League Cup classic remembered: part two

Yesterday the official Chelsea website told the story of the first two matches of an epic League Cup tie in 1985. Here, in part two of our look back and ahead of a big game in the competition against Tottenham tomorrow, the third game is recalled, when Sheffield Wednesday were finally overcome…

‘That match set the whole country talking,’ wrote Chelsea manager John Neal in his programme notes following his team’s recovery from 3-0 down to draw 4-4 at Hillsborough the previous week.

‘It really was a marvellous advertisement for the game and today, as we go into “episode 3” we can’t realistically expect a game as good as that again. I see no reason though why we we shouldn’t brace ourselves for another memorable game.’

They proved to be accurate words.

Home advantage for the second replay was won with a toss of a coin immediately after the draw in Sheffield, and this time there was a seven-day gap, during which an away league game was played and there was an FA Cup exit to George Graham’s Millwall. Chelsea played a mind-boggling six games in 12 days, with almost entirely the same team.

The Shed was packed and heaving well before kick-off, but for the third game running against Wednesday, they took the lead. The equaliser was in the first half too, a David Speedie goal which owed so much to the intelligent play of Pat Nevin.

Mickey Thomas’s free-kick had rebound off the Wednesday wall to the young Scotsman, who faced yet again with the Yorkshire side’s tedious offside trap, scooped the ball over the line of yellow shirts charging out at him.

Nevin chased it behind the defence, for certain onside, and knocked the ball past keeper Martin Hodge and crossed just before it went out of play. Speedie had earlier been denied by two good saves but this time, with his famous spring, he headed in at the far post. 

‘What I did was 100 per cent planned,’ reflects Nevin. ‘I had thought about it and our coach John Hollins asked beforehand had I noticed the way they come out of the wall.

‘I said yes, I tried to do them this way in the very first game I played against them up at Hillsborough, putting Clive Walker through. It was chalked off but it wasn’t offside. I knew I had timed it right.

‘I knew Sheffield Wednesday did that all the time, it was regimented, and if you know what is going to happen with the opposition then there is weakness there.’

Tickets are available for our match against Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday

As the tie headed towards another period of extra-time, Paul Canoville, the hero of the first replay came close to repeating the feat but this time allowed Kerry Dixon’s centre through his legs in front of goal. He did however take a corner which had been awarded to Chelsea with 90 minutes on the clock. 

‘Because I was so tall not many people gave me credit for my header which won the game!’ laughs 5ft 6in Thomas, ‘but it fell nicely for me on the edge of the area. It went through a group of players and found the back of the net.’

‘When Mickey scored his header I was wiped out on the goal-line by one of their players,’ reports Nevin (incident pictured below). 

‘That was so deliberate. I was running away to celebrate and he took me out and I had a slight dead leg after it. I also got a mouthful of abuse when we equalised. They hated getting beaten by us!’

Sadly, the Wembley dream and what would have been the just reward of a major cup final for that exciting Chelsea team began to fade on a frozen pitch at Sunderland in the semi-final first leg. Unfortunate injuries and two penalties took their toll. There was no redemption in the second leg at home but such was the magnitude of the quarter-final tie before it that it continues to stand alone as a Chelsea classic.

‘If you talk to the supporters from that era, that 4-4 always gets mentioned, it was amazing,’ confirms Nigel Spackman (pictured below).

‘Every now again somebody might put a scrapbook in front of me for me to sign a picture,’ says Eddie Niedzwiecki, ‘and invariably it is one against Sheffield Wednesday when I have Lee Chapman and Mickey Lyons clattering into me.

‘It was just nice to have put some smiles on Chelsea fans’ faces with a small part of the history of the club.’

‘You don’t often come back to score a winner in the 90th minute and that team on that night was magnificent,’ adds Thomas. 

‘We had all the right ingredients from goalkeeper to the no.11, everyone contributed in their own way and it was a great atmosphere, a great way to win a game.

‘The celebrations, not just after the goal but on the final whistle, you will never take those away from me. That was football at its best, without a doubt!’ 

Tickets for our Carabao Cup semi-final second leg against Tottenham on Thursday are sold out in non-hospitality areas, but you can be at the Bridge on Sunday when we meet Sheffield Wednesday again, this time in the FA Cup. Click for more information.

A version of this article first appeared in 2015. 

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