Coventry V Birmingham 1981

Last updated : 29 January 2011 By Covsupport News Service/RD

On January 24th 1981, in the fourth round of the FA Cup Coventry City were drawn at home against Birmingham city.The pundits thought it would be a close game and it was!

When the two teams met for that cup tie both were in the top flight, the old Division One, both teams had 27 points, both had played 24 games and by the time of the fourth round they had played each other twice and had both won their home games against each other.

As it turned out, the game was a cracking cup tie, but it was also the typical game of two halves.

Going into the game Birmingham had the fearsome Frank Worthington leading their attack, but Coventry's Birmingham born centre half Paul Dyson was unimpressed and said, "Frank has never frightened me."

The first half proved Dyson correct and Birmingham did little to frighten the Sky Blues and with nearly half an hour gone Coventry went one up when Garry Thompson went past Colin Todd and then David Langan, got in a good cross which was met by Gerry Daly who scored past a very young Tony Coton in the Birmingham goal.

The Blues first choice goal keeper Jeff Wealands was injured so the 19 year old Coton was brought in for a baptism of fire.

Coventry went two up a minute before the half time break when a Birmingham clearance fell right at the feet of another local lad, the Bedworth born Andy Blair who perfectly lobbed the ball straight over Coton into the net.

The Sky Blues went into the half time break 2-0 and apparently cruising into the next round, but Birmingham had other ideas and came out after the break in determined fashion and produced wave after wave of attacks on the City goal.

The main instigator was the Birmingham midfielder, Scottish international Archie Gemmill and in the 52nd minute Birmingham had a penalty.Defender Gary Gillespie upended Alan Ainscow in the area and Frank Worthington took the spot kick sending Les Sealey in the Coventry goal the wrong way to make it 2-1.

By now the Coventry fans were silenced and all of the noise was coming from the away end at Highfield Road and on the hour the scores were level at 2-2.

Allan Curbishley sent in a deep cross which was met at the far post by by the head of Ainscow to make it 2-2. The Birmingham support went wild while the Coventry fans were silenced and subdued.

The close cup tie the pundits had predicted was now well and truly on and Coventry were stung into action in a desperate bid to avoid defeat.

A minute and a half after the Birmingham equaliser came the inevitable controversy that always seem to be a part of local derby cup games. Coventry won a disputed penalty.

Steven Hunt went on a run into the Birmingham box and was felled by a Colin Todd tackle, the referee awarded the penalty to the massive protests of the Birmingham players. Up stepped Gerry Daley to take the spot kick and he kept his cool to slot his second goal of the game to make it 3-2.

The last half an hour was typical cup football with attack and counter attack littered with personal duels around the pitch. Birmingham desperately tried in vain to penetrate the Coventry defence, but Dyson and Gillespie valiantly kept the Blues at bay.

In the midfield Daly and Blair battled against Gemmill and Curbishley and another Birmingham born Coventry player, the winger Peter Bodak also struggled to keep his home town team at bay.

At the end of the game it was all Birmingham as they pressed for the equaliser that would take the tie into a replay at St Andrews, but City held on to win an enthralling local derby cup tie.

The post match interviews inevitably revolved around the Coventry penalty and both sides, predicable had different opinions.

Colin Todd said, "My leg was outstretched and Hunt dived over it."

Hunt said. "I felt someone hit me from behind and my leg just went."

Whatever the opinions of the players, Coventry were though to the fifth round and were drawn against the eventual cup winners Tottenham Hotspur.