leeds and I see no reason to
change our style just because we are playing away from home,"
he said. "The lads are full of confidence, and if we can raise
our game to the level we achieved on Saturday then we must be
in with a good chance."
For Leeds, Clarke was restored to the starting eleven and Don
Revie gave Terry Cooper a run out in his old left-back slot, the
first time he had worn the No 3 shirt since breaking his leg in
April 1972. Roy Ellam replaced the injured Gordon McQueen at centre-half
and, with Paul Reaney failing a fitness test on a hamstring injury,
Trevor Cherry filled in at right-back.
The game attracted a crowd of 47,182, Elland Road's highest of
Bristol City began the match exactly where they had left off
Gate, playing with the same fiery aggression and determination,
disputing every single ball and snapping quickly into the tackle
as United sought to attack the Elland Road Kop.
When Lorimer put Clarke away on the right, the England striker
showed a fine turn of pace to get past Drysdale. But as the lanky
front man cut in on goal City captain Merrick came swooping in
with a fierce challenge and Clarke's hurried effort ballooned
high over the bar.
At the other end, Ritchie's first time effort flew wide and when
Bremner and Lorimer drove United forward, City keeper Cashley
did well to gather the wide man's driven centre at full stretch.
United continued to press and Jones saw an effort deflected over
the crossbar, but the City defence refused to buckle. Cashley
gathered the corner kick and when United won another corner shortly
afterwards a foul on the keeper relieved the pressure.
The Second Division outfit were giving a committed performance
and denied Leeds any real time and space. Even so, Giles and Bremner
sprayed the ball all about with cunning and intelligence, forcing
Bristol to do a lot of chasing on a soft pitch, heavily sanded
in a number of areas to make it playable. It seemed it would only
be a matter of time before United's undoubted class would force
a chink in the armour of Bristol's hard-working gladiators.
A partial clearance by the City defence dropped at Clarke's feet
five yards outside the penalty area. With the visitors anticipating
a first time strike, Clarke turned the ball out to the overlapping
Cooper who quickly slung the ball in from the left. Bremner met
it with a header which soared high over the bar when he would
have been better advised to leave it to Lorimer, running in and
in a better position to make use of the centre.
back to top
Jones required treatment for a leg injury after coming out second
from a hard challenge with Merrick. Almost at the same time, Bristol's
Ritchie went down with a similar injury but both forwards were
able to resume after attention.
Four minutes from half time Giles fired directly in from just
outside the City penalty area but Cashley was equal to the effort.
Despite all their huffing and puffing, it was telling that this
was United's first strike on target. Bristol were giving the lie
to their lowly ranking and their resilience kept them right in
the contest. Merrick and his 18-year-old colleague at centre-back,
Collier, were displaying considerable poise despite playing before
a crowd significantly more populous and fervent than they were
The game reached its mid-point without a goal for either side;
that represented just desserts for Bristol who had fought like
tigers throughout the first period.
City marked the start of the second half with a spell of attacking
play, but Fear's progress was halted by Ellam's timely tackle
after Tainton had got the ball through to the City striker.
Gerry Harrison in the Times: "As the second half started,
ominous clouds peeped over the far stand. So far, Bristol had
shown no sharpness in Harvey's penalty area. Raids down both flanks
from aggressive full-backs had produced nothing but the odd murmur
from the frustrated crowd. Then within ten minutes of the restart
Gillies had a good snap right foot shot saved at a post by Harvey,
and the game began to take on another aspect.
"Cooper was still running well down the left, but
his forays often left Hunter with too much responsibility at the
back. Just before Leeds' best chance, Gillies was played onside
by slackness in the home defence, and only just did Ellam and
Harvey close the gap.
"Then Leeds seemed to come to life. Lorimer, contained so well
throughout by Drysdale, shot through a ruck of players to beat
Cashley for his shot to hit the inside of the far post before
Drysdale cleared to safety. Then Ellam poked a shot straight into
the goalkeeper's arms, and the crowd roared hopefully. But it
was Bristol who came back."
United found making progress against a spirited Bristol defence
immensely difficult but Lorimer's persistence on the right flank
earned them a corner. Giles' downward header to the Scotland international's
flag kick passed the wrong side of Cashley's left hand post. At
the other end Harvey had to be alert when he dived to the right
to pounce on a shot from Gillies.
Fortune favoured brave City on the hour when a swift build up
from United caught them out at the back. Lorimer raced away again
on the right, cut in and sent in a low, raking drive which beat
Cashley all ends up but found the far post and bounced out to
be cleared. It was the nearest the game had come to a goal.
The ball was in the City net after 65 minutes but Wolverhampton
referee Jack Taylor ruled it out. Jones challenged Cashley as
the goalkeeper gathered a high ball from Ellam and when he surrendered
possession Jones touched the ball home, but the official decided
that Cashley had been unfairly impeded.
United continued to plug away but struggled to create any clear
opportunities. Their body language was starting to betray genuine
anxiety even before Bristol took a shock lead in the 73rd minute.
Gow robbed Bremner deep in the Bristol half and found Fear with
a long, accurate pass out of defence. The striker turned and sent
the ball through for Gillies to run onto. He had to fend off the
fearsome challenge of Hunter but was able to slide the ball underneath
Harvey and in by the near post, silencing the packed crowd.
Almost immediately, Don Revie sent on Jordan in place of Giles
to bolster the home attack. United threw everything they had into
a late onslaught but City were in no mood to surrender, pulling
men deep and defending with tenacity and courage.
There were close late calls for the visitors as they were pressed
back into desperate defence deep inside their own penalty area.
Jordan had a header cleared off the line by Drysdale and moments
later keeper Cashley performed miracles to touch a Clarke header
over his bar. It was all Bristol hands to the pumps in these closing
seconds, but they resisted all that an out of touch United could
manufacture. Few would deny that valiant City were well worth
the 1-0 victory they secured.
Gerry Harrison in the Times: "In front of their biggest
crowd of the season, Leeds United's dreams of the FA Cup and League
double were torn to shreds. Twenty-nine times First Division sides
have failed to knock them off their unbeaten perch in the League.
At Elland Road yesterday, Bristol City, nowhere in the Second
Division, knocked them out of the FA Cup. In almost awed silence,
47,182 watched the dirty deed done with skill, magnificent application
and a 73rd minute goal.
"On a stage dominated by internationals and players of considerable
pedigree, the spotlight shone at tea time yesterday on a former
Scottish Merchant Navy deckhand and papermill worker by the name
of Donny Gillies, brought down from Clachnacuddin and the Highlands
of Scotland a year ago and now a West Country hero with his first
FA Cup goal.
"His description is slightly more matter of fact than the end
result: 'I was moving across the face of the penalty area, from
right to left, when Keith Fear, our centre-forward, gave me a
pinpoint pass. I was just goalside of Norman Hunter, who had hold
of my shirt. I pushed it forward with my right foot, and screwed
my shot round with my left. I didn't see it go in, because Hunter
had hit me by then and I was flat on my face.' So much for the
personal tale behind a little bit of history. Gillies has been
a full time professional for only two years and regained his place
in the Bristol City side when Bobby Gould was sold to West Ham
back to top
"The cold facts of the game, which reserved
its emotion and tension for the last quarter and the post-match
dressing room scenes, were that Leeds had five shots on target,
Bristol City two. As Cashley, the Bristol City goalkeeper, put
it afterwards: 'I was surprised the Leeds attack got through to
me so seldom. The lads in front of me played very well, but you
expect more pressure than that. We contained them till half time,
then started to play a bit.'
"Leeds' first problems showed themselves when the teams were
declared before the kick off. McQueen, Yorath and Reaney were
declared unfit, and Clarke was preferred to Jordan up front, a
talking point as the teams took the field. Cooper came in at left-back,
Ellam at centre-half, with Giles in midfield. It was sad to see
Cooper, skilful in attack, short of a yard or two in defence;
and Giles was just another player in midfield, thoroughly out
"Immediately, Bristol showed the space of their game with some
highly intelligent running and marking, and good passing when
they were in possession. Gow, in midfield was everywhere, and
long before the end had outrun and outfought the leading Leeds
warrior, Bremner. Not many players can claim such distinction."
Don Revie seemed strangely unmoved by the defeat: "I thought
they played very well and deserved to win. I wish them luck in
the next round. I said it would be a hard game before the tie
and it was. They never gave up fighting but also played with skill.
"It will be a hard game for Liverpool. All I can do is to congratulate
them - but obviously we are very disappointed.
"They have a fair amount of skill in the side, and Gillies took
his goal very well. They played just as well on Saturday. We had
one or two things that might have gone in, but that's Cup football."
Bristol City manager Alan Dicks: "This is very much the high
point of my career. I cannot get over it. It was magnificent.
"I thought we had missed the chance of winning last Saturday.
We contained them for the first 30 minutes of the game and we
grew in stature as time went on.
"I am going to celebrate this in champagne. I think we must have
a good chance against Liverpool in the next round.
"We did what we set out to do, contain and then push forward.
This is a young side which has lost its way in the League through
inconsistency. Against Leeds we strung two good performances together,
but I think we did it with good football.
"When we had scored we weren't foolish enough to look for another
against players of Leeds' quality. We came here to put on a performance,
and we certainly couldn't have performed better.
"Really, it was just a matter of playing football. To talk about
individuals is wrong. It was a magnificent team effort."
The more optimistic
members of the Elland Road camp spouted well-worn clichés about
exit from the Cup allowing the players to concentrate on the League,
but the defeat was a shattering psychological blow and sparked
a debilitating collapse of form; the 29-game undefeated run in
the First Division came to a shuddering halt four days later against
Stoke City. That was the first of four defeats suffered in seven
games which yielded just four points.
That dismal run seriously dented their championship challenge
but when they returned to some kind of telling form with ten points
from the final twelve available it was enough for United to claim
their second League title in five years.
back to top