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  • Six of the Best

    Back in 1966 it wasn't just England that made the football headlines. The World Cup had stayed in the UK and there had been a few exciting games during the tournament but for real thrills you had to be at East End Park in the September!

    It was mid September 1966 and I was fast approaching my fourteenth birthday but the world was significantly different back then and attendance at Hibs away matches was infrequent. Thankfully, Maude MacFarlane’s assurances that I would be well cared for on the Hawkhill Bus persuaded my Dad to let me make the journey over the Forth to watch Hibs take on Dunfermline at East End Park.

    This was my first away match of the season as I’d not been able to go to any of those League Cup fixtures that witnessed Hibs visiting Ibrox, Annfield and Rugby Park. Still, I got the chance to cross the Forth via the road bridge and that was still a novelty having only been opened for a couple of years at the time.
    Arriving in Dunfermline I made my way into the ground and took up a spot near the half way line until it was decided which way the teams would be shooting. Once that had been decided I made my way behind the goals defended by Dunfermline. That was something of a ritual in those days and easily achieved at most grounds because there was no segregation and generally only one main stand with the other three portions of the ground given over to terracing.

    East End Park was a decent stadium with one end, usually occupied mainly by the Pars’ ‘choir’ enjoying a sort of covered enclosure. That generally added to the atmosphere as the home fans belted out their songs but the Hibs fans were not for being outsung and so chipped in with a fair few songs of their own. The effect of this was to make the 12,586 attendance seem much larger, given the atmosphere generated during the game.
    It was a tough assignment for Hibs that day as Dunfermline had a good team and had been pipped at the post for the League Title the previous season. Mind you, Hibs arrived in Fife on the back of a great 3-1 home win over Hearts a week earlier and their cause was boosted by the fact that regular goalkeeper Bent Martin was out injured as was mercurial playmaker and future Hibee Alex Edwards. Still, this was Hibs and quite literally anything could happen when you had players in the side like John McNamee, Pat Stanton, Peter Cormack and Eric Stevenson.

    Opening exchanges were pretty even but there was joy on the terracing behind the Dunfermline goals after just 18 minutes when Peter Cormack fired a shot at goal from about twenty five yards and joined those who were delighted to see it fly past the Pars goalkeeper Anderson and into the net. We were still settling down after celebrating the opening goal when Hibs struck again, this time after good play from Allan McGraw and big Alan Cousin had set up Jim Scott to score from close range. Needless to say the Hibs choir was in good voice whilst the Pars’ equivalent stood shell shocked under its covered enclosure.

    Sitting quite comfortably on the lead Hibs reached half time with goalkeeper Thomson Allan rarely in action and ten minutes into the second half it was the Hibees on target again. Of course I’d moved round at half time and now stood behind the opposite goal which gave me a grandstand view of Eric Stevenson latching on to a pass from Peter Cormack before racing into the Dunfermline box, drawing the keeper and firing the ball past him to make it 3-0. This was brilliant stuff from Hibs and Dunfermline looked dead and buried six minutes later when Jim Scott passed to Colin Stein in the Dunfermline box and when the big centre forward’s volley was fumbled by Anderson, Allan McGraw was quick to react and make it 4-0. I was in heaven by this time I can tell you! Although I’d gone to the match on my own I am aware that every single Hibs goal had me involved in a dancing embrace with a fellow Hibby or two. I’ve no idea who they were and they didn’t know me either but we gladly celebrated together and demonstrated our love for Hibernian.

    It wouldn’t be Hibs if things went smoothly. I knew that at 13 years old and I know it now! The under employed Thomson Allan must have lost his concentration due to lack of activity because he was guilty of dropping a simple cross into his box and allowing Hunter to pull a goal back for Dunfermline. That got the Pars choir singing again but we Hibs fans were unmoved as it was still 4-1 and deep into the game. Three minutes later the Hibernian bravado took a dent as big Pat Delaney cracked a low shot through a ruck of legs, past Allan and into the net to make it 4-2.

    With 15 minutes left Hibs scored again. This time a Peter Cormack free kick hit two Pars defenders before arriving at the feet of Allan McGraw who promptly made it 5-2. We celebrated and settled down to watch Hibs easily defend their lead for the remainder of the game. I said earlier, this was Hibs and boy did they do it the hard way as suggested. The celebrations of the fifth goal had barely died away when Delaney outjumped the Hibs defenders to make it 5-3 and then three minutes later Robertson saw his shot parried by Thomson Allan but unluckily for the Hibs goalie he could only divert the ball onto the post which it hit before trickling into the net. It was now 5-4, the Pars were rampant, their fans were singing louder and louder and the Hibs defenders were giving each other distinctly unfriendly looks.

    Standing behind the Dunfermline goal I could only look on in horror with my fellow Hibees as all the play flowed towards the goal at the other end and in truth it was no real surprise when future Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, who played at centre forward for the Pars that day headed a fifth and equalising goal. The noise at one end of the stadium was deafening whilst at the Hibs end there was only the sound of jaws hitting the deck as we watched our team lead 4-0 and then attempt to turn glorious victory into embarrassing defeat. Take my word for it, with just a minute or two left to play Hibs looked whipped and Dunfermline looked certain to grab an unlikely winner.

    Inside the final minute of normal time the Pars scored again or at least they thought they had. A netbound shot was hacked away near the line by John McNamee and as the Pars players claimed a goal, referee Stewart waved play on and Hibs broke out of defence. The concentration of the home defenders had been lowered as they raced forward to celebrate what they thought was a sixth goal and only a desperate challenge by Willie Callaghan stopped McGraw in his tracks in the centre circle. The quick thinking McGraw got up quickly and sent the resulting free kick forward to Jim Scott who raced clear to blast a goal past Anderson and finally secure a 6-5 win for Hibs. All hell broke loose both on and off the park as Hibs fans wildly celebrated, Pars fans booed the ref, Hibs players looked stunned but relieved and those Dunfermline players not surrounding the referee sank to their knees in despair.

    After the game the bus home was brilliant with a full repertoire of Hibs songs belted out. Unknown to us, back at East End Park at the post match press conference, Hibs boss Bob Shankly uttered the immortal words “We defended badly today” whilst his opposite number Willie Cunningham bemoaned the fact that the majority of the journalists covering the game felt their sixth goal should have stood as the ball was over the line before McNamee cleared it. Not only that but they were also of the view that the free kick leading to the winning Hibs goal was taken from the wrong place and the ball was moving when the kick was taken! I guess you might say they were less than impressed by referee Stewart.

    When I got home that night my Dad asked me how things had gone and what the score was. I said it was brilliant and we won 6-5 which caused a raised eyebrow as I swear he thought I was making it up! A week later, just a day before my birthday, Hibs went one better in defeating Partick Thistle 7-0 at Easter Road. I was behind the goals, under the shed and singing my heart out but once again, upon reaching home I got the raised eyebrow treatment in reporting a 7-0 win. Obviously my Dad still hadn’t grasped that this was Hibs we were talking about!
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