One of he most pulsating Mersey derbies took place on 21st November 1970 when after a goalless first half at Anfield Everton went 2-0 up, only for Liverpool to come back to win 3-2 to show they were on their way back to becoming the best team in Merseyside.
Liverpool were very much a side in transition going into this game. A little less than a year earlier they had beaten Everton 3-0 at Goodison Park but that had been the last great result for his all conquering sixties side. The following week they lost 4-1 at home to Manchester United and eventually finished fifth, fifteen points behind eventual champions Everton who avenged the Goodison defeat by winning 2-0 at Anfield.
It meant that Bill Shankly was now rebuilding his team and only three players from that Goodison victory lined up at Anfield, whilst eight of the Everton team were taking part. Amongst the derby debutants was Steve Heighway, who had been playing amateur football with Skelmersdale United the season before while studying economics at university and was making just his seventh league start. 21 year old striker John Toshack had no experience of Anfield at all, having signed from Cardiff City just ten days before for a club record £110,000.
The first half was a scrappy affair, with Everton having the better of the chances. Ray Clemence made a great save from Joe Royle, who then missed a sitter in front of the Kop leading to the chant of ‘He shot he missed, he must be F*cking p*ssed – Joey Royle.’ In the second though, two goals in eight minutes put Everton in control. First ex Reds winger Johnny Morrissey crossed for Alan Whittle to score in the 56th minute, then in the 63rd Whittle dispossessed Tommy Smith as he tried to dribble the ball out of defence. He then passed to Royle who lobbed the ball over Clemence to make it 2-0.
In the 69th minute, Smith passed to Heighway on the left and he went on a jinking run before hitting a low shot that beat Andy Rankin at the near post. At half time Shankly had told his players that Everton’s midfield would not last the full ninety minutes given the pace of the game and Liverpool now had renewed hope. Forward Phil Boersma was sent on in place of midfielder John McLaughlin, while Everton sent on an extra defender in Keith Newton as they desperately tried to hold on to their lead. With the roar of the Kop helping to drive Reds players on, Heighway got the ball on the left and crossed for John Toshack, who headed the ball past Rankin to bring the scores level with fifteen minutes left.
Liverpool’s youngsters had been instrumental in getting the players back into the game, it but was one of the old guard who got the winner with six minutes remaining. A free kick was floated into the area and flicked on by John Toshack into the path of Chris Lawler, a veteran of the 1966 title winning side. The full back had ghosted in unnoticed on the right of the six yard box and his low angled shot went in off the post.
It was and remains one of the greatest ever Merseyside derbies and was the coming of age of players such as Heighway, Toshack, Clemence, Larry Lloyd and Brian Hall. Toshack later said that ‘I had never experienced anything quite like that before.’ The win lifted Liverpool up to sixth place, four points clear of Everton. Later in the season they proved this win was no fluke as they beat the Blues 2-1 in the FA Cup semi final, and two and a half seasons later this exciting young team, aided by the addition of Kevin Keegan and Peter Cormack, brought the league title back to Anfield.