In hindsight, it’s clear that Liverpool were the team of the 70s but, at the start of the decade,many good judges would have said that Everton were the team most likely to dominate.
They won the League in 1970, had a good mix of youth and experience and had strengthened up since winning the League. Liverpool, by contrast, were rebuilding and suffering a formidable injury list. Going into the first derby of the season, Everton were not in good form, but Liverpool fielded five derby debutantes (Alec Lindsay, Brian Hall, Steve Heighway, John McLaughlin and John Toshack), two others who had only one derby appearance each(Ray Clemence and Larry Lloyd) and one with two previous derbies (Ian Ross).
The first half of the game was dire, so much so that when the highlights were shown on the Sunday afternoon, they went straight tothe second half. The Blues got the upper hand courtesy of Tommy Smith losing out in a tackle to Blues winger Johnny Morrissey, the ball falling to Alan Whittle who clipped it over a stranded Ray Clemence.
A few minutes later Morrissey got away again and put in a cross which Joe Royle converted on 63 minutes. The Reds were looking at a second successive 2-0 defeat to the Blues, a result which might kickstart their season and do damage to the fragile confidence of Liverpool’s youngsters.
One of Tommy Smith’s great qualities was that he would never hide in the game and, despite his part in Everton’s first goal, on 69 minutes he dribbled past two Everton players and hit a magnificent crossfield pass to Steve Heighway, who ran along the byline as if looking to pull the ball back but then smashed it between the keeper and the near post for his first goal for the club.
Game on! A few minutes later he was at it again, beating his man and putting in a great cross which John Toshack converted to open his account.
So with 15 minutes to go the scores were level but the impetus was with the reds and with six minutes left Alec Lindsay flung in a cross, Toshack headed on and Chris Lawler ghosted in to finish calmly to make it 3-2. ‘Calmly’ was not how these events were received on the Kop, which remained in uproar until the final whistle blew.
Liverpool’s kids had shown their character and many of that team were to go on to glory over the coming years.
Liverpool: Clemence; Lawler, Smith, Lloyd, Lindsay; Ross, Hughes, McLaughlin (Boersma 73); Hall,Toshack, Heighway.
Everton: Rankin; Wright, Labone, Hurst, H. Newton; Kendall (K. Newton), Ball, Harvey; Whittle, Royle, Morrissey.