The Oatcake match report of Stoke’s visit to Anfield early in the 1991/92 season, which appeared in Issue 52 of the fanzine…
Liverpool 2 Stoke City 2
25th September 1991 – Rumbelows Cup 2nd Round 1st Leg
THE POTTERS were dealt a trio of blows as we prepared to undertake the awesome task of trying to keep the scoreline down at Anfield and therefore the return leg interesting. Everton denied us the services of Jason Kearton, despite having two other ’keepers on their books, and Oxford did likewise with Mark Stein. On top of that, in-form Dave Kevan was a late omission through injury, his place being taken by Ian Scott. Noel Blake was kept on the subs bench with Lou keeping faith with Overson, Cranson and Sandford while Tony Kelly joined Blake on the bench, Tony Ellis being given the nod to partner Bertie.
Somewhat surprisingly Stoke had the better of the early exchanges and came closest to scoring after eight minutes when Bertie, latching on to a defence splitting through ball from Carl Beeston, turned inside a defender and smashed in a tremendous drive which whistled just millimetres past Grobelaar’s far post. At the other end Foxy had to be on his toes to turn round a Mike Marsh drive from twenty yards for a corner.
On sixteen minutes Liverpool took the lead as Merseyside’s answer to Cyranno de Bergerac, Ian Rush, headed home a David Burrows left wing cross. It was hardly unexpected and we sat back and awaited the deluge of goals to start raining into our net. But no, it was not to be! Far from making our heads drop, the goal strengthened the players’ resolve and The Potters began to take the game to the home side. Roared on by an enthusiastic and vociferous following, the players forced a throw-in near the Liverpool area and then from that a corner. Ian Scott’s flagkick was met soundly by Ian Cranson, getting his head in before a couple of Liverpool players, and the ball fairly flew into the net past a stationary Brucie.
Heavy mentals were the order of the day as the Anfield Road end of the ground went wild with delight. It would have gone even wilder had Tony Ellis’s header later in the half not just cleared the bar with Grobelaar stranded.
Liverpool mounted more attacks as the half wore on, but they were restricted to token long range efforts as our defence kept their forwards at arms length. At the half-time whistle we did not only deserve our position but with a bit more luck could even have been ahead!
The home side for all their possession had not really given Foxy any work to do, and restricted, as we said earlier, to speculative efforts from distance. As the second half commenced the Stoke following, now completely devoid of their pre-match pessimism, entertained thoughts of a shock result for we had seen nothing to suggest otherwise.
Again Liverpool struggled to create any clear openings and, despite all of their possession, whenever Stoke did regain the ball they looked the more likely side to score. Lee Fowler got forward well to take an intelligent Ian Scott pass but after charging into the area his shot was blocked by Steve McMahon. Soon after, Bertie unleashed another drive from outside the area but saw his effort flash just wide.
So dire were Liverpool in attack that after 69 minutes Dean “What a Waste of Money” Saunders was replaced by Ronnie “Greg Lougainis” Rosenthal. In those 69 minutes Liverpool’s £2.9M worth of striker had hardly had half a dozen kicks of the ball and had managed just one attempt on goal, a snap-shot that had the St. John’s Ambulance personnel near the corner flag ducking for cover.
However Liverpool went ahead within two minutes of Rosenthal’s appearance when Nick Tanner’s thunderous twenty yard drive was brilliantly turned onto the crossbar by Foxy only for the rebound to fall straight to Rush, who had the simple task of nodding the ball into an empty net.
There was a feeling of disappointment among the Stokies about the goal. Liverpool’s play had hardly merited them taking the lead and our minds were cast back to the previous week when after not playing particularly well Liverpool had run in four goals in the final twelve minutes to record an undeserved 6-1 victory over some Finnish part-timers.
However, once again, our worst fears were proved to be unfounded and far from Liverpool opening the floodgates they seemed more content to sit back and protect what they had. This was the signal for Stoke to come forward again and Tony Kelly was sent on in place of Tony Ellis with the intention of running at the home defenders. He almost scored with his first touch of the ball but saw his overhead kick clear the bar after a long throw from the exemplary Mick Kennedy had caused panic in the Liverpool defence.
As the game moved into its final few minutes we contemplated our night’s work and on the face of it a 1-2 defeat was a more than commendable effort and we were well pleased. If we were well pleased with a defeat just imagine how we felt when, in the 88th minute, the unbelievable happened. From a long ball down the field by Fowler the ever-susceptible Gary Ablett made a complete hash of an attempted back-pass to let in Tony Kelly for a one-on-one with Grobelaar.
As 6,000 Stokies rose expectantly from their seats Kelly kept his head, and brilliantly nut-megged the ‘keeper to send the ball rolling into the net and send those same 6,000 people into an orgy of celebration. Anfield had not witnessed such scenes since er, well, Ian Cranson’s goal an hour earlier!
And so The Potters had done it. A draw at Anfield and a deserved one at that. We had scored twice at the home of Britain’s top team and had twice come back from behind, I wonder who were the last team to do that?
The 2-2 draw at Anfield in 1991 was both significant and remarkable. Significant in that it marked the resurgence of Stoke City under the guidance of Lou Macari, and remarkable because it was achieved as a Third Division side. Just think of all the occasions that we went to Anfield in the 60s, 70s and 80’s when we were on an equal par with Liverpool and just remember all the beatings we took!
In hindsight we could make one or two more realistic observations about this match. We know now that this game was played at a time when The Reds were on the start of the slide that took them from greatness to the less than potent force we see in the Premier League today.
And we can also re-evaluate our claim that TK brilliantly nut-megged Bruce Grobelaar. We were a bit excited at the time and now realise that he probably just hit it and hoped for the best!