Those of us who attended the Third Division game v. Aston Villa on Saturday January 2nd, 1971 will never forget that historic day in which we thumped our visitors 3-0, in an exiting game at Fellows Park. This was Villa's first of two seasons at this level however they were doing well and in fact 10 days previously had reached the Football League Cup Final after defeating Manchester United to set up an appearance v. Spurs at Wembley in the February. Saddlers meanwhile, were having a torid time with poor league form, poor gates and early exits in both cup competitions.
The previous home attendances in the league had been 4,371 v. Reading and 3,957 v. Brighton and a good attendance was always going to occur against our near neighbours. As it happened an amazing 19,203 turned up, many thousands from Aston Villa, and with no segregation in those days the police certainly had their work cut out. Regarding team news, Nick Atthey was ruled out with a burst blood vessel in his right leg so Willie Penman was drafted in. Meanwhile Villa fielded the side who had defeated Man United in the FLC.
Villa dominated the early period of play and Walsall had a somewhat fortunate escape when centre back Stan Jones headed against his own bar following a Chico Hamilton corner. However on 38 minutes Walsall took the lead in spectacular fashion. On-loan striker Jimmy Seal threaded a great pass to little winger Geoff Morris, who cut in and beat keeper John Dunn with a fine low shot from the edge of the box.
Saddlers were denied a penalty when Charlie Aitkin felled Geoff Morris but just before half time doubled their lead after Mick Evans floated over a perfect free kick and John Woodward headed on for Morris to turn the ball over the line. There was one anxious moment just before the break when Stan Jones cleared off the line following a header from a Pat Mc Mahon corner.
Understandably, Villa piled on the pressure after the break but it was the home side who made the game safe in the 55th minute. Man Of The Match Geoff Morris was sent crashing down in the box and Colin Taylor showed no mercy, sending Dunn the wrong way with a typically hard shot to send the Saddlers fans wild. Morris had latched on to an excellent through ball from Frank Gregg and it was Brian Tiler who fouled the nimble winger. It proved to be Walsall's day when Willie Anderson missed a last minute penalty after Stan Bennett had had brought him down.
The match takings generated record-breaking receipts of £5,945 which was much-needed income. It was back to normal service for the next home league gate, when just 3,752 bothered to turn up for the visit of Gillingham a fortnight later. Walsall were unbeaten in the other three games against Villa, with a 0-0 draw at Villa Park that season and in 1971-2 with a 1-1 draw at Fellows Park and another goal less encounter at Witton.
The teams on duty for that 3-0 win were...
WALSALL - Wesson, Gregg, Evans, Penman, Jones, Bennett, Deakin, Morris, Woodward, Seal, Taylor.
ASTON VILLA - Dunn, Bradley, Aitkin, Godfrey, Turnbull, Tiler, Mc Mahon, Gibson, (B.Rioch), Lockheed, Hamilton, Anderson.
Ref - Roger Kirkpatrick.