|Opening Day Of The Season = 1973 QPR |
Thu 05th Jul 2012 12:47
For the second in the series we look at the first game of a season that would ultimately end in relegation.
After a solid mid table finish in 72/73, Saints fans had high hopes for more of the same in the following year, the summer had seen the arrival of Grimsby Town manager Lawrie McMenemy with the role of team manager designate, the idea being that McMenemy would be shown the ropes by Ted Bates and be eased into the job over the coming season, the only other arrival of note was 22 year old Ally MacLeod a forward from St Mirren.
There had been a couple of departures though, Francis Burns had lasted only a year and was off back to Lancashire joining Preston and Ron Davies had joined Pompey in the final month of the previous campaign, so McMenemy inially at least had to work with mainly the players that Bates had had to, with the hope that a new face mifght inject new life into some of them.
The opening day saw a trip to Loftus Road and newly promoted Queens Park Rangers, youngsters may find it hard to believe, but back then promoted clubs were not seen as cannon fodder destined for immediate relegation unless they spent big, most of the top sides in the old second division could easily hold their own in the first and QPR with a great crop of up and coming players were no exception.
There was a debutant in the opening day line up though and it wasnt MacLeod, with Eric Martin injured 20 year old Steve Middleton was in the Saints goal for the first time, at the other end of the scale 34 year old Terry Paine after missing his first opening day match the previous season as documented in our first article was in his familiar & shirt for what would be his final ever Saints season, a year in which he would play every game bar the final fixture at Everton.
As Saints would find out to their cost, there was something new in the League structure, for the first time three clubs would be relegated from the First division.
The game got off to a bad start for Saints, after only six minutes Don Givens opened the scoring for the home side and that remained the score at half time, it was an evenly matched contest though and after the break Saints equalised although initially there was confusion as to whom had scored, Terry Paine had took a corner and Mike Channon had met it with a header at the near post, Paul Bennett had helped the ball into the back of the net, however the final decision on whose goal it was lay with the ref, it being long before the days of the dubious goals panel and he decreed that the ball had crossed the line before Bennett got his touch so the goal was Channon's, given that the central defender would only score one league goal for the club in 116 league appearances you could understand why he was so desperate to get the last touch, for the record though this would have been his second league goal for Saints had he been awarded it.
The game would finish 1-1 and new team manager designate Lawrie McMenemy was happy with the point as where most Saints fans who were back then used to Saints getting little change on the road, on reflection they were right, QPR would finish Eighth whilst Saints would be relegated.
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