TOWN’S Second Division match at Stoke was a sombre occasion as football paid its respects to the Munich victims.
Manchester United’s top-flight match against Wolves at Old Trafford two days after the tragedy was postponed as a mark of respect, and many others were called off as snow blanketed the country.
At the Victoria Ground, where a volunteer army of fans cleared the pitch, the 16,497 spectators were hushed as the two teams filed out in tracksuits to observe two minutes’ silence.
A verse of abide with me was then sung.
Back at Leeds Road, where Town Reserves were playing Chesterfield in the Central League, the club flag flew at half mast with two minutes’ silence also observed. As at Stoke and throughout the country, the players wore black armbands.
Five of those involved in the Munich crash – Geoff Bent, who died, Jackie Blanchflower, Kenny Morgans, Bobby Charlton and Albert Scanlon – had been in the Manchester United side which had visited Leeds Road for a reserve match two months earlier.
Future Manchester United star Denis Law was in the Town team at Stoke, where the match finished 1-1.
The 17-year-old was involved in an early penalty appeal when he went sprawling in a challenge with goalkeeper Wilf Hall, but the referee waved play on.
For the next 15 minutes, Law was forced to weigh in as an extra defender as Stoke put Bill Shankly’s side under pressure.
They finally made a breakthrough in the 18th minute, but it was more down to a poor backpass by Tony Conwell than a skilful Stoke build-up.
With keeper Sandy Kennon sold short, the South African was forced to slide out in the slush, and could only succeed in diverting the ball upwards and into the path of George Kelly, who headed home.
Town, who went into the game in seventh place, one behind Stoke, responded positively to the setback with Ronnie Simpson to the fore.
And it was the Carlisle-born player, who had been signed from a works team in Cumberland, who got his side back on level terms after 27 minutes.
Bill McGarry played a neat one-two with Law, then drove a low ball to the edge of the penalty area where Simpson pushed it past the onrushing Hall and slotted home an angled shot.
Stoke finished the first half in the ascendancy, but suffered a setback when Hall was forced off injured after a collision with Tony France, leaving scorer Kelly to take over in goal.
The outfield player proved useful between the sticks, with Law, Simpson, France and Vic Metcalfe all denied.
Back at home, Town Reserves beat Chesterfield 6-0 with two goals apiece from Alex Bain, Stan Howard and Stan Hepton.
The news could not raise a smile from Shankly, whose thoughts were very much with Manchester United and his old friend Matt Busby, who was battling for his life.
“United had put British football on top of the world. It’s a terrible tragedy,” he said.