Looking Back At: Imps v Shrewsbury, 1974

Saturday 2nd November 1974

Shrewsbury Town 0 Lincoln City 4 (Football League Division Four)

In 1974 Lincoln City had finished Graham Taylor’s first full season as manager in mid-table in Division Four after never quite being able to mount a serious promotion challenge, writes Malcom Johnson.

They had then made a moderate start to the 1974/75 season with only two wins prior to the end of September before a 3-0 win over Rochdale at Sincil Bank started a run of four wins and two draws. A 4-1 victory over Darlington at The Feethams the previous Saturday had put them up to 7th place going into this game at Shrewsbury Town’s Gay Meadow ground.

After relegation Shrewsbury were in the Fourth Division for only the second season in their history. Player-manager Alan Durban had taken charge of the team the previous December after being assistant to Maurice Evans but had been unable to move the team out of the relegation zone. In the new season, however, a run of nine wins and only one defeat in 13 games from the beginning of September saw the Shrews battling it out with Mansfield Town for top place.

It’s noteworthy that in addition to Alan Durban five other players on the pitch in this game were to go on to become managers of Football League clubs. The teams were:

City:

  1. Peter Grotier
  2. Ian Branfoot
  3. Dennis Leigh
  4. Dennis Booth
  5. Sam Ellis
  6. Terry Cooper
  7. Dick Krzywicki
  8. John Ward
  9. Peter Graham
  10. David Smith
  11. Alan Harding
  12. Colin Symm (for Krzywicki)

Shrewsbury:

  1. Ken Mulhearn
  2. John King
  3. Laurie Calloway
  4. Alan Durban
  5. Mike Kearney
  6. Graham Turner
  7. Sammy Irvine
  8. Alan Tarbuck
  9. Ray Haywood
  10. Chic Bates
  11. Geoff Morris
  12. Nigel O’Loughlin (for King)

City’s settled back four had been together for most of the previous season and would continue be for the most of the one following, but the goalkeeping position had been a close season problem following the retirement of John Kennedy with only the 18-year-old Jimmy Gordon on the books to take part in the pre-season matches. However, Graham Taylor had acted to bring in Peter Grotier on loan from West Ham just prior to the start of the season, a player with 50 games in the First Division behind him. At the end of September, the transfer was made permanent for a club record fee of over £16,000 partly funded by the supporters following Taylor’s appeal to help buy the player.

Right back Ian Branfoot, who had been named in the PFA Team of the Year for the previous season, and centre half Sam Ellis had been signed for a total outlay of around £14,500 in the summer of 1973 from Doncaster and Mansfield respectively. They joined left back Dennis Leigh, manager Graham Taylor’s first signing for the club in February of 1973 from Rotherham, and Terry Cooper who had been signed by Taylor’s predecessor David Herd from Notts County in the summer of 1972 after a spell on loan the previous season

In the centre of midfield were Dennis Booth who had spent the last third of the previous season on loan from Southend before signing permanently at a cost of £9,000, and the long-serving Dave Smith, a Ron Gray signing in the summer of 1968.

Like Grotier, another player with top-flight experience, including at international level for Wales, was right-winger Dick Krzywicki who had been released in the summer by Huddersfield Town, while on the left was the skilful Alan Harding. He had been another early signing for Graham Taylor, joining from Darlington in March 1973 in a then record deal worth £14,500.

Up front were the local-born John Ward, now aged 23, and like Smith, another player who had been with the club since the late 1960s, and Peter Graham, who it’s fair to say, after being signed from Darlington for £12,500 the previous September had not initially proved a hit with supporters. He had however begun to win them over following a man-of-the-match performance and two goals in a 5-0 win over Exeter City at the end of August and had seven goals to his name so far compared to Ward’s five.

Substitute was midfielder Colin Symm, in his third season with the club after being signed by David Herd after limited experience of the top two divisions for Sunderland and his previous club Sheffield Wednesday.

In goal for Shrewsbury was Ken Mulhearn, greying-haired although still only 29, who had won a League Championship medal with Manchester City in 1968 and was now in his fourth season with the Shrews.

Right back was the 19-year-old Jake King, Glasgow-born but a former Shrewsbury Town apprentice who was in the early stages of a career that would see him make well over 300 appearances for the club. Experience at left back was provided by Laurie Calloway who had played for several clubs in the lower divisions, most notably with Rochdale. Centre half Mike Kearney was another Glaswegian with his first league club and in the previous season had been converted from a striker to a defender by Alan Durban. Alongside him was the 27-year-old former Wrexham and Chester player Graham Turner. He was to go on to play nearly 400 games for the Shrews and as player-manager take them into the Second Division (now the Championship) for the first time. His success then led to him having spells in charge of Aston Villa and Wolves who he took from the fourth to the second tier. He then had a 15-year association with Hereford United as manager and also as chairman and owner before returning to Shrewsbury for another three and half seasons, finally retiring from football management at the age of 66.

In midfield was 18-year-old Sammy Irvine, yet another Glaswegian with his first league club who had become a first team regular the previous season. Experience alongside him was provided by the 33-year-old player-manager. Alan Durban had started his career with Cardiff City before a move to Derby County in 1963 and was one of the few Rams players retained by Brian Clough after his appointment as manager four years later. After over 400 appearances and a League Championship medal he had joined Shrewsbury early the previous season. Manager until 1978 he then had mixed fortunes in the top two divisions with Stoke City and Sunderland being noted for a dour brand of football, famously saying in response to criticism on one occasion that if people wanted entertainment they should “go and watch a bunch of clowns” rather than a football match.

On the right of Shrewsbury’s 4-4-2 was Alan Tarbuck, in his third season with the club after spells with other clubs in the north west including Crewe with whom he had won promotion in 1968. Left winger Geoff Morris had spent several seasons with Third Division Walsall before joining Shrewsbury for the start of the previous season.

Up front, Shrewsbury could boast a remarkable and successful pairing in Chic Bates and Ray Haywood. Last season they had scored 35 and 31 goals respectively for Stourbridge as the West Midlands club had won the championship of the Southern League First Division North. Snapped up by Durban in the summer for a joint fee of £10,000 they soon adjusted to league football and were to finish the season with another 39 goals between them. Bates was also to have a spell as manager, succeeding Graham Turner as manager in 1984 and taking Shrewsbury to their highest ever Football League finish of eighth in the Second Division.

Substitute was 20-year-old midfielder Nigel O’Loughlin with a limited number of first team appearances behind him who was later to play around 250 games for Rochdale.

I travelled by bus from Nottingham which must have been a complicated journey but about which I can remember nothing, for my first ever visit to Shrewsbury’s old Gay Meadow ground. It was a lot more handily placed for the town centre than their present one, being just across one of the bridges over the Severn. It was while walking back over this bridge after checking on the location of the ground that I encountered Graham Taylor and some of the players going the other way but was too shy to wish them well for the match.

Prior to the match Taylor had said that if the team played like they did the previous week they could win against the high-riding home side and that if Shrewsbury had watched the Imps at Darlington, they could be losing sleep over the forthcoming game. Shrews manager Alan Durban, however, said that while he expected a difficult match, he didn’t fear playing City.

In front of an attendance of 4,349, Shrewsbury’s highest of season so far for a league game, the Imps were given an early lead after 11 minutes with Dick Krzywicki’s fourth goal of the season. The winger turned the ball home following a Dave Smith corner which was headed back by Sam Ellis. Shrewsbury then hit back, but a combination of good luck and first-class goalkeeping by Peter Grotier preserved City’s lead until it was doubled on 35 minutes. Shrewsbury goalkeeper Ken Mulhearn lost the ball in the air and Ellis headed down for Peter Graham to nip in and score his eighth goal of the season with the defenders waiting for the ball to roll out of play.

Just before the interval Krzwycki had to be stretchered off and taken to hospital after injuring his head in a fall, his replacement being the less attack-minded Colin Symm. Shrewsbury then had a chance to get back into the game midway through the second half when left winger Geoff Morris was sandwiched by two defenders inside the penalty area. Centre half Mike Kearney, with three successful penalties to his name in the season so far stepped up but his kick was saved by Grotier – only for the referee to order the kick to be re-taken. However, the City goalkeeper, looking to be worth every penny of his record transfer fee again saved Kearney’s attempt.

Driven on by skipper Ellis, City then sealed a great result with goals in the last ten minutes from Dave Smith and John Ward to move up to fifth place, one point outside the promotion places.

After the game Graham Taylor rightly described the whole team as “magnificent”, but Shrewsbury manager Alan Durban was less convinced, maintaining that “it was a completely false result” and that as “ definitely the better side” his team would have won 4-1 if they’d taken all their chances, pointing to the twice-saved penalty as the turning point in the match. Whilst going on to say Lincoln were not the strongest side they’d met that season he did grudgingly admit they had “a fair chance of promotion”.

The game was the third in a sequence of five games which saw City score four goals in three of them and three goals in the other two. It was also the third in an unbeaten run of 16 games which woke us supporters up to the realisation that under Graham Taylor something special was starting to happen. By the end of the month Taylor had won his first Manager of the Month award and City were established in the top four. They remained there until mid-March when things started to slip slightly and although still fourth going into the last game of the season a 3-2 defeat at Southport meant they were overtaken by almost the narrowest possible margin on goal average by Chester.

Shrewsbury showed no ill-effects from their heavy home defeat and won their next four matches to maintain their pursuit of Mansfield for top spot, remaining in second place for the remainder of the season. They eventually finished six points behind an outstanding Stags side.

My only memory of the match is of Peter Grotier’s double penalty save, and not surprisingly I made him joint man of the match along with all of the back four apart from for some reason Ian Branfoot. The only players to get a merely average mark in my player ratings were Alan Harding and substitute Colin Symm.

1 Comment

  1. Remember this game, decided to go on the morning of the match in the first car I had just bought with three mates. Apart from a great result and not expecting anything from it really , it was in the days before proper segregation. Me and my mates were sat in the main stand and obviously we were quite happy, four times in fact and then the penalty save !, the natives took a dislike to us for some reason making a racket ! We were pleased to make our getaway at full time, very happy. A really good City side that day and a great Manager.

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