From the archive: Hibs beat Manchester United 7-3 in Gordon Smith’s testimonial 16 September, 1952

IN A match for the benefit of Gordon Smith, of the Hibernian Football Club, at Easter Road last night, the Hibernians, the Scottish League champions, beat Manchester United, the English League champions, by seven goals to three.

That is a plain statement of fact. In actuality the match provided the finest football entertainment I have ever seen. It did not surpass in excitement and gripping propensities the great match in which the same Hibs played Aberdeen in a League Cup quarter-final, giving Aberdeen three goals of a start and making up the leeway, but in football artistry it far surpassed anything I have seen myself or heard of.

If Smith’s 500th appearance for Hibs against Queen of the South is soon forgotten, his benefit game will be talked of for years. If such football fare were to be guaranteed weekly, all grounds would need to be Hampdens.

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Another if: If I say that the score could conceivably, not easily, have been 7-3 for Manchester, I am not decrying the Hibs. So swiftly and surely did the ball travel from end to end that this was more like a tennis match than a football one.

It took the reporters all their time to keep track of the goals, allowed and disallowed, and the penalties converted and missed. Hibs took the lead in 15 minutes. Smith beat Aston and went on to cross to Ormond, an old trick of the Hibs. McNulty, however, intervened and headed out. But there was Turnbull who lashed the ball back into goal, and McNulty had the chagrin of deflecting it past Wood.

In 22 minutes Rowley, whose shooting from any range or angle was a delight to Scottish connoisseurs, let go a drive from about 20 yards, and McCracken was beaten. Eight minutes later a deceptive top-spin shot from Rowley again beat McCracken, and Hibs girded up their loins. In 12 minutes the referee Mowat gave Hibs a penalty when Chiltern handled. Turnbull’s first kick was saved, but he caught the rebound, and with highly commendable coolness collected the ball and slammed it into the net.

A little later Pearson sent in a fine low drive which I thought McCracken took a long time to dive for. It was in the net before the goalkeeper was anywhere near it at the foot of the post.

The half-time reflections were that Hibs, although kicking their favourite way, would have to “step on it” to beat United.

In the second half noteworthy events tumbled over themselves in such rapid succession that one is powerless to mention them all. Downie hit the crossbar; Reilly had a goal disallowed for offside; Gallagher stopped a sure-scoring shot with his tummy; Ormond equalised in 17 minutes, amid great jubilation; McNulty fouled Reilly, and Turnbull gave no second chance from the penalty spot; Rowley beat mcCracken but Paterson whipped the ball over for a corner; Manchester had the ball in the net but the whistle had gone for offside.

Manchester were given a penalty, but Carey sent wide of goal. Wood saved a shot from Turnbull, but could not hold the ball, and Smith, running in had the pleasure of adding a fifth goal.

The crowd then yelled for a white ball and one was introduced. Reilly headed home a cross from Smith, and in the closing minutes he added the seventh with a glorious left-foot drive.

The willingness of Manchester to shot at all possible opportunity seemed to inspire Hibs to do likewise. Long may they continue in that strain for there is no doubt that brighter football will be the result. Rowley sent several shots whizzing past, but his fourth or fifth one counted; and goals are what count. Hibs did the same, and Smith sent in several before he scored.

At the end of the match the crowd, only the thirstiest of whom left before the finish, gave the teams a great ovation, and the stand rose to a man and cheered them into the pavillion, a worthy tribute to the players who had provided such a feast of football as we are seldom privileged to enjoy.

Hibernian: McCracken, Govan, Howie, Gallagher, Paterson, Combe, Smith, Johnstone, Reilly, Turnbull, Ormond.

Referee: JA Mowat (Rutherglen)

Attendance: 30,000