Peter Ward’s magic debut at Hereford

wardsawinner

You have a tough away fixture at the League leaders. What do you do? You drop your top scorer in favour of a slender chap who has not yet kicked a ball in league football. Strangely, it worked.

From the Evening Argus, covering this famous match from 26th March 1976:

Albion improved their promotion hopes with a brave display at Hereford, although the two top scoring sides of Division 3 played nothing like to form.

After three successive away defeats, it was vital that Albion stopped the slide, and they showed enough grit to have warranted both points. Indeed, Dixie McNeill’s 53rd minute equaliser was seen on TV action replay to have been punched in. Had either referee Jim Bent or his linesman been sighted, the goal must have been disallowed.

Nevertheless, the 1-1 draw was a fair result for Albion survived not a few anxious moments after 20-year-old Peter Ward blasted them ahead at 50 secs, and earned himself a place in the record books.

The lightweight striker, who has netted 20 goals for the Reserves, became only the third player to score in the first minute of his League career.

Ward shoots for goal...

Ward shoots for goal…

Ward (out of shot) is off the mark as O'Sullivan (no 8) celebrates

Ward (out of shot) is off the mark as O’Sullivan (no 8) celebrates

A £4,000 close-season signing from Burton Albion, Ward has been substitute three times, joined the ranks of illustrious players like Bill Foulkes of Newcastle United who netted with his first kick when debuting for Wales against England at Cardiff 25 years ago.

Those handful of regulars who watch the Reserves cannot have been surprised at Ward’s impressive debut, or the decision of manager Peter Taylor to drop 25-goal Fred Binney.

While Binney scores like clock-work at the Goldstone, his tally of away goals is low – five in the League and two on the FA Cup trail.

No doubt Taylor will come under fire from Binney’s large band of admirers. But it was a courageous decision to omit the league scorer and risk wholesale censure had the move failed.

Before the match, Taylor asked his players for maximum effort. He knows full well that the principal reason why only 12 points have been taken from 19 away games is lack of application.

“They gave what I asked for. They were magnificent,” he said.

I hope the introduction of Ward, who has a great deal to learn, isn’t going to inspire an ‘unfair to Binney’ campaign. I have no reason to believe there was any reason for his dropping or the standing-down of Ian Mellor, other than purely tactical.

Ward watches a high ball

Ward watches a high ball

Quite apart from his unforgettable goal, Ward made a meaningful contribution to the game. But for a superb fingertip save nine minutes from the end by Kevin Charlton, Ward would have had the winner.

Ward exerts more pressure with his pace and close control

Ward exerts more pressure with his pace and close control

His introduction at this juncture was based on the lack of mobility by Hereford’s central defender, John Galley. Such a nippy player as Ward soon demonstrated his skill and finishing power, attacking chiefly from the left and showing a penchant for knee-high crosses.

It was in this fashion that he scored. But I am sure Ward would be first to admit that Sammy Morgan’s arrival in the six-yard box was a painfully unwelcome distraction for Charlton.

The increased pace was Ward’s abiding impression of it all. He admitted to be tired afterwards and was not the first to complain at the poor state of the pitch, where the uncertain bounce deceived most of the players most of the time.

Match of the Day cameras and commentary did not adequately convey the tension. Neither side overcame nerves, and in consequence much of the game was scrappy.

Once again Brian Horton displayed a wide range of skills and power, while Peter O’Sullivan’s urgency was always in evidence. The return of Andy Rollings after missing three games with a gashed instep, gave much needed height to the defence and he played so strongly as to be outstanding at the back.

Joe Kinnear, however, was far less sure and allowed himself to be distracted on one near-fatal occasion by the tactics of Terry Paine.

The result threw doubt on Hereford’s promotion credentials. The Brighton draw meant the Lilywhites had won just one out of their previous four matches. However, they won five and lost once out of their remaining nine League matches to end the season as Third Division champions. Despite a goal bonanza from new boy Ward towards the end of the season, Brighton secured only one victory out of their remaining fixtures and so promotion proved beyond them.

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