John Rafferty’s account of a great European win 50 years ago
WHAT a night it was at Dunfermline – a night of unbelievable happenings. It was all Carnegie’s millions to a Valencia orange that Dunfermline could not pull back the four goals they were down from the first leg of this Inter-Cities Cup-tie but they bucked the odds dramatically and did just that.
They had an optimistic aspiration to score two quick goals. If two in 16 minutes was quick, then they did it. If three in 17 minutes was astonishing, then they did that, too. If to knock off all four was miraculous, then this was the greatest, most exciting football miracle of all.
And to add to the tension, Dunfermline twice lost a goal when they had the aggregate tied, then won it back again. There was never such mad excitement.
Dunfermline’s plan was to smash the ball forward and catch the Spaniards turning on a frosty footing that was new to them. It worked brilliantly with Alex Edwards, a 16-year-old winger, playing clear and deep and dropping the ball dangerously into goal.
No British side had previously beaten Valencia and those they have played are Rangers, Celtic, Wolves, Manchester United, Blackpool and Birmingham. This great night for Dunfermline had merit in it.
And when it was all over the astonishing feature was that the crowd went away disappointed that their team had not won outright. That is how crazy it was, they were not satisfied with a four-goal win. It was a pity only 15,000 saw it but those who did will talk of it for a long time to come.
Dunfermline had set off touchy as thoroughbreds on a hard pitch marled with frost. They had swept on the Spanish goal with surer footing than the sliding senors.
Edwards had crossed dangerously, George Peebles had hooked a good shot, Jackie Sinclair, the 19-year-old inside left, raced and probed but it seemed they were in too big a hurry and goals would be hard to come by.
Then in the 11th minute Jose Ginesta was drawn from his goal. Edwards got the ball over, Alex Smith headed on, and Harry Melrose came in with a neat header for the first goal.
The muscular Spanish defence panicked a little. Sinclair was left completely unmarked and headed the second in the 16th minute.
Just one minute later Sinclair was away again skipping over the frost. He beat three defenders in a great run. He finished with a shot that counted number three and the roar must have shaken the Forth Bridge.
Dunfermline were goal crazy but in the middle of their jubilation they lost a goal. Vicente Guillot was unmarked as the ball came over and he stabbed it in.
Play cooled and we had a chance to see what the Stein plan was. It was a shaker – an attacking centre-half. Soon, in the 34th minute, we saw its worth. Jim McLean was up to shoot the fourth goal. It went in off the post and away went Dunfermline again.
Four minutes later Peebles strolled through the middle, finished coolly, and miracle of miracles, the four goals had been won back. The sides were level on aggregate.
The interval came as a calm in a storm and the strain on the teams must have been tremendous. Dunfermline, however, showed no sign of it as Edwards took them raiding. In the 50th minute came the unkindest cut of all. Jose Sastre shot hopefully from far out. McLean put his head to the ball and hit it past his own goalkeeper.
It took Dunfermline just six minutes to recover. Peebles survived three tackles, sent the ball over to Smith, and he put them level again at 6-6 over the double leg.
They settled to saner, more hard-working play after this though one could still sense that just one mistake either way would finish it. There were great tries, near misses, gasps and oh’s, but no goals and maybe we could not have stood another.
•The tie went to a play-off in Lisbon, which Dunfermline lost 1-0.
Dunfermline: Herriot; Callaghan, Cunningham; Thomson, McLean, Miller; Edwards, Peebles, Smith, Sinclair, Melrose.
Valencia: Ginesta; Verdu, Mestre; Piquer, Quincoces, Saestre; Nunez, Urtiaga, Waldo, Guillot, Ficha.
Referee: J Finney (Hereford).