Blast From The Past - 1985
It wouldn't happen today. Rock hard pitches, postponed games and, in the case of Cup competitions, interminable replays until a winner was found. That's why on Wednesday January 30th, 1985, Chelsea met the Owls at Hillsborough to decide who would progress to the League Cup semi finals.
Goalkeeping legend Martin Hodge (in the middle of an incredible run of 214 consecutive League and Cup appearances) had kept the Owls in the tie, saving a penalty from Kerry Dixon at Stamford Bridge on the Monday night. The replay was a fantastic advertisement for Cup football, BBC commentator Tony Gubba describing it as the greatest game he ever saw.
Hillsborough was packed to the rafters. Chelsea was missing captain Colin Pates and Keith Jones: Wednesday had the luxury of being unchanged, and got off to a blistering start, with Mike Lyons powering a header into the Chelsea net from Andy Blair's inswinging free kick after only eight minutes.
What followed in the first half from a committed Wednesday delighted the Owls faithful. Brian Marwood's regular forays down the right, ably supported by ace full back Mel 'Zico' Sterland, tormented the Blues defence. On 22 minutes Blair lost Mickey Thomas and whipped a cross over to the back post for Lee Chapman to head home the Owls' second, Imre Varadi following up to make sure the ball was over the line. Chelsea were rattled and a succession of bookings followed.. they did however rally temporarily and Peter Shirtliff did just enough to thwart David Speedie's goalbound attempt, the post coming to the Owls rescue.
In first half injury time, Marwood drove a further nail into the Chelsea coffin, barging aside Colin Lee then beautifully curling a left footed drive past Eddie Niedzwiecki into the corner of the net. Lee would not appear for the second half. Hillsborough was rocking.
Howard Wilkinson: 'At half time I bumped into John Neal, who was shaking and looking shell shocked. I asked him what was wrong and he said 'I can't go back out there, I can't take it'. So we took him into our bootroom and gave him a cup of tea to relax him. He was a nervous wreck. As I walked up the tunnel I'd missed Chelsea's first goal because I was helping their manager get over the first half.'
Chelsea kicked off. The ball went back to Joey Jones who threw it forward, Dixon won it in the air, Speedie applied a vital touch and subsitute Paul Canoville came in off the wing to drill a shot into the corner of Hodge's goal: Canoville had been in the game for ten seconds.
The Owls continued to press, however: Marwood defied by Jones.. Varadi flicking a header just wide with the Chelsea keeper all at sea. To the Owls supporters, there seemed to be no immediate danger, but Chelsea were working their way back into contention in midfield. Midway through the second half, Dixon rounded Hodge to score.. the tide was turning.
Ten minutes later, Pat Nevin burst into the Wednesday box, checked and applied a perfect square ball for Mickey Thomas to side foot home. A quarter of an hour to go, 3-3 and all to play for, for both teams.
Striving to remain positive, Chapman touched the ball on for Blair, who returned the compliment but the Owls striker's shot from distance was straight at Niedzwiecki.
A mere four minutes to go, and once again Nevin produced the spark for Chelsea: accepting the ball from Thomas, ignoring Blair's challenge before releasing Dixon running through the channel. Worthington and Lyons tried to close him down, but Dixon slipped the ball through to substitute Canoville, and his shot came off the advancing Hodge and in to the net.
It was Wilkinson's turn to be shell-shocked.
Tony Gubba: 'Howard Wilkinson with his head in his hands.. he can't believe it.. the match all but won at half time with Wednesday three up.. and now it's all gone away and it's all gone wrong.'
Seconds remained. Fans streamed out of the exits. Pat Nevin was in possession and seemingly safe in his own half.
Salvation. Nevin's clearance was blocked by Shirtliff, the ball falling to Sterland. Advancing into the box, the Wednesday man flipped the ball to the left of Doug Rougvie, scampering round him to the right. Rougvie turned and felled Sterland. Penalty! Or was it?
Tony Gubba: 'A foolish trip by Rougvie!'
Mel Sterland: 'It was never a penalty. He (Rougvie) never touched me but I went down anyway. At the end of the game we shook hands and the commentator said what a nice gesture... actually we were giving each other verbals about the penalty, he was slaughtering me and I was returning the compliment. On TV it looked like we'd kissed and made up.'
But the referee had given it. Regular spot kick taker Andy Blair appeared unwilling to take the responsibility, so it was Sterland himself who stepped up and rammed the ball into the net past a despairing Niedzwiecki to take the game to extra time.
Amazingly, after such drama, a further 30 minutes saw neither side able to make the breakthrough: the whistle blew and the match was drawn four each. The teams returned to Stamford Bridge a week later for a second replay, and Chelsea would finally prevail by two goals to one, a superb Gary Shelton strike overshadowed by Mickey Thomas' late winner.
But the drama of that January night in 1985 will never be forgotten by fans of both teams.
Sheffield Wednesday: Hodge, Sterland, Shirtliff, Madden, Lyons, Worthington, Marwood, Blair, Varadi, Chapman, Shelton. Sub: Oliver.
Goals: Lyons 8, Chapman 22, Marwood 45, Sterland 90
Chelsea: Niedzwiecki, Jones, Rougvie, Lee (Canoville), McLaughlin, Jasper, Nevin, Spackman, Dixon, Speedie, Thomas.
Goals: Canoville 46, 86, Dixon 67, Thomas 77
Read more about classic Wednesday matches and memories in our Archive here.
Win FREE pizza with Vital Football!
Select your team and get 50% off if they score twice.