This goal technically never happened. Or did it? To this day I’m not sure.
Beating Liverpool in January 1994, in an FA Cup 3rd round replay, is probably the finest moment in my team Bristol City’s mediocre history. That replay was actually the third match between the teams that month, after the first game had to be abandoned due to floodlight failure.
I’d celebrated when the two teams came out of the draw together, and again when I’d managed to secure one of the rare-as-hen’s-teeth tickets to that initial match. City were nothing special: we finished that season 13th in Division One, or the Championship as it is these days. But although Liverpool were a massive club, they were in decline under Graeme Souness – surely we could give them a game.
I remember the game in flashes and blurs of colour: scrappy challenges in the muddy midfield; the annoying kid in front of my in the outsize beanie. John Barnes shrugging off a couple of challenges to cut in from the right and present another man in the twilight of his career, Ian Rush, with a tap-in. City’s keeper Keith Welch’s Grobbelaar moment nearly gifting a fresh-faced Robbie Fowler a goal. Liverpool’s iconic South African regaining his erratic custodian throne soon after by beating two men in the left-back position before having to be rescued by his defence. Heroically profligate City striker Liam Robinson spurning two great chances to equalise.
But I remember our equaliser like it was yesterday. The ball broke from midfield to stoic left-back Martin Scott, who advanced before sending over the perfect near-post cross. Where, arriving like a train, was cult striker Wayne Allison. Oh Waynie Waynie is Dr Wayne Allison these days, but as he powered a sinewy header past a despairing Grobbelaar a knighthood seemed appropriate.
It was an explosion of pure euphoria; the crowd spilling out of seats and towards the hoardings. Black spots swimming before my eyes, my vision clearly unable to cope with the majesty of it all. And somewhere, a voice complaining, “Someone’s stolen my hat!”
Shortly after half-time the lights went, and that was that. 10 days later they tried again, the same players scoring in a 1-1 draw; and finally, at Anfield, Brian Tinnion’s curler got Souness the sack.
I wasn’t there. I’d had to turn down a ticket because my mum wouldn’t let me skip school for the afternoon to travel up to Liverpool. But I’m content with my memories of that Allison header, and the life-affirming, visceral celebration that followed. It’s unlikely to ever be toppled as my favourite football moment.
Does it even count as a proper, in-the-history books goal? I’d rather not know. That pathos only makes me love it even more.
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