The penalty shoot-out against Newcastle was the 12th in our history, and the fifth we have won (had it been the sixth, this article would have been much easier, and more celebratory, and far duller). Certainly we are familiar with a time when defeat on penalties was a racing certainty the moment the final whistle on 120 minutes of turgid knockout football was sounded, with the tedium of the stalemate about to transform into the disappointment of sudden death exit. Yet we’ve included one win to go with the losses too, so have five examples of City going through the wrongly-termed “lottery” of what is officially known as “kicks from the penalty mark”…
1: Manchester United, Watney Cup, 1970/71
Identifying the full season is important here, as the Watney Mann Invitation Cup was a bonafide competition, affiliated by the authorities, meaning all stats from the games went on to the records of clubs and players, but mistaken by some as a friendly competition because it was hosted and concluded in August, before the league season commenced.
It was contested by the two top scoring teams in each division who were not participating in European competition and had not been promoted. The latter stat was irrelevant anyway, as both City (72 goals in 1969/70, 13th place) and Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United (73 goals, sixth place) comfortably outscored champions Huddersfield (68 goals) and runners-up Blackpool (56 goals) and their place in the new summer contest was cemented. Indeed, the fact that City conceded 70 goals, more than all bar three sides (and more than the two teams who were relegated) summed up everything about Cliff Britton’s chaotically enthralling reign as manager, though by mid-season he had been instructed by Harold Needler to find his replacement.
So Terry Neill was installed as player-manager in the summer of 1970, and his first job was to prepare his new charges for a Watney Cup game against Peterborough United, which City coasted 4-0. Four days later, Manchester United, European champions two years before but in sudden and steep decline, were heading for Boothferry Park.
The crowd of 34,007 was the biggest at the old place in four years, and saw a rip-roaring, pulsating occasion which went the distance. Chris Chilton got City’s early goal; Denis Law equalised in the second half. Extra time couldn’t separate the sides, so the newly-ratified penalty shootout was required, literally a new experience and a new set of emotions for everyone involved. The coin toss decided Bunkers would bear best witness to it.
FIFA had set out the basic rules of shootouts: best of five, only players left on the pitch could partake, no rebounds, sudden death if level after ten kicks, alongside the usual regulations when taking and facing regular time penalties. It was impossible for some players not to make names for themselves. George Best was the first to take and score a penalty in a competitive shootout; Denis Law the first to take and miss with Ian McKechnie simultaneously becoming the first to save one. Neill himself became the first City player to take and score a penalty in a shootout; Ken Wagstaff the first to miss (bloody loads would follow), then the showman (and former winger) McKechnie decided to become the first keeper to score one, only for him to fail. That was the crucial fifth kick, and with successful shots also from Bobby Charlton, Brian Kidd and Willie Morgan, Manchester United went through 4-3. They lost the final to Derby County.
So, City had lost their first shootout, which would just happen to be forever enshrined in English footballing folklore. Hurrah!
2: Hartlepool United, League Cup, 2006/07
It had been seven shootouts and 36 years coming, and that it followed one of the least compelling 120 minutes of football in history – fans resorted to the Mexican wave for entertainment and warmth – made it all the more difficult to be bothered about.
City had finally hung their monkey of live TV days earlier against Sheffield Wednesday at the Circle, and now a second round tie in the Carling-sponsored third competition, against a side with very recent form for doing us over on pens, was the “reward”. It was cold. But at least we were at home as we watched a game that was inevitably going to be goalless the moment it started. One Hartlepool lady was so unmoved by the football on show she responded affirmatively to E1’s request that she remove her décolletage from its corsetry for the delectation of the gentlemen present, and promptly got kicked out.
As if to prove it really was City taking part in the shootout, Phil Parkinson’s men proceeded to go one up in the contest courtesy of a Boaz Myhill save and a Jon Parkin kick, then miss two (Stuart Elliott and Darryl Duffy) and find themselves behind. Mercifully, Hartlepool were even worse, and missed their own two in a row, either side of a successful Craig Fagan kick, which allowed Andy Dawson to clinch the win, 3-2.
Despite another club “first”, nobody celebrated. The win did nobody any favours. City lost in the next round to Watford, without the need for extra time, let alone penalties. Parkinson was out on his ear within three months.
3: Wrexham, FA Cup, 1995/96
The only time City have contested a penalty shootout in the FA Cup, and it was inevitably as dismal as you can imagine for a season among the most shocking in the club’s history, and after two games had failed to yield a single goal.
The total pointlessness of each match was felt by both sides, divisional rivals in the third tier who were forced to play for a second time in seven days after a 1-1 draw at Boothferry Park in the league. The initial goalless draw on the Saturday was turgid; the 120 minute version ten days later at the Racecourse Ground appalling, despite the obvious appeal of a home tie against Chesterfield in the second round. City angered their fans further by telegraphing the forthcoming sale of Dean Windass and dropping him from the replay.
That one set of supporters then had to suffer the indignity of seeing their team lose on penalties after suffering 210 minutes of scrappy, idealess garbage bordered on human rights abuse. Naturally, it was the travelling City fans who would go through this further ignominy, though it was briefly predictable once the unskilled Chris Lee was assigned the first City penalty. He missed.
Wrexham scored three in a row, which was enough as Rob Dewhurst and Craig Lawford skied their pens either side of City’s solitary success from Simon Dakin. Wrexham went on to overcome Chesterfield but then lost at Peterborough in the third round.
In an attempt to thicken a somewhat runny plot thus far, the return to Wrexham in the league in April offered an already doomed City the chance to exact some mild form of revenge, but of course it never, ever worked like that for City. Wrexham won 5-0. And in a final act of brutal cruelty, they beat us on penalties again in the League Cup nine seasons later – they remain the only side to get past us on pens twice.
4: Rochdale, Associate Members Cup, 1999/2000
City had made reasonable progress in what had become the Auto-Windscreens Shield under Warren Joyce, befitting their rejuvenation as a whole under the architect of the previous season’s Great Escape. Indeed, between August 1999 and January 2000, City played a total of eight cup ties in three competitions (consisting of 12 games) and made friends in doing so. It took the multi-national might of Liverpool and Chelsea to apply the brakes in the two more prestigious competitions to what was clearly set to be a juggernaut of non-stop success, or so we thought.
The third team to end City interests in knockout football were Rochdale, however. Perennial clingers to league status, rarely interested in exiting the bottom division in an upwards direction, and from whom City would acquire four points in the lowest tier that season. But in the northerly quarter final – yes, the quarter final; we had expertly disposed of York and Chester already, with clean sheets too – they had much interest in beating City, albeit not via the usual method of attacking the opponent’s goal.
It’s the repetitiveness that you love about these articles, obviously, so it befalls us again to detail a directionless, low quality game in which neither team looked keen on winning, really, so it made for a peculiar occasion for the hardy 1,745 braving the millennial frost. Extra time at Spotland prolonged the agony, with City fans demonstrating their boredom (and exhibiting their inebriation) with a sort-of conga along the away terrace, though the shootout when it came was almost a credit to football, eventually ending 5-4 to Rochdale, with Steve Harper and, fatally with kick number six, Jon Schofield missing for City. Rochdale, buoyed by their success, got all the way to the northern final, where they were beaten by Stoke City.
5: Tottenham Hotspur, League Cup, 2013/14
Without doubt the most dramatic shootout in City’s history, coming after a heroic and quite brilliant tie at White Hart Lane which ended 2-2. It even saw Paul McShane score with a bullet header to put City ahead, and then race the length of the pitch to celebrate with the Tiger Nation. What more could we possibly take?
Answer: a long and high quality shootout; high quality not just in entertainment value, but also in terms of footballing prowess. Both teams missed one in the original five, with a certain Eldin Jakupović clawing away Erik Lamela’s kick, the fourth for Spurs, to cancel out Aaron Mclean’s weak earlier effort.
After five kicks each, nobody had any nails left, but the players on both sides continued to hold their nerve until Ahmed Elmohamady, whose body language as he sidled up to the penalty area did not promise great things, put one far too close to Brad Friedel and City were out. Only Jakupović and the hobbling Curtis Davies did not take kicks for City. Spurs promptly ruined their hard work with defeat to West Ham in the quarter finals.
For the record:
1 – Watney Cup SF v Manchester United, 1970/71, lost 4-3
2 – Full Members Cup R1 v Charlton Athletic, 1987/88, lost 5-4
3 – FA Cup R1 replay v Wrexham, 1995/96, lost 3-1
4 – Associate Members Cup NQF v Rochdale, 1999/2000, lost 5-4
5 – League Cup R1 v Wrexham, 2004/05, lost 3-1
6 – Associate Members Cup R1 v Hartlepool United, 2004/05, lost 4-1
7 – League Cup R2 v Hartlepool United, 2006/7, won 3-2
8 – League Cup R1 v Rotherham United, 2012/13, won 7-6
9 – League Cup R4 v Tottenham Hotspur, 2013/14, lost 8-7
10 – League Cup R1 v Accrington Stanley, 2015/16, won 4-3
11 – League Cup R4 v Leicester City, 2015/16, won 5-4
12 – League Cup QF v Newcastle United, 2016/17, won 3-1