What Owls and the great ‘61 side have in common

Keith Ellis: Scored a  a hat-trick in the 7-2 FA Cup replay win at Old Trafford in 1960-61 while there were braces for Alan Finney and John Fantham
Keith Ellis: Scored a a hat-trick in the 7-2 FA Cup replay win at Old Trafford in 1960-61 while there were braces for Alan Finney and John Fantham
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WHAT’S all the fuss about Manchester United losing 6-1 at home?

Wednesday once bettered that with a 7-2 victory at Old Trafford.

It sprang to mind in a week where the past and present connected.

That victory in Manchester came in 1960-61, a season that also included the Owls’ best home League start to a season in the last 51 years: nine successive Hillsborough victories.

The current run of seven wins is the longest since then.

That 7-2 game was an FA Cup replay; the League campaign stood out because the team that season is reckoned to have been the Owls’ best since the second World War, with a points tally that earned second place and normally would have been enough to win the old First division championship, had it not been for an extraordinary season for Spurs.

Looking at the records, I noticed how close many games seem to have been - and it set me thinking how, then and now, the line between success and failure can be so narrow.

Out of 42 League matches in 1960-61, 31 were wins by only one or two goals, or draws. A technicality, maybe, because the table still showed that the Owls were a very good side.

In recent years there have been many games that Wednesday won or lost but could easily have gone the other way.

The one at Carlisle was just the latest example: with one chance in the 39th minute, and three more in stoppage time, they could have added to Ben Marshall’s goal and been on their way to a comprehensive victory.

A combination of a weak finish, two goalmouth blocks and a save kept the home side alive - and in that purple patch for Carlisle just after half time, everything they hit went in.

I rather liked the way that Gary Megson summed up: “we’re not in a bad position with a third of the season gone.

“Two others are in a better position, but we’re in a better position than the 21 others.”

It’s the overall picture that counts, and the end-of-season one is all-important.

Someone put it to Colchester manager John Ward last Saturday that if his team had taken an opportunity just before half time, it could have been a different game. His reply, in effect, was a terse: “Yes, but it DIDN’T go in.” In his view, the story over 90 minutes was the only one mattered, and he had to admit: “We were beaten by a better side.”

It can be little things that turn a game one way or the other, and little things that make one player popular and another less so. It’s the same when a Man of the Match has to be decided. One or two mistakes, one or two bits of quality, can stick in the mind rather than all the rest of the time when there has been little to choose between players,

It’s the same when newspapers have to award marks, which can be a very difficult business, and not one that I personally relish, when it’s a team game. It’s even more complicated when the newspaper production process can result in someone getting a mark in print that wasn’t intended for him!