Everton seeking cup revenge after ‘77 controversy

After defeating Sunderland in the FA Cup quarter-final replay, Everton can look forward to a semi-final derby clash against Liverpool, the first in 35 years. You have to go back 106 years for Everton’s last victory in this type of game, triumphing 2-0 at Villa Park. Since then, the rare occasions that the two have met at this stage, Liverpool have progressed to the final.

In 1950, Liverpool beat Everton 2-0 at Maine Road and repeated the feat, this time Everton getting one back, 21 years later on the other side of Manchester at Old Trafford. Everton, though, were most hurt by the match that occurred on the 23rd April, 1977, again at Maine Road.

An attendance of 56,637 saw Terry McDermott give Liverpool the lead with a well-judged chip over the helpless ‘keeper, David Lawson. Everton equalised through a scrappy effort in the penalty area by Duncan McKenzie, after Emlyn Hughes was robbed of the ball on the left touchline.

The second half was just as frenetic. A poor punch by Lawson fell to Jimmy Case who headed over the stranded goalkeeper and agonisingly past the defender on the line. Everton were not deterred, however, as Bruce Rioch equalised for the Toffees, tapping-in comfortably from a drilled McKenzie effort.

The real controversy occurred at the death of the game. Winger Ronny Goodlass rushed down the byeline and crossed into McKenzie, whose flicked header was deflected into the net by Bryan Hamilton. Both sets of players reacted as if it were a legitimate goal but the only man who counted, referee Clive Thomas, disagreed. The official reason that Hamilton was offside, or the alternative theory that it was given for handball, both looked incorrect.

Incredibly, this was not the first time Hamilton had been denied unfairly by Thomas, who’d seemingly taken a dislike to the player capped fifty times by Northern Ireland. Two years earlier, the Welsh ref had disallowed a Hamilton goal by giving offside despite the linesman not flagging. Just to continue the coincidence, this happened again in an FA cup semi but this time Hamilton’s Ipswich Town were the aggrieved club, at the profit of West Ham United who would progress to the final to meet Fulham.

In the BBC documentary Match of the Seventies, goalkeeper Ray Clemence and the late Hughes giggled when approached about the
goal. Hughes recalled speaking to Thomas about the incident whilst on holiday; confessing that the referee did admit that he made a mistake. Hughes himself agreed that Everton were unfairly punished and conceded that they deserved to win. He concluded by arguing that once the semi ended at 2-2, “they [Everton players] knew they couldn’t beat us in the replay.’

Four days later, this statement was proven by a comfortable 3-0 victory for Liverpool, with Phil Neal, Case and Ray Kennedy all on the scoresheet. Liverpool would be denied a treble that year, losing the final 2-1 to Manchester United in a crazy passage of play where Stuart Pearson would score for United and Case would equalise, only for Jimmy Greenhoff to net the winner all in the space of five minutes.

For Everton, this would offer little consolation. Maybe a defeat of their neighbours in 2012 at Wembley would help to banish the disappointment of 1977.

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Joe Cawley

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