LOVE them or hate them, penalty shoot-outs are now an established part of the footballing landscape.
And for one journeyman professional, they provided a little piece of history almost a quarter of a century ago.
Step forward defender Ally Pickering, who did exactly that to settle the first-ever shoot-out in FA Cup history in a 7-6 victory for Rotherham United against Scunthorpe United – which took place at the Millers’ fabled Millmoor home 25 years ago this week – on November 26, 1991.
Shoot-outs had taken place in other competitions in this country, but it took until the 1991-92 season for the first one to be staged in the world’s most enduring domestic cup competition.
The decision was made after an epic fourth-round tie between Arsenal and Leeds United went to a third replay in the previous season, with FA overlords deciding that shoot-outs after the first replay would now settle contests – and avoid the spectre of fixture backlogs following concerns from clubs.
The first ever penalty shootout in England also had a White Rose link with Hull City and Manchester United competing in the Watney Cup, with the first successful penalty converted by one George Best and the first unsuccessful one struck by Denis Law.
The League Cup had introduced the penalty decider in 1975-76, but only for first-round ties and even then the clubs had to finish the two-legged ties all square and draw a replay before penalties were used.
A Yorkshire flavour was also provided in the maiden League Cup shoot-out, which took place at Hillsborough on Wednesday, September 3, 1975 – when Sheffield Wednesday went down 5-3 to Darlington.
It wasn’t until the 1997 final was replayed that the rules were finally changed to allow penalties for a final drawn in its first match, with a late goal from Leicester’s Steve Claridge avoiding that eventuality in the nick of time when Leicester beat Middlesbrough in extra-time, also ironically at Hillsborough.
Up the road at Millmoor in the late autumn of 1991, a crowd of 4,892 converged to witness a classic first-round replay which ended deadlocked at 3-3 after extra time.
On the mark for the Millers were Don Page (2) and Shaun Goater, with Rotherham-born Ian Helliwell – later to play for his hometown club – and Jason White (2), who also had a latter stint with the club netting for the Iron.
It set the scene for spot-kicks and a piece of history for the Millers and Pickering, with the penalty drama played out in front of the Railway End.
The successful scorers for the Millers on that particular occasion were Mark Todd, Goodwin, Tony Cunningham, Dean Barrick, Chris Hutchings, Shaun Goater and Pickering – with Don Page and Nicky Law snr missing the target.