In the context of Hull City’s history in particular and football in general – the Tigers’ Watney Cup clash with Manchester United in August 1970 was significant on four counts.
It was the home debut of Hull City’s new player/manager Terry Neill. With the exception of the FA Cup, it produced City’s highest home attendance for a cup tie and it was also the first time in City’s history that the programme for a competitive home fixture was not an ‘in-house’ production. Perhaps the greatest significance though was the fact that it was the first occasion a competitive professional football game was decided by a penalty shoot-out.
This was the Watney Cup’s first appearance on the football calendar and, as the programme explained, brought together “…the top two scoring sides from the First, Second, Third and Fourth Divisions of the Football League, with the exception of clubs engaged in Europe or those promoted.”
City had earned their semi-final slot with a 4-0 victory at Peterborough, whilst United’s progression came about by beating Reading (3-2). The programme was a generic affair, comprising 16 pages of which five were allocated to Hull City and Manchester United. Match reports of each club’s quarter-final fixture and player pen pictures were nothing out of the ordinary but the half-page profile of each club’s manager provided an interesting and marked comparison.
‘For twenty-five years now the quietly spoken Scot… has reigned at Old Trafford’ summarised Sir Matt Busby’s managerial career, whilst Terry Neill was referred to as ‘…the new boy to football management.’
In front of more than 34,000 fans at Boothferry Park, a Dennis Law goal 12 minutes from the end of normal time, cancelled out Chris Chilton’s opener for the Tigers and thus took the game into its history-making penalty shoot-out phase after extra-time had failed to find a winner.
Neill, Ian Butler and Ken Houghton converted City’s first three penalty attempts and they were matched by Best, Kidd and Charlton for United. Then Ian McKechnie earned his place in football’s history books by saving Law’s penalty kick. Unfortunately, the advantage was short-lived as City’s next penalty taker, Ken Wagstaff, put his effort wide of Alex Stepney’s goal.
Willie Morgan converted United’s fifth attempt and if the Tigers were to stay in the competition they had to convert their last penalty kick. Somewhat surprisingly, the task of doing so was given to goalkeeper McKechnie. The matchday programme had described him as a ‘Scottish-born goalkeeper who was converted into this position from a left-winger by Arsenal.’
Alas, McKechnie’s former forward form deserted him as he crashed his effort against the bar. As a consequence it modified the custodian’s history book entry: ‘saved and missed a penalty’ and allowed United to put their name in the history books by becoming the first side to win a game in this manner.