The goalkeeper who made arguably the greatest save in Watford history, Andy Rankin, has died at the age of 79.

The Bootle-born No.1 joined Watford in November 1971 for a fee of £11,000 having made 106 appearances for the Toffees, and quickly became a fan favourite at Vicarage Road.

He won the inaugural Watford Observer award for Player of the Season in 1972/73, a campaign in which Watford narrowly avoided a second successive relegation, and again in 1974/75.

Rankin earned himself a reputation as a penalty-saving specialist. He had saved one in his third game for Everton, against Rangers at Ibrox in the 'unofficial' British championship, and was the hero of a shoot-out between Everton and Borussia Monchengladbach in the quarter-final of the 1970 European Cup.

He made a stunning save from the spot for Watford in a game at Shrewsbury in 1972, and in 1978 had a run of saving three successive penalties.

However, his most unforgettable night in Watford colours was one that many, many fans would also name as their highlight of supporting the club.

On October 4, 1978, as a Third Division club, Watford went to Old Trafford to play First Division Manchester United in the League Cup.

The home side going a goal ahead by half time meant the tie was seemingly following the usual script but then Graham Taylor’s Watford – who were quickly becoming renowned for taking the scalps of giants in the cup – roared back.

Two superb Luther Blissett headers put the Hornets 2-1 up and, as you might expect, with the clock ticking away the home side began to pile forward.

The Watford rearguard withstood everything United could throw at them until, it seemed, the 85th minute.

Giant defender Gordon McQueen, also passed away recently, got up to meet a corner with a header that was on its way to the top corner.

As the late Scotsman put it: “I placed that header perfectly. I knew it was a goal, then I saw a green thing appear with a hand on the end of it. It was one of the most incredible saves I have ever seen.”

Watford boss Taylor added: “They were all great, but a special word for Andy. What a fantastic save that was. The best save I have ever seen. That must be the crowning moment of his career.”

Watford held on for a famous victory and while Blissett’s two goals rightly earned him a good share of the glory, his teammates and Watford fans knew Rankin was every bit as much of a matchwinner.

That 2-1 cup success is still Watford’s only-ever victory at Old Trafford, and for supporters of the era one of the great Watford moments. You can see the full BBC Sportsnight highlights, including Rankin’s stunning save, by clicking here.

After 329 appearances in goal for Watford, Rankin left the club in November 1979. Taylor had signed Eric Steele from Brighton, and the club granted Andy a free transfer. He moved to Huddersfield and clocked up a further 71 outings before retiring in 1982 with nearly 500 senior appearances to his credit.

The man who scored the two goals on that famous night at Old Trafford before Rankin’s wonder save, Blissett, instantly recalled the game as his abiding memory of his former teammate.

“The news of Andy's passing has brought deep sadness to the Former Players Club,” he said.

“Let's remember that glorious night 2-1 up at Old Trafford and United get a corner on our left side, the ball’s swung in and Gordon McQueen leaps above our defenders and meets it perfectly.

“The ball heads towards the top corner, we can’t believe they’ve equalised this late in the game. Suddenly a flash of green and the ball is palmed clear. That is my greatest memory of Andy, making the most incredible save to see us through that amazing night back in October 1978.

“An unforgettable memory for every Watford fan who made the journey and those watching the highlights on Sportsnight.

“After Andy's stroke, the Former Players Club and the ex-players at Everton worked together and we raised funds and got him an iPad and leather recliner to recuperate in comfort.

“I called him for a chat and although it was difficult for him I can tell you he had not lost that great sense of humour, it was still burning bright! He appeared for our chat not wrapped in the Watford shirt he had been sent, but the Everton blanket the Former Players Club had sent him!

“The photo they took that day is one we all treasure, it summed up his character indeed.

“RIP Andy, a good man and magnificent teammate. Couldn't have done it at Man U without you.”

The goalkeeper who vied with Rankin for Watford first-team duties in the late 1970s also paid a touching personal tribute to his fellow keeper.

“I can picture him with a hankie on his head singing along to Elvis at the pool on one of the early pre-season tours with the gaffer,” said Steve Sherwood.

“He was a massive special character in those early days with Graham. God Bless you Arthur.”