The Greatest Derby | 1966 and all that
It’s a rivalry dating back 110 years and – including friendlies during the war years – takes in well over 150 games and countless moments of celebration, delight, heartache and anguish.
The south Wales derby is a game like no other, the two fixtures supporters first look for when the dates for each new season are announced each summer.
There have been so many memorable contests down the year, and there are a number of candidates each generation of fans will class as the greatest of all time.
But perhaps those searching for the greatest south Wales derby of all time should cease their hunt and look no futher than a Welsh Cup meeting between the sides in 1966.
The date was February 8 1966. Petula Clark’s ‘My Love’ was at number one in the charts, Harold Wilson was Prime Minister and in the midst of preparing to announce the snap General Election he would win the following month.
The Michael Caine film ‘Alfie’ was a matter of weeks away from release, while the day before had seen US president Lyndon Johnson hold talks over the progress of the Vietnam War.
The Ninian Park contest was a fifth-round replay after a hard-fought 2-2 draw in the original tie, that had no shortage of incident itself.
In horrendous conditions, the first match was played on a pitch that was compared to a paddy field, fit for growing crops.
In the modern era, a postponement might have been the order of the day, but the game still went ahead.
It did not disappoint either. The Swans fell behind twice but fought back as Don Murray – more on him later – put through his own net, before a controversial late equaliser from Ivor Allchurch.
Cardiff keeper Lyn Davies looked to have gathered in Brian Evans’ strike, but Allchurch found a way to force the ball home – despite Bluebirds’ protests - to ensure a replay would be required.
The replay undoubtedly ranks up there with the best contests the south Wales derby has offered up. The fixture had it all: a fast start, a sending off, a stunning comeback, numerous near misses and the need for extra-time.
Glyn Davies’ Swansea Town side had started on the front foot, however, the tie was flipped on its head with 20 minutes on the clock when Gareth Williams’ deflected shot broke the deadlock and gave the hosts the lead.
Swansea’s fortunes got no better when Evans was denied by the woodwork, and Cardiff doubled their lead before the break as Greg Farrell got the better of Herbie Williams to tee up George Johnston.
The Swans came out fighting in the second half, with a point to prove, racking up four corners in as many minutes as they sought a way back into the contest.
However, it seemed likely it would be a day to forget for the Jack Army as Johnston added his second of the clash to make it 3-0.
Game over? Not by a long chalk, as fortunes began to tip in Swansea’s favour.
Murray – scorer of that own goal in the original tie – was given his marching orders by referee Leo Callaghan for allegedly headbutting Swansea’s Jimmy McLaughlin.
It would prove a turning point, with Keith Todd snatching a goal back within seconds of the restart thanks to a low shot from the edge of the box.
With a man advantage Davies’ Swans were more than back in the game when Todd bagged his second after volleying home Willie Humphries’ cross.
And the scores were back level with just seven minutes remaining after Williams put the finishing touches on a fine piece of individual work on the wing by Humphries.
However, all of the grit and determination Swansea had shown to draw level was very nearly undone.
Farrell’s delivery looked sure to be turned into the net by Johnston, but he just failed to make a true connection.
As the fixture moved into extra-time all the pressure was on Cardiff, a man down and knowing they had let control of the tie slip from their grasp.
The Swans made full use of the reprieve and when McLaughlin’s strike which just beat Davies, after the ball fumbled out of the keeper’s hands and into the net.
It put the visitors 4-3 ahead and marked the first time they had led in the 188 minutes of football played across the two games.
On the stroke of half-time of extra-time, the visitors further asserted their authority in the tie courtesy of Evans applying the finish, after he got on the end of Allchurch’s free kick.
Cardiff still had chances to set up a nervy finish, but their chance was lost when Terry Harkin and George Andrews were unable to turn the ball home after a madcap goalmouth scramble.
The final whistle gave Swansea the bragging rights and a place in the next round, and the game has lived long in the memory of those who were there to see it, and retains a special place in the history of the fixture.
It is little wonder that it was cited as one of the greatest games ever played at Ninian Park when that stadium closed its doors.
After knocking out their fiercest rivals, Davies’ Swans marched all the way to the final and defeated Chester 2-1 in a replay at Sealand Road to be crowned Welsh Cup champions.
But it was not a touch on that dramatic night at Ninian Park, when Swansea Town won the greatest derby.
Cardiff City: Lyn Davies, Graham Coldrick, Colin Baker, Gareth Williams, Don Murray, Barrie Hole, Gregg Farrell, George Johnston, George Andrews, Terry Harkin, Peter King.
Swansea City: George Heyes, Roy Evans, David Ward, Geoff Thomas, Brian Purcell, Herbie Williams, Willie Humphries, Jimmy McLaughlin, Keith Todd, Ivor Allchruch, Brian Evans.
* Line-ups and match details from 'The South Wales Derbies: A History of Cardiff City versus Swansea City' by Dean P. Hayes.