Looking Back: Imps v Doncaster 1976 League Cup

Tuesday 24th August 1976

Lincoln City 2 Doncaster Rovers 2 (Football League Cup First Round Replay)

 

Following their record-breaking championship season Lincoln City had started life in Division Three for the first time in 15 years with manager Graham Taylor now in his fifth season in charge. After winning the Fourth Division championship with a record number of points and scoring over 100 goals in the process, not surprisingly Taylor saw little need to make many changes to the playing squad.

The previous season had seen something new in the League Cup with the First Round ties being played over two legs and now another innovation was that both legs were to be played before the start of the league season.

The rock-hard ground due to the long summer heat wave of 1976 was blamed for centre half and captain Sam Ellis suffering an Achilles tendon injury which kept him out of the side for the start of the season. To fill in for him Graham Taylor brought in a player on loan. This was 23-year-old centre back Ian Bolton who arrived for a month from Notts County.

For the first leg City travelled to Doncaster as Ian Bolton made his Imps debut and reserve keeper Jimmy Gordon came into the side for only his second game in two years. With Dennis Booth also absent Dick Krzywicki came in on the right wing, allowing John Fleming to move into midfield.

The Imps took an early lead with Peter Graham’s goal marking his comeback from a long injury lay-off but Doncaster quickly equalised to make the sides all square going into the second leg

With Krzywicki suffering a hamstring injury which would keep him out of the second leg the following week Graham Taylor moved quickly to bring in former favourite Phil Hubbard from Grimsby Town for a fee of £6,000. Now aged 27, Hubbard had started his career with City as an apprentice over ten years before and shown himself capable of playing just about anywhere on the pitch before his goalscoring exploits in the first half of the 1971/72 season earned a £20,000 move to Second Division Norwich City. However, after a handful of appearances for the Canaries he had moved on to Grimsby for a similar fee. With the Mariners he had mostly played wide on the right.

So, the first home match of the season turned out to be against the same opposition as in the last home game of the previous season. The Wednesday night visit of Doncaster Rovers drew an attendance of almost exactly half that which had seen the Imps clinch the Fourth Division championship, but just over 7,000 was perhaps not too unreasonable with a first home game in the Third Division to come the following Saturday. And it was ‘only’ the League Cup.

Peter Grotier returned in goal while Dennis Booth was on the bench. Phil Hubbard came into the side straight away, as Peter Graham scored again in another 1-1 draw meaning a replay would be necessary and as Doncaster declined to toss a coin to decide the venue it had to take place on a neutral ground. This was decreed to be the City Ground at Nottingham.

A minimal four-page programme for the match was provided by the host club, and with only 3,726 there we were rather rattling around the 47,000-plus capacity stadium. Good news was that Sam Ellis was fit to return at centre half, with the only other change seeing John Ward in the side in place of Peter Graham despite the latter’s two goals in the previous legs.

Doncaster had finished in mid-table in the Fourth Division the previous season under the management of Stan Anderson after only being on the fringes of the promotion race. Former Sunderland midfielder Anderson had two England caps to his name and had spent several years in charge of Middlesbrough before a brief spell with Queen Park Rangers, joining Doncaster in early 1975.

The teams were:

 

City:

 

  1. Peter Grotier
  2. Ian Branfoot
  3. Dennis Leigh
  4. Dennis Booth
  5. Sam Ellis
  6. Terry Cooper
  7. Phil Hubbard
  8. John Ward
  9. Percy Freeman
  10. Dave Smith
  11. Alan Harding
  12. Dick Krzywicki (for Booth)

 

 

Doncaster:

 

  1. Dennis Peacock
  2. Stan Brookes
  3. Peter Creamer
  4. Fred Robinson
  5. Steve Reed
  6. Brian Taylor
  7. Ian Miller
  8. Dave Wignall
  9. Brendan O’Callaghan
  10. Peter Kitchen
  11. Joe Laidlaw
  12. Ray Ternent (for Wignall)

 

City goalkeeper Peter Grotier had been signed from West Ham United at the start of the 1974/75 season for a club record fee with the money partly raised by the supporters. He had been named in the PFA Division Four team of the year for both of the last two seasons. Three of the defenders in front of him had also been included in the team of the year for 1975/76, with right back Ian Branfoot also named for 1973/74. Branfoot, like centre half Sam Ellis was now in his fourth season with the Imps, having been signed from Doncaster Rovers in the summer of 1973 for a fee of £7,500 while Ellis had cost £7,000 from Mansfield at the same time. The centre half and captain had been voted City’s Player of the Season in the Fourth Division championship side, and the settled back four was completed by Welshman Terry Cooper, also in the team of the year, who had been signed from Notts County in 1972 by previous manager David Herd, and Dennis Leigh who had been Graham Taylor’s first signing for the club in 1973.

In midfield were Dennis Booth, now in his fourth season with the club after costing £9,000 from Southend, and City’s longest continuously serving player, the ever-skilful Dave Smith, who had joined the club at the same time as his manager in the summer of 1968.

On the right of the midfield four was the versatile Hubbard while on the left was the skilful Alan Harding who had been another early signing for Graham Taylor, joining from Darlington in March 1973 in a then club record deal worth £14,500.

In attack, City legend Percy Freeman was in his second spell with the club after returning from Reading in January 1975. ‘Big Percy’ was partnered by local-born John Ward, like Smith another player who had been with the club since the late 1960s. Between them the pair had contributed 54 of City’s 127 goals in all competitions the season before.

A player with top-flight experience, including at international level for Wales, was substitute Dick Krzywicki who had joined on a free transfer in the summer of 1974 from Huddersfield Town. Outstanding on the right wing in his first season with City he had then begun to suffer from intermittent injury problems but had played an important role as a back-up striker in the championship season.

Doncaster goalkeeper Dennis Peacock had joined from Nottingham Forest before the start of the previous season after making around two dozen appearances for the City Ground club, so would be in familiar surroundings.

Full backs were captain Stan Brookes now starting his sixth season with the club and Peter Creamer who had started his career with Middlesbrough, making a small number of appearances for them before joining Doncaster midway through the previous season. In central defence were Steve Reed and Fred Robinson. The 20-year-old Reed had come through the ranks at Doncaster, while Robinson had started out at Rotherham, making a handful of appearances for them before joining Doncaster early in the previous season.

Strength in midfield was provided by the 17-year-old Dave Wignall, another youth product who had made his debut the previous March. Alongside him was Brian Taylor another ex-Middlesbrough man who had joined the previous December.

Wide on the right was Ian Miller who had been named in PFA Division Four team of the year after joining from Nottingham Forest early in the previous season as part of the transfer deal which took Terry Curran to the City Ground. On the left was yet another ex-Middlesbrough player in Joe Laidlaw who had made over 100 appearances for the Ayresome Park club and over 150 for Carlisle before joining Rovers in the summer.

Doncaster could boast a formidable pair of strikers, both coming through the ranks with the club. Peter Kitchen (25 goals the previous season) made it a total of seven players on the pitch who had been in the PFA Division Four team of the year. He would go on to score a further 27 goals in the current season before joining Leyton Orient for a fee of £40,000 then moving on to Fulham and Cardiff for six-figure sums. He was partnered up front by Brendan O’Callaghan (28 goals the previous season) who was to finish with 18 goals in the current season and would later move on to Stoke City for £40,000, making almost 300 appearances for the Potteries club and winning half a dozen Republic of Ireland caps.

Substitute was full back Ray Ternent now in his fourth season with the club after joining from Southend.

Doncaster started the match well but it was City who took the lead in the sixth minute after Percy Freeman was flattened inside the area by Doncaster midfielder Brian Taylor. Skipper Sam Ellis stepped up to send Rovers keeper Dennis Peacock the wrong way from the penalty spot. However, Doncaster equalised almost immediately when big striker Brendan O’Callaghan headed in a corner from Ian Miller. These two players were to cause the most trouble to the City defence, and they were involved again on 33 minutes when Miller went on a long run down the right wing before finding the unmarked Joe Laidlaw. His shot was blocked by Peter Grotier but O’Callaghan slotted in the rebound to make it three goals in the last two games of the tie for him.

Dick Krzywicki, on as a substitute for Dennis Booth in what would turn out to be his last game for the Imps apart from a Lincolnshire Cup appearance set up Phil Hubbard to equalise with his first Imps goal since his return, but mainly thwarted by Doncaster’s Lincoln-born goalkeeper Dennis Peacock the Imps were unable to force a winner during the rest of the 90 minutes and extra time despite a number of efforts blocked or just off target.

New rules for the ties in the competition played over two legs were that if scores were level at the end of 30 minutes extra time in a replay away goals in the original home and away legs were to count double. However, as both had ended 1-1 it meant a first-ever penalty shoot-out was required to settle things.  Unfortunately, City got off to a bad start with a miss from the usually 99% reliable Sam Ellis who saw his shot saved by Peacock. Peter Kitchen put Doncaster 1-0 up but Peter Grotier, following on from scoring two penalties in pre-season games, kept City in the contest at 1-1. O’Callaghan then made it 2-1 before Percy Freeman blasted his effort over the bar. Joe Laidlaw put Doncaster further in front before Dennis Leigh scored for City, followed by a miss from Doncaster’s Ian Miller to keep the score 3-2. But Phil Hubbard, needing to convert City’s fifth penalty saw it saved by Peacock as Rovers went through by 3-2 to gain the reward of a home game with high-flying First Division side Derby County in the next round.

The Imps’ first league win of the season came in their third game when two Ellis penalties beat Port Vale and a steady rise up to third place came at the end of October before a 3-2 home defeat to Bury started a slide to mid-table. Some inconsistent results then were not helped by an FA Cup run to a third round replay and a number of postponed matches with only one league game able to be played in December. An improvement came in the last two months of the season but never quite enough to seriously challenge for promotion.

Doncaster, after a poor first half to the season improved to once again finish short of a promotion place