We continue our look at the title chase as both Liverpool and Everton were aiming to be the first to win The Double. The season was 1985-86. Manchester United had gone off like a train with 10 straight wins. But their form had suffered and they were now only 2pts clear at the top with Liverpool in second. Everton, the defending champions, were back in sixth.
Screensport Super Cup again. This time under 15,000 were at Anfield for the visit of Tottenham. This game could well decide the winner of the group. Both teams were at full strength and it was Liverpool who came out on top. Kevin MacDonald put them in the lead in the first half and then with ten minutes of the half remaining, Walsh doubled the lead. Liverpool won 2-0. Tottenham would need to win the corresponding fixture at White Hart Lane to qualify.
Everton took on Manchester United at Goodison and the game looked to be heading for a draw. With five minutes to go Frank Stapleton put through his own net and Everton won, confirming themselves as winners of the group.
One of the other problems with this tournament with two groups of three, was a Semi-Final stage. Twelve matches to lose two teams. Liverpool and Everton were already confirmed as Semi-Finalists. United were in danger of losing out.
The first league outings in December saw both Liverpool and Everton win 3-0. Everton were at The Hawthorns to take on a West Brom side who’d amassed just seven points from 19 matches. Any hopes the home fans had of taking it to the champions ended after just three minutes. Kevin Sheedy put the visitors ahead and then Pat Van den Hauwe made it two soon after. Lineker scored early in the second period and that was that. It was his 15th in the league already and looked to eclipse any ideas of them missing Andy Gray.
Talking of Gray. He was in the Villa side which turned up at Anfield and were sent packing with a 0-3 loss. Molby, Walsh and Johnston got the goals. Walsh was now getting a regular start in place of his manager. This was his seventh in nine starts. Molby too was banging them in with eight already.
United ended their run of four without a win by beating Ipswich and the gap was still two points between them and Liverpool. West Ham were third. Everton were still back in sixth.
Everton were then up against Chelsea in the League Cup replay at Goodison. Dixon again scored in the first minute but Lineker levelled eight minutes later. With a quarter of the game to go Joe McLaughlin scored the winner for Chelsea and Everton were out.
Back to the league and Everton were again at home as they welcomed Leicester City. Lineker couldn’t score against his old club but his old striker partner, Alan Smith did. Leicester won 2-1. It was Everton’s sixth league defeat of the season. Retaining their title looked a long way off now.
Liverpool’s nine match unbeaten run came to an end too. At Highbury Charlie Nicholas and Niall Quinn both scored and for only the second league match of the season, Liverpool didn’t.
United beat Villa to go five points clear. West Ham completed their ninth straight win to go level on points with Liverpool. Everton were still sixth.
Newcastle United arrived at Anfield buoyant having beaten them at St. James’s Park. Peter Beardsley put them in front but Steve Nicol equalised and the game ended 1-1. Everton were at Coventry City needing to turn around their dip in form. Lineker scored five minutes into the second half. But once again they couldn’t hold onto their lead as Terry Gibson levelled. But this time, Sharp put the visitors back in front almost immediately. Lineker completed the win with his second of the game.
Man United’s unbeaten home record ended when they lost to Arsenal. West Ham’s winning run ended with a goalless draw at Luton.
The Boxing Day fixtures had both Manchester clubs up against both Merseyside clubs. Everton were at home to Manchester United. Two goals from Sharp and one from Lineker gave them a 3-1 win. Sharp now had 11 for the season, Lineker 14.
Clive Wilson scored the only goal of the game as Manchester City beat Liverpool at Maine Road. Three games without a win for Liverpool and just one goal was a worrying drop in performance.
West Ham lost at Tottenham and with the top three all losing, the chasing pack was closing in. Everton were up to fifth just two points behind Liverpool in second.
Liverpool’s poor December continued when they were held at Nottingham Forest. No win in four now and results elsewhere went against them too. Everton entertained Sheffield Wednesday. Fifth versus sixth. Lineker scored two more as Everton ran out 3-1 winners.
Neither Manchester United or West Ham played so it was all change near the top. United still lead but it was back to two points. Chelsea moved into second after their win against Tottenham. Everton were now up to third and Liverpool down to fourth. Suddenly, Everton fans could dream again of possibly glory come May next year.
December had been one to forget for Liverpool. It was also the end of an era. Phil Neal left the club on a free transfer to Bolton. One of the most decorated players of his generation he had served the club with great distinction. Eight league titles and four European Cups were just some of the honours he won. Another example of the club moving on from the Paisley days.
The weather affected many of the fixtures in the New Year. Of the games which were played Liverpool entertained Howard Wilkinson’s Sheffield Wednesday. Carl Shutt silenced The Kop with a goal after three minutes. Liverpool didn’t level until the early stages of the second half when Ian Rush scored. Astonishingly Jan Molby missed a penalty, possibly for the one and only time. Then Dalglish replaced himself with Paul Walsh. Within a minute the substitution paid dividends as Walsh put the home side in front. But Garry Thompson dampened the celebrations with a goal five minutes from time to earn a draw.
At St. James’s Park, Everton took a first half lead through Trevor Steven. But in the second half Paul Gascoigne and Peter Beardsley turned it around for the home side. But Graeme Sharp converted a penalty to earn a point.
The leaders, Manchester United beat relegation-threatened Birmingham City thanks to a Colin Gibson goal. United were now back to five points clear at the top. Everton had moved into second place as one of three clubs on the same points. Liverpool and Chelsea being the other two.
The first weekend of every January is the FA Cup Third Round. Liverpool were up against Second Division leaders, Norwich City. They eased past them, 5-0. MacDonald, Walsh, McMahon, Whelan and Wark with the goals.
Everton played on the Sunday, as they were drawn at home too. They were up against Exeter City, stuck at the wrong end of the Fourth Division. Just over 22,000 turned up to watch Everton struggle. But with ten minutes to go Gary Stevens scored the only goal of the game and the relief was palpable.
At the weekend, Everton were again at home as QPR arrived. Gary Bannister and John Byrne gave the visitors a surprise two-goal lead inside the opening 25 minutes. Right on half-time, Everton were awarded a penalty. Sharp converted it to give the home fans some hope. Ten minutes into the second half and Lineker equalised. Within a minute they were in front as Paul Wilkinson scored. When Sharp scored his second with 23 minutes to go it looked as if they had the win secured. But Bannister got his second just before the end to give the home fans a nervous few minutes. It ended 4-3.
On Sunday, Liverpool were at Watford. Kenny Jackett put the home side in front midway through the first half. They held the lead until just before the break when Paul Walsh equalised. Ian Rush then put the visitors in front in the second half before Paul Walsh grabbed his second. Almost immediately, Jan Lohmann got a goal back for Watford but a 3-2 win ended Liverpool’s five-game search for a league win.
Manchester United beat Oxford United and with Chelsea also winning, it was as-you-were at the top.
Midweek saw Liverpool complete their Screensport Super Cup group stage. They won 3-0 at Tottenham with Rush scoring twice. Liverpool had won their group, Everton theirs. The Semi-Finals would see Liverpool up against Norwich and Everton taking on Tottenham.
Back in the league and Liverpool took on West Ham, who were lying fifth. Molby scored his fifth penalty of the season. Rush and Walsh also scored as Liverpool completed a comfortable win.
Everton went to Birmingham and two goals from Gary Lineker gave them a comfortable win too.
Manchester United suffered their second home defeat of the season as two goals from Colin Walsh helped Nottingham Forest to a 3-2 win. Chelsea beat West Brom 3-0 to give them their fifth successive win. They were unbeaten in 11 and now there were just two points separating the top four.
Liverpool then resumed their League Cup campaign. They at home to Ipswich, who were struggling in the bottom three in the First Division. Inevitably, Rush and Walsh scored with Ronnie Whelan also grabbing a goal. The game was over just after the hour and Liverpool were into the semis.
The end of the month saw the Fourth Round of the FA Cup. Everton were at home to Blackburn Rovers. Pat Van Den Hauwe scored at both ends and Lineker took his tally to 26 for the season with a double.
Liverpool were at Chelsea. Chelsea had a good record in the cup against Liverpool, but they were up against a determined side this time. Dalglish had now adopted Molby as a sweeper with Lawrenson pushed further forward. It was starting to reap rewards. Chelsea were down to ten men when Colin Lee was sent off in the first half, and in injury time at the end of the first period Rush opened the scoring. Two minutes after the re-start and Lawrenson had his reward for his attacking endeavours with the second goal. Speedie got one back but the home side just couldn’t capitalise.
There were a few surprises in the round with Tottenham and Manchester United held to goalless draws by lower league opposition.
Into the final four months of the season and Liverpool’s run of six straight wins in all competitions came to an end. They were at Ipswich, who they’d already beaten twice this season. Rush was injured but Dalglish declined to play himself. Whelan gave them a first half lead and things were going well. But in the second half the home side came back at them. Mich D’Avray and Kevin Wilson scored to give the home fans a welcome, rare, victory.
Everton were at home to Tottenham. Spurs had lost three of their last four and had only scored in two of their last seven. Everton were unbeaten in their eight in all competitions. But the game was a tight one and the deadlock wasn’t broken until Peter Reid scored with eight minutes to go.
Three straight league wins and Everton were back on top of the league, for the first time this season. Liverpool were down to fourth. Man United lost at West Ham and Chelsea were held at home by bottom club, West Brom.
The first leg of the Screensport Super Cup arrived. Both Liverpool and Everton were away from home and both games were drawn. Everton were up against Tottenham for the second time in a week. Just over 7,500 witnessed a goalless draw at White Hart Lane.
Liverpool were up against Norwich City who were well clear at the top of the Second Division. They had won the League Cup the previous season but suffered relegation. They were odds-on to bounce straight back. Kevin Drinkell scored for the home side but Kenny Dalglish equalised and the match was drawn.
In the league the following weekend Liverpool met Manchester United at Anfield. Liverpool had almost ended United’s unbeaten run from the start of the season back in October. With Rush back in the side, Liverpool suffered a blow when Walsh hobbled off after half an hour. By then Colin Gibson had given the visitors the lead. This came against the run of play and with half-time looming, Walsh’s replacement, John Wark, equalised.
Liverpool couldn’t break down United further and the spoils were shared.
Chelsea had the chance to go top as they were at Oxford United. Oxford had lost their last five, but somehow turned their form around spectacularly and won 4-1. It was Chelsea’s first defeat for twelve matches.
Everton were still top, but on goal difference from Man United with Liverpool and Chelsea two points back.
The following Tuesday and Everton were at home to Manchester City. City were on a seven-match unbeaten run and had won their last five. But Everton were on a roll now and Lineker scored a hat-trick to give them a 4-0 win. He now had 22 league goals and was well worth his transfer fee.
For Liverpool they could nothing about the five point gap which now existed between them and Everton. They had two cup competitions to compete in. Then in ten days time was the Merseyside derby. Many were now wondering whether that would sort out the destination of the title.
First up was the League Cup Semi-Final. The Fourth Round had seen the end for Manchester United and Everton. Chelsea went out in the Fifth Round. Oxford and Aston Villa were in the other Semi. So with QPR providing the opposition for Liverpool it looked as if they would win the trophy yet again.
The first leg was at Loftus Road. Dalglish decided to hand a debut to Mark Seagraves. A tight game was decided midway through the first half when Terry Fenwick scored for the home side. Liverpool were chasing a unique domestic treble, yet would have to come from behind to keep that dream alive.
At the weekend there were five FA Cup Fifth Round ties. Remarkably all of them were drawn. Liverpool travelled to Bootham Crescent to take on York City. York had a good cup pedigree and the ability to cause an upset. They sensationally knocked Arsenal out of the cup last season and then went onto hold Liverpool to a draw. Dalglish handed himself only his second start since the New Year but the home side were determined on a tricky and slippery pitch. The first half was goalless, although Grobbelaar had been called upon to make some important saves. On the hour Gary Ford fired the home side in front. Was the upset on? The question was left open for just four minutes when Senior handled in the area and Molby converted the penalty. Liverpool were happy to take York back to Anfield.
These were the days when replays took place the week later. So the following Wednesday the two teams set up again. John Wark fired Liverpool in front after 18 minutes but they seemed to sit back and expect the win. York gained in confidence and Tony Canham equalised just before the break. Neither side could find a winner so the game went into extra time. Jan Molby scored a stunning volley and then Dalglish made the victory secure.
The replay and extra time seemed to fall right into Everton’s hands. The Blues had, had ten days off since their 4-0 win over Man City took them top of the table. Everything pointed to them having the advantage over their Merseyside rivals when the two met at Goodison. The biggest crowd of the season packed into the ground and the atmosphere was amazing.
In Everton’s championship season they did the double over their rivals. Liverpool won at Goodison in September. Before the game, Liverpool had some injury concerns which affected their selection. Walsh and Dalglish were unavailable and Grobbelaar had an elbow injury, but he still played.
An early scare for the home side was when Lawrenson and Grobbelaar got in a mix-up and the ball seemed to be trickling over the line. But Lawrenson managed to hook it clear. Both goalkeepers were kept pretty busy in a game which was played in a very competitive spirit. With 15 minutes to go, Everton captain Kevin Ratcliffe sent a speculative shot towards Liverpool’s goal. It looked a simple one for Grobbelaar to gather, but inexplicably he let it slip under him for the opening goal.
Southall in the Everton goal managed to do better than his counterpart and Rush had a couple of opportunities to equalise. Then five minutes after they took the lead, Richardson played Lineker in and as Grobbelaar came out he just chipped it over the keeper for 2-0. It was Lineker 30th goal of the season and it meant they picked up all three points to go eight clear of Liverpool.
Man Utd beat West Brom so both now had a gap on Liverpool in third. Chelsea were level on points in fourth but now had three games in hand.