Aston Villa 3 Man United 2

Andy Gray

As­ton Vil­la 3 Man­chester Uni­ted, Vil­la Park, Eng­lish Foot­ball Lea­gue Fir­st Di­vi­sion, Nov­ember 6, 1976. Man­chester Uni­ted, who entered the fix­ture on the back of a 1-0 de­feat ag­ainst Ips­wich To­wn at Old Traf­ford, lost 3-2 to As­ton Vil­la at Vil­la Park where Andy Gray hit a brace for The Claret and Blue. 

An ori­gin­al mem­ber of the Foot­ball Lea­gue, As­ton Vil­la had com­pletely dom­in­ated the ga­me be­tween 1892 and 1905. Dur­ing that pe­riod they claimed the Fir­st Di­vi­sion title on five oc­ca­sions and rea­ched the FA Cup Fi­nal four times, win­ning three of them. The Mid­landers also won the Fir­st Di­vi­sion in 1909-10 as well as the FA Cup in 1913 and 1920, but they would de­cline dur­ing the years be­tween the two great wars and were re­leg­ated for the fir­st time in their his­tory in 1937. They gain­ed pro­mo­tion out of Lea­gue Di­vi­sion Two in 1939 and went on to clinch the FA Cup in 1957 by beat­ing Man­chester Uni­ted 2-1 in the fi­nal cour­tesy of a brace by North­ern Ire­land in­ter­na­tion­al Pe­ter Mc­Parland in the 68th and 73rd min­utes re­spect­ively, but an­oth­er re­leg­a­tion came in 1959. And al­though Vil­la won the Sec­ond Di­vi­sion in 1960 and the Lea­gue Cup the next year, they failed to ad­apt to the new con­di­tions of the 1960s and they fou­nd them­selves re­leg­ated to the Sec­ond Di­vi­sion at the end of the 1966-67 sea­son. Man­agers came and left with­out any suc­cess and things went from worse to even worse as the once mighty club slipped down from Di­vi­sion Two to Di­vi­sion Three in 1969-70.

Af­ter hit­ting rock bot­tom, As­ton Vil­la came back to life un­der the as­tute lead­er­ship of for­mer play­er Vic Crowe who trans­formed the sleep­ing gi­ant in­to a foot­balling force to be reckoned wi­th ag­ain. The Black Coun­try out­fit were in­volved in the pro­mo­tion race through­out the 1970-71 cam­paign and ma­naged to reach the Lea­gue Cup Fi­nal at Wemb­ley Sta­dium, on­ly to lose 2-0 ag­ainst Fir­st Di­vi­sion Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur. And wi­th new and ex­cit­ing play­ers com­ing in, As­ton Vil­la won the Third Di­vi­sion in con­vin­cing style in the 1971-72 sea­son and came clo­se to a sec­ond suc­cess­ive pro­mo­tion the fol­low­ing year. Af­ter a me­diocre 1973-74 cam­paign in which Vil­la fin­ished 14th in the Sec­ond Di­vi­sion ta­ble, Crowe was ev­entually re­placed by Ron Saun­ders who not on­ly took The Vil­lains to pro­mo­tion in his fir­st year at Vil­la Park, but he also steer­ed them to the Lea­gue Cup Fi­nal where they be­at his for­mer em­ploy­er Nor­wich City 1-0 thro­ugh a re­bound pen­alty from ex-Bris­tol Rov­ers wing­er Ray Gray­don wi­th nine min­utes re­maining on the clock. As­ton Vil­la, who had be­en pro­moted along­side Man­chester Uni­ted and Nor­wich, would start the 1975-76 sea­son on a re­l­at­ively good note and the boys in claret and blue ended the cam­paign well above the drop zone, fin­ish­ing in 16th place wi­th 39 points.

As­ton Vil­la had be­gun the 1976-77 sea­son reas­on­ably strong and fou­nd them­selves sit­ting sev­enth in the Fir­st Di­vi­sion ta­ble ahead of the meet­ing wi­th mid-ta­blers Man­chester Uni­ted at Vil­la Park. Four weeks be­fore this mat­ch took place, how­ever, a so-called friendly be­tween As­ton Vil­la and Scot­tish Cham­pi­ons Glas­gow Ran­gers in Birm­ing­ham had to be aban­doned by ref­er­ee Derek Civil eight min­utes in­to the sec­ond ha­lf be­cause of crowd trouble. There was no prob­lems wi­th fans this time ar­ound, tho­ugh, and the ga­me went as sched­uled. In front of an at­tend­ance of 45,000 people, Man­chester Uni­ted al­most sco­red early on when at­tack minded full back Jim­my Nich­oll stormed down the right flank be­fore send­ing a low cross to Ste­ve Cop­pell who un­leashed a fe­ro­cious shot which hit the up­right. The Old Traf­ford men fi­nally put them­selves in­to the lead on the ha­lf-hour ma­rk as a splen­didly de­livered free-kick from Gor­don Hill was met by Stu­art “Pan­cho” Pear­son who head­ed down­wards pa­st As­ton Vil­la goal­keeper John Burridge and in­to the back of the net, but The Li­ons hit back shortly af­ter­wards as a cross by Eng­land U23 in­ter­na­tion­al John Gid­man ev­entually fou­nd its way to pre­vi­ous Cov­entry City play­maker Den­nis Mor­timer who­se su­perb ef­fort from just out­side the 18-yard area went bey­ond the out­stretched right arm of away shot stoppper Al­ex Step­ney and in­to the goal.

The Brummies star­ted the sec­ond pe­riod the bet­ter and went ahead for the fir­st time in the clash a mere min­ute fol­low­ing the re­sump­tion when the per­petu­ally run­ning Frank Car­rodus, a bar­gain £95,000 ac­quis­i­tion from Man­chester City in the sum­mer of 1974, cros­sed low for the un­marked and well-po­si­tioned Andy Gray who had no prob­lems at all in find­ing the net from in­side the six-yard box. Roared on by the bois­ter­ous trav­el­ling sup­port­ers, the vis­it­ors were not hanging their heads and had their equal­iser not long af­ter as Hill, who had be­en work­ing  tire­lessly all af­ter­noon, fired the ball in­to the onion bag via bo­th posts from short ran­ge, on­ly for Vil­la to go in front ag­ain six min­utes be­fore the hour ma­rk as the dy­nam­ic and ir­re­press­ible Gray be­at Step­ney wi­th a clo­se ran­ge head­er from a bril­liant high cross sent by Ray Gray­don. Then, a few mo­ments la­ter, As­ton Vil­la were han­ded a pen­alty by the ref­er­ee af­ter Man­chester Uni­ted deputy skip­per Bri­an Green­hoff had il­leg­ally bro­ught down Gray in the area, but the sub­sequent spot-kick from the usu­ally re­li­able Gray­don was ex­cel­lently saved by Step­ney and the tie ended wi­th a fi­nal score of 3-2 in fa­vour of The Villa.

A Lon­don­er, Gor­don Hill had star­ted out wi­th Sec­ond Di­vi­sion Mill­wall where he pro­ceeded to make his ma­rk as a free flow­ing flank­man. Fol­low­ing a loan pe­riod wi­th North Amer­ic­an Soc­cer Lea­gue out­fit Chica­go Sting, the af­fable char­ac­ter was trans­ferred to Man­chester Uni­ted for a fee of £70,000  at the front end of 1975-76 sea­son and went on to make his Fir­st Di­vi­sion de­but in a 2-0 vic­tory over As­ton Vil­la at Old Traf­ford on the 15th of Nov­ember 1975. A wing­er wi­th an eye for the net, he re­gistered his fir­st goal for The Reds in an im­press­ive 4-1 vic­tory ag­ainst Shef­field Uni­ted at Bramall Lane on the 13th of Dec­ember and sco­red an­oth­er one in a 1-0 tri­umph over Wolver­hampton Wan­derers at Old Traf­ford a week la­ter. On the 3rd of April 1976, he bag­ged a brace in a 2-0 FA Cup Semi-Fi­nal win over Der­by Coun­ty at Hills­bor­ough and was mem­ber of the si­de that suf­fered a 1-0 de­feat to Sec­ond Di­vi­sion South­ampton in the FA Cup Fi­nal at Wemb­ley Sta­dium the fol­low­ing month. How­ever, Hill was back at Wemb­ley a year la­ter play­ing in the Man­chester Uni­ted te­am which de­feated North West rivals Liver­pool 2-1 in the 1977 FA Cup Fi­nal. Al­ways the en­ter­tain­er, the light-hearted Cock­ney would have every­body in laughter wi­th his Nor­man Wis­dom im­pres­sions, even tho­ugh Man­chester Uni­ted cap­tain Mar­tin Bu­chan was­n’t al­ways a fan of his jokes. Af­ter con­trib­ut­ing 51 goals in 134 ap­pear­ances in all com­pet­i­tions for Man­chester Uni­ted, he was sold to Der­by Coun­ty for a trans­fer fee of £250,000 at the back end of the 1977-78 cam­paign, link­ing up wi­th old boss Tom­my Doc­herty. He la­ter ap­peared for Queens Park Ran­gers, Montreal Man­ic, Chica­go Sting, Inter Montreal, FC Twente, HJK Hel­sinki, Stafford Ran­gers, North­wich Vic­tor­ia, and Nova Sco­tia Clip­pers be­fore he de­cided to hang up his foot­ball boots in 1991.

In Fir­st Di­vi­sion fix­tures else­where, Queens Park Ran­gers and Der­by Coun­ty earned a point each in a 1-1 draw at Shepherd´s Bush, Liver­pool edged out Sun­der­land 1-0 at Roker Park where sub­sti­tute Da­vid Fair­clough net­ted the win­ner for The An­field­ers in the 76th min­ute, Ips­wich To­wn out­classed West Brom­wich Al­bion 7-0 at Port­man Road, Bris­tol City were held to a goal­less draw by Cov­entry City at Ashton Gate, Ar­senal ham­mered Birm­ing­ham City 4-0 at High­bury, Man­chester City could on­ly man­age a goal­less draw ag­ainst New­castle Uni­ted in front of a 40,000 crowd at at Maine Road, West Ham Uni­ted ran out 5-3 win­ners ag­ainst Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur at Up­ton Park, Sto­ke City be­at Middles­brough 3-1 at Vic­tor­ia Gro­und, Lei­cester City and Nor­wich City drew 1-1 at Fil­bert Street, and Ever­ton suf­fered a 2-0 de­feat ag­ainst Leeds Uni­ted at Good­ison Park. In the Sec­ond Di­vi­sion, Wolver­hampton Wan­derers thumped Mill­wall 3-1 at Mo­lineux, South­ampton and Ori­ent shared the spoils in a 2-2 draw at The Dell, Ply­mouth Argyle went down 3-1 to Charl­ton Ath­let­ic at The Val­ley, Ful­ham fell 2-1 to Car­diff City at Craven Cot­tage, Black­pool ma­naged a 2-2 draw ag­ainst Hull City at Booth­ferry Park, Carl­isle Uni­ted were de­feated 1-0 by Bol­ton Wan­derers at Brunton Park, Burn­ley emer­ged 1-0 vic­tors ag­ainst Old­ham Ath­let­ic at Turf Moor, Bris­tol Rov­ers suc­cumbed to a 4-2 loss at the hands of Luton To­wn at Kenil­worth Road, Shef­field Uni­ted over­came Notts Coun­ty by 1-0 at Bramall Lane, Here­ford Uni­ted and Chel­sea played out a 2-2 draw at Edgar Street, whi­le Not­ting­ham For­est trashed Black­burn Rov­ers 3-0 at City Gro­und, wi­th Ian Bow­yer, Sean Hasle­grave, and Pe­ter Withe scor­ing a goal each for The Tricky Trees.

Fol­low­ing the 3-2 de­feat ag­ainst As­ton Vil­la at Vil­la Park, Man­chester Uni­ted were now sit­ting four­teenth in the Di­vi­sion One ta­ble wi­th twelve points. Liver­pool, who were de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons, were top­ping the stand­ings wi­th twenty points, three more than Ips­wich To­wn, and four more than As­ton Vil­la, Man­chester City, New­castle Uni­ted, and Lei­cester City. At the oth­er end of the ta­ble, Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur, who were ma­naged by ex-De­naby Uni­ted, Liver­pool, Work­ing­ton, and Scun­thorpe Uni­ted de­fender Keith Bur­kinshaw, were just above the re­leg­a­tion zone wi­th nine points, one more than Bris­tol City, two more than West Ham Uni­ted, and three more than Sun­der­land. In Di­vi­sion Two, Chel­sea were top of the ta­ble wi­th twenty points, four ahead of Wolver­hampton Wan­derers, Black­pool, Bol­ton Wan­derers, and Charl­ton Ath­let­ic. At the bot­tom of the stand­ings were Ply­mouth Argyle, Ful­ham, and Car­diff City who had el­ev­en points each, whi­le Carl­isle Uni­ted, Ori­ent, and Here­ford Uni­ted all fou­nd them­selves in the drop zone wi­th ten, eight, and sev­en points re­spect­ively. As­ton Vil­la Te­am: John Burridge, John Gid­man, Gor­don Smith, Leigh­ton Phil­lips, Chris Nich­oll, Den­nis Mor­timer, Frank Car­rodus, Al­ex Cropley, Ray­mond Gray­don, An­drew Gray, Bri­an Little. Sub­sti­tute: John Rob­son. Man­chester Uni­ted Te­am: Al­ex Step­ney, Jim­my Nich­oll, Ar­thur Al­bis­ton, Ger­ry Da­ly, Bri­an Green­hoff, Stew­art Hou­s­ton, Chris Mc­Grath, Sam­my Mc­Ilroy, Stu­art Pear­son, Ste­ve Cop­pell, Gor­don Hill. Sub­sti­tute: Da­vid McCreery.


Manchester United Quickfacts

Sec­ond Di­vi­sion lead­ers Man­chester Uni­ted lost two-nil ag­ainst fifth pla­ced As­ton Vil­la at Vil­la Park on the 22nd of Feb­ruary 1975. Ray Gray­don and Char­lie Aitken sco­red the goals for Villa.


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