This wasn’t easy…
Plymouth Argyle 3 Aston Villa 5
A full eight weeks after this fixture was first played, Aston Villa finally booked their place in the quarter finals of the inaugural League Cup, scoring five times against their lower league opposition. Villa of course were the competition’s first winners, beating Rotherham United in the final.
The first attempt had ended 3-3 at Villa Park, whilst the first replay at Home Park ended goalless. Thespoiler happily admits it pines for the days of the endless replay, a terrific addition to the cold, winter nights. Police – make it happen!
Coventry City 5 Nottingham Forest 4
Having won the previous two installments of the League Cup, Forest arrived at Highfield Road confident of protecting a 22 match unbeaten run in the competition. Terry Butcher’s Coventry were doing what Coventry always did back then – they were just outside the relegation zone.
Forest had beaten Cov in the 1990 Littlewoods Cup semi, and the Sky Blues came out looking keen to take revenge. Very keen in fact. A Kevin Gallacher hat-trick and a goal from Steve Livingstone (watch out for a dreadful blooper from Stuart Pearce in the build up,) put them 4-0 up after just 35 minutes.
Half-time arrived with the score incredibly at 4-3, after two from Nigel Clough and a scrappy Gary Crosby goal put Forest within distance of forcing a replay. Garry Parker soon made it 4-4 after the break, with a typical Parker screamer. Yet it was to be Coventry who had the last laugh as Livingstone scored again, 25 minutes from time.
Post-match, Brian Clough was as quotable as ever, remarking:
“Fingers crossed, I’m still in work. But blow me, after that defensive performance, our chairman would have every right to think about giving me the sack.”
Arsenal 2 Manchester United 6
Having taken part in a 21 man brawl a month earlier, the tie of the round between Arsenal and Manchester United, promised a real treat. And we weren’t disappointed.
On the greatest ever night of League Cup action (Villa and Middlesbrough also shared five goals in a thriller), a new star was born at Highbury. 19 yr old Lee Sharpe’s hat-trick (including a sublime first) and goals from Blackmore, Hughes and the awesome Danny Wallace (after a wonderful touch from Sharpe,) served notice of the type of football United would spend the next 18 years playing. Within 20 months, they were Champions.
Arsenal would go on to win the league that season, conceding just 18 all season and losing just one under the raised arms of George Graham, yet having disposed of Liverpool in the previous round, United now accounted for the other best team in the land, in the days when the League Cup was still a competition for first XIs.
As well as a breakthrough for Sharpe, that evening’s ITV highlights also proved a breakthrough for Clive Tyldesley, at that time a third choice commentator behind Brian Moore and Alan Parry. But the dramatic nature of events at Highbury meant the nation stayed up to hear Clive call the goals. He too never looked back, and his slight Utd bias to this day perhaps dates back to this match.
United lost in the final that season, whilst Sharpe later revealed in his book that Fergie still gave him the hairdryer treatment in training the next day, for giving an unauthorised post-match interview to the newspapers.