Cardiff City v Bristol City - The Bill Shankley marathon match

By Gareth Rogers on Feb 15, 13 05:23 PM in

It was, at the time, the longest first-class match in the history of football. Cardiff City's home match against Bristol City kicked off at 3pm - and dragged on, and on, and on.
The winner was eventually scored at 6.40pm when Blaengarw-born Billy Rees (pictured) headed in for the Bluebirds - and they simply could not find the energy to celebrate! The match had lasted a mighty 202 minutes - three hours, 22 minutes.
1BIlly Rees.jpg
That goal, which secured a 4-3 aggregate win was a welcome relief for players, supporters and officials.

Derek Tapscott, who would later play for Cardiff and go on to shine for Arsenal and Wales, was among the spectators that day at Ninian Park. 'Tappy,' then a young schoolboy supporting his local team, watched the initial 90 minutes, went home to do his paper round in Barry, and then, discovering the teams were still playing returned to join up with his pals.
"Tappy was among many people who left the stadium for various reasons and then returned," says friend John Collins, who was with him that day. "It was a truly bizarre occasion."
It was April 13, 1945 and the match was a wartime regional cup second leg match. Cardiff had won the first leg 2-1 at Ashton Gate and Bristol emerged 2-1 winners in the return.
There were no 'away goals' rule back then, while arranging replays was just about impossible. The only way to decide things was to keep playing.
Sixty seven years ago the Second World War was coming to an end. A fortnight after this match Field Marshall Montgomery accepted Germany's surrender. Long hours had to be worked by those on the home front - minors, dockers, transport workers, factory workers and more.
That included all of Cardiff City's playing staff, apart from those on active service in the Forces.
During those days when professional footballers were regularly posted to different areas of the country up to six guest players were allowed to turn out for clubs in regional league and cup games. Bill Shankly, later Liverpool's manager, was among those who played for the Bluebirds.
More than 23,000 spectators were at Ninian Park for the second leg of the Cardiff v Bristol City cup clash.
Don Clark, whose son Brian later played for both clubs, was in Bristol's squad, while young full-back Alf Sherwood was emerging for Cardiff.
Ken Hollyman scored for City at Ninian Park that day, the visitors won and, at 3-3, it was decided to play on until a winner was scored. The BBC Welsh regional radio news broadcast a news item reassuring families about why their relatives had not returned home on time.
The game descended into farce. Players collapsed every few minutes with cramp - there were, of course, no subs allowed - and when trainers were on other players laid on the pitch to ease their aching limbs.
When the Robins attacked their keeper, Alex Ferguson, aged 41, sat on the pitch against a post.
Open goals were missed, but the winner finally came at 6.40pm. Winger Colin Gibson, the only Englishman in Cardiff's team, crossed and Rees threw himself to head in. The crowd cheered, more with relief than joy, but Rees was simply too tired to get up.
Fans ran onto the pitch and carried him shoulder high, back to the dressing room.
The Western Mail described it as 'an endurance test which will forever hold a record in the annals of football.'
But less than a year later, under similar circumstances, Stockport and Doncaster played for 203 minutes before their clash was halted by bad light.
Cardiff City's team: Albert Smith, Arthur Lever, Ken Hollyman, Fred Stansfield, Danny Lester, Colin Gibson, Ernie Carless, Bill Shankly, Billy Rees, Roy Clarke, Beriah Moore.

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