The second round proper of the FA Cup is the classic Jim Bowen style "let's look what you could have won" stage of the competition. A round where teams from the lower divisions know that they are just one win away from a potential day out at a glamorous location, such as Old Trafford, Ashburton Grove (That1980sSportsBlogger doesn't like referring to it as the E word), Anfield, et al. The round can be such a tease that losing will hurt that little bit more, to chairmen, managers, players and supporters alike. Just like the semi-final, it is not a round to lose in.
Following on from my first round blog, this week we revisit the second round in December 1984, and start with the ultimate Bullseye tie: Dartford v Bournemouth. Dartford of the Gola League, were unfortunate not to win the first game at their Watling Street stadium, Rob Savage (no not that one) equalising for Bournemouth in the second half. And then came the juiciest of carrots dangled in front of both teams, as the draw for the third round on the Saturday night provided the winner with a trip to Old Trafford. Dartford manager John Still was understandably delighted: "We've got the draw every small club dreams of and we hope to take full advantage in the replay", with goal scorer Steve Robinson getting carried away with the excitement of the situation: "I'm sure we can beat Bournemouth and if so, who knows? All United's internationals might relax playing us and anything can happen." Alas, it was Bournemouth who picked up the reported Old Trafford prize of £40,000 worth in gate receipts, winning 4-1 in the replay. It would be a season of so near yet so far for the Kent club, as they narrowly finished third in the league, behind Wealdstone and Nuneaton Borough.
Other non-league teams also went by the wayside. Frickley lost 1-0 away at Darlington, a brave effort seeing as the home team would eventually gain promotion to the Third Division come the end of the season. Altrincham were defeated 3-1 by visiting Doncaster, and Wigan narrowly saw off Northwich Victoria 2-1 at Springfield Park. Reading handed out a 6-2 walloping to Bognor Regis Town, despite the Isthmian League side taking 2000 supporters to Elm Park. Manager Jack Pearce was very honest in his post-match analysis: "The scoreline was flattering to us. Our players ignored instructions and are terribly disappointed with their performance. There was no honour in their display." It wasn't all doom and gloom for the minnows however.
Telford continued their giant killing crusade, hammering Preston 4-1 away. For Preston their fall from once great heights was almost complete, and their relegation to Division Four on the back of conceding 100 goals in the season, would round off an abysmal period for the club. Northern Premier League Burton Albion would also enjoy a successful away day at Fourth Division Aldershot, their 2-0 win setting up a third round clash with Leicester City. Midlands brewery company Ind Coope, sponsors of both teams, provided both sets of players with an even greater incentive to progress to the fourth round; a barrel of best bitter, containing 36 gallons/288 pints of beer. Unfortunately, the tie - moved to Derby's Baseball Ground due to safety concerns - would make headlines for all the wrong reasons when it took place in January 1985.
Controversy wasn't just limited to the third round though. Dagenham's home tie against Peterborough was twice held up due to crowd trouble, leading to the players leaving the field on one occasion. With Dagenham winning 1-0, referee David Letts blew for full time, although many inside the ground, including the Daily Express' Barry Flatman, thought that Peterborough had been denied at least four minutes in which to claim an equaliser. Peterborough appealed to the FA for a replay, but their pleas fell on deaf ears. Letts, a Police Sergeant by day, was adamant that all was above board: "I am quite happy that I played 90 minutes. The second half was twice delayed, but I took that into account and I consulted both linesmen before blowing for time. There are no doubts in my mind." Joe Dunwell, the scorer of the winning goal, had bigger things on his mind. The water board clerk was shocked at the instant fame bestowed upon him, although he could see the benefits: "It's all a bit unreal. It's my testimonial year - perhaps I'll get a better gate." Some scalp for the non-league side, especially as they had not won any of their previous six league matches.
Enfield's run came to an end, though there was no disgrace in their 1-0 defeat against Millwall at the Den. Prior to the match the talk had centred on a case of friends reunited, as Enfield's centre back Nicky Ironton and Millwall's centre forward Dean Neal were to come face-to-face, the first time they had seen each other since their days at QPR. The press, never failing to seize upon the opportunity for a pun, stated that butcher Ironton was "...planning a major carve-up...", with Millwall manager George Graham cautioning against complacency: "I'll be affording them as much respect as if we were in a top-of-the-table clash. We've got to be as professional as we were in the last round against Weymouth." Neal would have the final word though, his goal sending Millwall through to the next round, as Millwall embarked on an eventful season which saw them promoted to Division Two, and reach an FA Cup quarter final, although the behaviour of their fans in their defeat at Luton completely overshadowed Millwall's fantastic cup exploits.
The second round also provided us with the small matter of a Bristol derby. Having won the corresponding fixture 3-0 at Ashton Gate in the previous month, City were rightly confident of knocking out their city rivals. Rovers had other ideas though, and despite falling behind, two goals from Paul Randall gave the away team a 3-1 victory in front of a 19,367 crowd. What brought this change in fortunes? Well it was all down to a new pet rabbit adopted by Rovers as a lucky mascot after it burrowed its way into their training ground. Obviously.
Nine of the remaining ten ties were Third v Fourth Division clashes (the odd one out being the all Fourth Division affair, which saw Port Vale brush Scunthorpe aside 4-1, on the Friday night before the rest of the ties were played). Most went the way of the form book/league tables; Burnley, who like Preston would suffer relegation to the Fourth Division come May, enjoyed a brief respite from their league woes by defeating Halifax Town 3-1; Colchester were on the receiving end of the biggest second round hammering, losing 5-0 at home to Gillingham; Walsall narrowly saw off Chesterfield 1-0; Hull and Bradford, who would both gain promotion to the Second Division, beat Tranmere and Mansfield respectively; and York saw off Hartlepool, on their way to a match that some of us would rather forget.
It would take until December 17 to separate Third Division Brentford from Fourth Division Northampton. The first match in London was drawn 2-2, Brentford striker Rowland Alexander irking manager Frank McLintock with his somersaulting celebrations after scoring ("He's been warned more than once", complained the former Arsenal skipper). The replay probably irritated McLintock further, as dense fog forced a postponement after just 26 minutes with the score at 0-0. Finally, Brentford edged through six days later, with late goals from Terry Hurlock and Keith Cassells. Those of you that ever saw Terry Hurlock play will know that McLintock had no worries regarding exotic celebrations from the midfield hard man.
Just two years after appearing in the final for QPR, Tony Currie was aiming to help Torquay pull off a shock against Orient. The former England international had been driving a cab in London until manager David Webb asked him to turn out for the Devon club. Hard to see Wayne Rooney or Steven Gerrard ever having to do that isn't it? Still, Currie was enjoying his stint at the club: "I was flattered to be asked back to Torquay and the lads gave me a very warm welcome," adding that "To get to the third round would be like going to Wembley for Torquay." Sadly for Currie, Orient ran out easy 3-0 winners.
Another Devon side (Plymouth) also exited at the second round stage, unable to repeat their glorious run to the semi-final of 1984. After a 0-0 draw at Home Park against Hereford, the teams were given a huge incentive prior to the replay with the news that the winners would face Arsenal at home. Plymouth manager Dave Smith joked: "It's a great draw, but I'd prefer to save the Gunners for the final." Smith would be disappointed however, as Fourth Division Hereford won the replay 2-0, with goals from Ollie Kearns and Stewart Phillips. Hereford ran Arsenal close in the next round, before being handed a 7-2 shellacking at Highbury.
Having not supported a club that has played in the second round in recent years (ooh get me), I have no idea what it must be like to miss out on a plum tie against one of the big guns. I can only draw comparisons with the few times Arsenal have lost semi-finals, and cup final days in those particular years have been a non-event for me. So spare a thought for the clubs that have just done battle in this past weekend, as supporters of Morecambe ponder the thought that had they won, they might now be planning a day out at Tottenham. Now that is a case of look what you could have won. Certainly more irritating than missing out on a speedboat surely?