03/10/1964 Belfast England 3-4 Sammy Wilson, Jimmy McLaughlin (2)
Pat Jennings, Jimmy Magill, Alex Elder, Martin Harvey, Terry Neill, Billy McCullough, Johnny Crossan, Sammy Wilson, Jimmy McLaughlin, Bobby Braithwaite, George Best
This was an extraordinary match. England sped into a 4-0 lead after just 24 minutes, and yet by the end they were hanging on for dear life. Had they thrown it away, they would have had only themselves to blame. Northern Ireland were mediocre, and that is being kind. England simply fell asleep. They were indebted, once more, to the genius of Greaves that they had secured such a commanding lead early on.
England were utterly rampant from the start. A lengthy, concerted forward push by England resulted in Pickering scoring from Paine’s cross. Then it became the Greaves show, as he scored three times in 12 minutes. First, Pickering glanced a header down the middle, and Greaves did the rest. Second, he pounced on a mistake by Neill, who was having a particularly torrid time attempting to shackle the strong and powerful Pickering. Then Milne and Paine combined to give him his hat-trick goal, which he took with typical fleet of foot. Greaves’s first goal of the day was his 33rd for England, bringing him level with Charlton as England’s all-time leading scorer. Twelve minutes later, the Tottenham man was two ahead. It would take until 1968 for Charlton to regain the record from Greaves, by which time Greaves’s international career was over.
The second half, needless to say, was a different story. Crossan’s centre was converted brilliantly by the head of Wilson. Then McLaughlin scored twice, taking advantage of errors from Milne and Banks, normally the most reliable of goalkeepers. Banks, though, did make several good saves as well, which proved crucial in the final reckoning. Best, aged 18 and playing against England for the first time, was showing wonderful skills. Clearly, he was one for the future. England, once their two midfielders pushed back and left no link with the forwards, struggled, but were lucky that they were playing such weak opposition.
Jimmy McLaughlin’s two goals against England was the first time that Gordon Banks had been beaten twice by the same player, since becoming England’s number one goalkeeper. “Here comes the hero” said Johnny Crossan two weeks later before a World Cup Qualifier against Switzerland. Jimmy had actually been playing with two dislocated fingers on his left hand for most of the game after a challenge from England’s Maurice Norman, “It happened after only five minutes but I did not know the extent of the injury until the hand was x-rayed in hospital.” Jimmy who had left the field in agony with the help of Northern Ireland trainer Jimmy McCune and England trainer Harold Shepherdson returned to the pitch to score the goals later in the match, “I did go off at one stage but thought I would be more use out on the field. We were in a really desperate plight.” … “I still look back on that goal [his first] as the high point of my career. It gave me tremendous satisfaction.”
Sammy Wilson who scored Northern Ireland’s first goal described by England manager Alf Ramsey as a “wonderful goal”:
“My only regret is that we didn’t win the match. We were training 4-0 at the interval. Jimmy Greeves and co. Had run amok, but after the interval things were different. Jimmy McLaughlin was the inspiration and incredibly we pulled back three goals. Mine was the first of them. Johnny Crossan had swung one over from the right wing and I headed it from about 20 yards out. Gordon Banks got his fingertips to it but he couldn’t stop it going into the net.”