With today’s Ladbrokes Championship match against Dunfermline (Saturday 25th February 2017), Trust Curator Tom Wright writes about the enthralling 6-5 match between the sides at East End Park in 1966.
At the start of the 1966/67 season Hibernian travelled to face Dunfermline in a league match at East End Park, a game that would end in possibly the most exciting climax ever witnessed by the supporters of either side.
It had all the makings of a thrilling encounter. Since their Scottish Cup win in 1961, Dunfermline had established an impressive European pedigree, reaching the quarter finals of the Fairs Cup the previous season and were then considered to be one of the main challengers to the dominance of both Celtic and Rangers.
Under Jock Stein's management, Dunfermline won the Scottish Cup in 1961
Hibs themselves were now thought by many to be playing better football under manager Bob Shankly than during Jock Stein’s time at the club, and while attendances at many other grounds were falling, at Easter Road the crowds were starting to return in significant numbers with the average home gate at that time around 17,000.
At Easter Road qualification for the latter stages of a League Cup section that included Rangers, Kilmarnock and Stirling Albion had been missed only on goal average, despite a 3-2 home win against eventual section winners Rangers. There had also been a positive start to the championship when goals by Alan McGraw, a recent signing from Morton, Jim Scott and a penalty by Joe Davis had given the home side a 3-1 victory over city rivals Hearts seven days before.
On Saturday 17th September 1966, a large contingent of Hibs fans made their way to Fife over the then recently opened Forth Road Bridge, many of them quietly confident of victory against a Dunfermline side that had only managed to draw against the newly promoted Ayr United the previous Saturday and had lost 6-3 at Parkhead in the quarter finals of the League Cup in midweek.
Hibs started the game the better side and goals from Peter Cormack and Jim Scott soon gave the visitors a comfortable half time lead, which in truth could well have been more. Goals by Eric Stevenson and Alan McGraw shortly after the restart gave the Easter Road side what was thought to be an unassailable lead, and with just over 25 minutes remaining the game was surely as good as over.
The Hibernian team of 1965/66
Standing left to right: Duncan, Davis, McNamee, Allan, Stanton and Cousin
Sitting left to right: Cormack, Stein, Scott, McGraw and Stevenson
Pat Delaney pulled one back for home side but even when the centre forward scored again there still didn’t seem all that much to worry about, an attitude that quickly changed a few minutes later when inside right Ian Hunter scored a third for Dunfermline to silence the chants of the visiting crowd.
The Hibs fans nerves were briefly calmed when Alan McGraw scored a fifth to re-establish his side’s two goal advantage, a goal that would surely now put the final result beyond doubt. However, just as at Parkhead on the Wednesday evening when Dunfermline had been three behind inside six minutes and four behind at the interval before demonstrating their fighting qualities to score three times in the second half, once again the Pars were refusing to accept defeat.
By this time, they were by far the better side with Delaney and Alex Ferguson in particular causing all kinds of panic in the Hibs penalty area. Incredibly, assisted by a couple of terrible blunders by the Hibs goalkeeper Thomson Allan, further goals from the former Dundee player Hugh Robertson and a header from Alex Ferguson levelled the scores at five each and by this time the tension among both sets of supporters was palpable.
BY NOW, THE EMOTIONAL STRAIN OF THE HIBS FANS WAS ALMOST UNBEARABLE, MANY UNABLE TO WATCH THE EVENTS TAKING PLACE ON THE FIELD BUT TOO AFRAID TO LEAVE IN FEAR OF MISSING ANYTHING.
Hibs were now all over the place, the anxiety of not only the players but also their fans on the terracing evident. With just seconds remaining Dunfermline appeared to have scored again when after hesitation by goalkeeper Allan, centre half John McNamee cleared a ball that appeared to have already crossed the line from under the crossbar to safety. By now, the emotional strain of the Hibs fans was almost unbearable, many unable to watch the events taking place on the field but too afraid to leave in fear of missing anything.
With just seconds remaining and referee Stewart checking his watch, the ball was once again swept upfield into the Dunfermline half. Alan McGraw was brought down 25 yards from goal and with the referee appearing to be just about to blow the final whistle the alert Jim Scott took advantage of a quickly taken free kick to score his second goal of the afternoon after his first shot had rebounded from the goalkeeper, the final whistle bringing to an end to one of the most incredible games ever seen at East End Park.
By that time many of the Hibs supporters among the 11,000 crowd appeared to be in need of medical attention to calm their frayed nerves as they made their way back to the capital, leaving the Hibs players to face an almost certain enquiry at Easter Road on the Monday morning.
The teams that day were as follows:
Dunfermline: Anderson, W. Callaghan and LuAnn, Paton, McLean and T. Callaghan, Fleming, Hunter, Delaney, Ferguson and Robertson (Substitute: O’Neill)
Hibernian: Allan, Duncan and Davis, Stanton, McNamee and Cousin, Cormack, Stein, Scott McGraw and Stevenson (Substitute: Quinn)
Referee: J Stewart (Paisley)
It had been Hibs first league victory at East End Park since 1958 when goals by Desmond Fox and Andy Aitken had given them a narrow 2-1 victory.
The following Saturday, Hibs would continue the high scoring with a 7-0 home victory against Patrick Thistle and after four games were joint leaders of the table with Celtic.
However, not long after yet another high scoring game would end in a 5-3 home defeat by the Parkhead side, Hibs eventually having to be satisfied to finish the season in fifth place, one position higher than the previous year. Dunfermline would finish eighth; four places lower than the previous campaign.
The 1966/67 season had been one of mixed fortunes for the Scottish Clubs. As well as securing a second consecutive league Championship under the leadership of the former Dunfermline and Hibs manager Jock Stein, Celtic would go on to become the first British side to win the European Cup with a 2-1 victory in Lisbon against Italian giants Inter Milan.
Rangers would go all the way to the final of the Cup Winners Cup only to lose 1-0 after extra-time to Bayern Munich in Nuremberg, but perhaps more famously would be beaten 1-0 by Berwick Rangers in the Scottish Cup, their first ever defeat in the competition by a side from a lower league.
Kilmarnock would reach the semi-finals of the Fairs Cup before losing to Leeds United, but for one famous Scottish side it would be the end of the road. Third Lanark, who had been formed as early as 1872 and had been one of the founding members of the Scottish League in 1890, would be declared bankrupt in controversial circumstances. After ninety-five years, the financially stricken club would follow Vale of Leven and Renton many years before them, by resigning completely from the league.
The captivating game against Hibs would be the only league appearance that the former Bonnyrigg Rose and Hearts goalkeeper David Anderson would make for Dunfermline. He had now conceded six goals against both Celtic and Hibs inside four days while deputising for the injured Eric Martin and would soon be on his way to Dumbarton.
For the former Queens Park and St Johnstone player Alex Ferguson, however, it would be a different story. At the end of the season he would join Rangers for the then record fee of £65,000 and the rest, as they say, is history.
Written by Tom Wright