Tuesday, 20 January 2015

1983/84 FA Cup: Fourth round

This piece follows on from my previous blogs on the first, second and third rounds of the 1983/84 FA Cup, which you can view here, here and here.

The fourth round of the 1984 FA Cup provided talking points aplenty. From the exit of the favourites, to another lifeline for Howard Kendall, a frenetic south coast derby, and the blossoming relationship of Watford's very own Little and Large, the fourth round gave us enough entertainment to make this blog as lengthy as the Everton-Gillingham trilogy.

Brighton do it again

As in the previous round, Liverpool featured in the live television match, this time selected by ITV. At least ITV's decision seemed justified; Liverpool may have been in the hunt for the quadruple, and as short as 9/2 for the double, but a trip to the south coast to play Brighton, a club that had enjoyed previous success against the Red Machine, would on paper appear to be an interesting selection.

On their way to Wembley in 1983, Brighton had beaten Liverpool at Anfield in the fifth round, before relegation and a 4-0 cup final hammering against Manchester United left manager Jimmy Melia under pressure. Chris Cattlin was drafted in as a coach during the summer, an appointment that Melia did not approve of, and just five months after Wembley Melia was gone.

Unlike the Murphys he was bitter about the affair; speaking from Portugal - Melia was manager of Second Division Belenenses - he spoke frankly about the end of his time at Brighton, and was strong in his opinions about the forthcoming FA Cup tie. "Well, I hope that this time Brighton get well and truly stuffed. Not for some of the players like Steve Foster and Jimmy Case who supported me so loyally, but for those others behind the who got me out".

On the plus side, Brighton could rely on the support of Jimmy Greaves, who wrote in the Daily Mirror of his concerns relating to Liverpool's dominance. "The way Liverpool are shaping, they could win everything this season including the Boat Race. But such a blanket monopoly will do blankety-blank for the game outside Merseyside". Cattlin also spoke in gushing terms about Brighton's opponents, yet on the outside at least he remained positive that his team could pull off an upset.

Already without Kenny Dalglish, Liverpool were served a further blow in the 34th minute when skipper and general midfield powerhouse Graeme Souness limped off with a hamstring injury. Although veteran Joe Corrigan pulled off fine saves from Michael Robinson and Ian Rush, as the match progressed the feeling began to grow that Liverpool were strangely vulnerable, and Brighton and the watching television viewers could sense a shock in the air.

Two goals within a minute shook the Goldstone Ground, as first Gerry Ryan in the 57th minute and then Terry Connor took advantage of shaky defending from Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson to put Brighton in dreamland. Liverpool were stunned and could not find a suitable response. For the second year running Brighton had opened the path to FA Cup glory for one of Liverpool's local rivals - both FA Cup winners would also lose the League Cup final to Liverpool - and in the words of the Daily Express' Colin Bateman "blew the FA Cup wide open".

"Teams lose to them (Liverpool) through fear," an ecstatic Cattlin revealed after the match. "I made sure that wouldn't happen to us". Cattlin did get a little carried away in the euphoria of the occasion, predicting that Brighton were on their way to Wembley again, but that he would consider promotion the main goal (neither were achieved). "Our chins are on the floor. There is no doubt Brighton are our bogey side," said a magnanimous Liverpool boss Joe Fagan. Poor Liverpool would have to just make do with the League, European Cup and League Cup in 1983/84.

Name on the cup?

Everton almost followed their Merseyside neighbours out of the competition, needing 300 minutes to shake off Third Division Gillingham, in a nail biting saga that highlighted the changing fortunes of Howard Kendall's managerial regime, and the growing importance of Neville Southall as Everton's last line of defence.

Try as they might, Everton could not break Gillingham down in the first match at Goodison Park, and would ultimately be thankful that Alan Harper cleared an effort off the line, Terry Cochrane hit the bar, and that Southall would deny Gillingham striker John Leslie. The brilliance of the Welsh keeper would be a recurring theme throughout the marathon.

Another scoreless match followed at Priestfield but that only really tells half the story. John Bailey again denied Leslie with another clearance off the line, and Southall thwarted the same man three times in a stunning display which single-handedly kept the Toffeemen in the cup. All Southall's saves appeared to be pointless though, when in the 114th minute Tony Cascarino was clear on goal with the Welshman between him and a giant killing act that could have had serious repercussions for the future of Howard Kendall.

Cascarino describes this moment better than I could possibly manage in his autobiography Full Time, talking of the voice inside his head as he headed towards Southall:

"Any striker worth his salt will put this in the net"
"Yeah, but..."
"This is your big chance"
"It's not as easy as it looks, you know"
"You're shitting yourself, aren't you?"
"No, I..."
"You're going to miss"

In truth, Cascarino made a complete hash of his chance, and admits that the scars of that miss took a long time to heal, adding that Kendall still reminds him of the night that the striker saved his job. Kevin Sheedy almost rubbed more salt into Cascarino's gaping wounds when he hit the woodwork a minute later, but even though Gillingham won the toss to decide the venue of the second replay, there could be no doubting that Everton were extremely lucky to get another bite of the cherry.

In atrocious windy conditions that saw a church roof blown off in the nearby area, Everton made the most of their opportunity, with the recalled Andy Gray playing a pivotal role on an evening which finally emphasised the gap between the teams. Gray set up Sheedy's opener, breaking the deadlock after 238 minutes of football, and played a part in the other two goals, scored by Adrian Heath and Sheedy again.

Everton had finally seen off a determined Gillingham, and could continue their twin assault on Wembley. But it could have been oh so different without the influence of Southall and Cascarino, in three matches that were the very definition of what the FA Cup was all about in the past.

Southampton scrape past Pompey

"It's not rivalry, it's war". That is how Portsmouth manager Bobby Campbell described the forthcoming south coast derby against Southampton, a match so eagerly anticipated that Campbell also proclaimed that a stadium with a capacity of 70,000 would have been needed to meet the demand (in the end, a sell out crowd of 36,500 would witness the cup tie).

It may have been eight years since their last meeting, but this was definitely not a case of absence making the heart grow fonder. The police, understandably predicting aggravation, tried their best to control the situation; some pubs were shut, roads blocked, and Southampton fans shepherded in by the local constabulary. But there was always going to be trouble, 57 arrests, the destruction of police cars and shop windows, testament to this. And incidents inside the ground would see Portsmouth chairman John Deacon highly critical of Portsmouth fans, and ultimately these actions would have a bearing on the outcome of the match.

Portsmouth were unlucky on the day, Alan Biley guilty of squandering the best chances, Neil Webb also going close, and Mark Hateley having a penalty shout against Reuben Agboola turned down. As the tie looked to be drifting towards a replay, Portsmouth went gung-ho, foolishly as it would transpire. Southampton's Steve Moran scored the decisive goal at the death to give the First Division high-flyers a smash and grab victory, in the very time added on due to the behaviour of some Portsmouth fans earlier in the day.

Play had been held up after Southampton full back Mark Dennis had been struck by a missile (believed to be a coin) with linesman Keith Cooper also the target of the Portsmouth fans' ire. "They pay their money and that pays our wages. I'm a professional and just have to get on with the job," Dennis later said, in a very matter of fact manner, although the press went to town on the louts, with Deacon threatening life bans for the perpetrators.

"The only thing I wish is that when I come back on this earth I will be born lucky instead of talented," bemoaned Campbell, who could not quite believe his side had been denied even a replay, with McMenemy also refreshingly honest, saying that he would have taken a second match.

The luck Southampton experienced at Fratton Park, along with Liverpool's exit, saw the Saints installed as 9/2 favourites, with many believing that their name was on the cup. More importantly for now, Southampton owned the local bragging rights, regardless of how fortunate they may have been when visiting their neighbours.

Telford give Derby a fright

Any Second Division club drawn at home against non-league opposition would normally be delighted at the prospect of an easy route to the next round. But Derby County in 1984 were in a bad place, and if any non-league team could take advantage of their woes then it would be Stan Storton's Telford. "We're playing well enough for me to believe we can win at Derby," a bullish Storton said before the match. There was some justification behind his confidence too.

Telford's squad may have been made up of part-time players - consisting of plumbers, bankers, factory workers, and sales reps - but they were more than capable of going to the Baseball Ground and stretching their opponents. Derby manager Peter Taylor was probably joking when he declared Telford favourites for the cup tie, but it reflected the poor state of the Second Division side on and off the pitch.

Sitting in the relegation zone, and reportedly £1.5 million in debt, Taylor did not appear to help the situation when he lambasted his players in the lead-up to the Telford match. "It's all down to the cheats who are placing the club's survival and my job at risk. Certain players are spivving their way through games". Jimmy Greaves was not alone in wondering if Taylor's outburst was really the best way to motivate a squad already low on confidence, with Players' Union Secretary Gordon Taylor accusing the Derby manager of damaging the image of the sport.

In a match played midweek after the original tie had been postponed due to snow, Telford did indeed push Derby to the limit. A Bobby Davison hat trick was just enough to give Derby a 3-2 victory, although Storton was furious that Davison's final goal was allowed to stand (he felt it was offside), and he also thought that his team should have been awarded a penalty with just 30 seconds remaining.

So a narrow escape for Derby, but if Taylor and Stuart Webb (the director who owned 60% of the club shares and was trying desperately to find investors) thought that the Telford win was a sign of better things to come, then they were in for a rude awakening, in a season that was rarely dull for the Midlands club.

First Division v Second Division

Brighton were not the only lower league club to knock out First Division opposition. Shrewsbury's win over Ipswich was not a complete surprise, the East Anglian club seemingly unable to arrest their slide from the Bobby Robson glory years of the recent past. Manager Bobby Ferguson was trying his best to talk about the high spirits of the playing staff, and the importance of a good cup run, yet the plain facts were that Ipswich were in the middle of a slump which saw them win just one in eleven league matches, and they were ripe for the taking.

There was also previous between the clubs, with Shrewsbury knocking out an Ipswich team that contained the likes of Mills, Muhren, Thijssen and Brazil in their ranks in 1982, so their 2-0 win was a case of lightning striking twice. Goals from Gary Hackett and Colin Robinson, both purchases from non-league football, sent Ipswich back to their fight against relegation (they would stay up due to a great run at the end of the season), and within a couple of weeks, Paul Mariner was the latest star of Robson's era to jump ship, when he signed for Arsenal.

Coventry also suffered at the hands of a Second Division outfit, although like Ipswich, their defeat to Sheffield Wednesday was hardly a stunning shock. Come the end of the season, the two clubs almost swapped divisions, with Coventry only staying up due to one of their infamous last day escapes, but their 3-2 defeat at Hillsborough was not without controversy.

With ten minutes remaining, Wednesday were awarded a penalty when referee David Hutchinson penalised Ian Butterworth for a handball, and Mel Sterland avoided the snowballs coming his way from the Coventry end to put Wednesday through. "Our lads were disgusted," an angry Butterworth protested. "There was a ruck of players and I was blatantly pushed in the back which made the ball hit my hands".

West Ham nearly joined the list of casualties, only gaining a replay when a Dave Swindlehurst effort nine minutes from time cancelled out Andy McCulloch's goal at Selhurst Park. The Hammers were too strong in the replay, their 2-0 win coming courtesy of strikes from Geoff Pike and Bobby Barnes, but in a season of chronic injuries at the club, the sight of Trevor Brooking limping off with a hamstring strain and joining Alan Devonshire, Billy Bonds, Paul Goddard, Alvin Martin and Steve Whitton on the sidelines was not what the doctor ordered.

Little and Large

One of the success stories of the 1983/84 season thus far had been the forward partnership of Mo Johnston and George Reilly at Watford. After a difficult start, Reilly was slowly turning things around, the arrival of Johnston from Partick particularly important, and soon the little and large pair would begin to form a great understanding. With 17 goals between them in the ten matches leading up to Watford's fourth round tie at Charlton, there was little doubting they would be a handful for Lennie Lawrence's men.

And so it would prove. Supplied from the flanks by John Barnes and Nigel Callaghan, Watford survived a few scrapes, before a goal apiece for their front two saw a relieved Graham Taylor happy to escape a potentially awkward fixture: "The little bits of luck were there when we needed them. But our name on the Cup? I'll tell you in May".

Disappointment for Charlton, but realistically they had bigger fish to fry. Reportedly £1 million in debt and owing the Inland Revenue £108,000, the club were served with a winding-up order and the rest of the season involved High Court hearings, and a grim battle for survival, with the club frighteningly close to extinction, before a consortium of John Fryer, Richard Collins and Mike Norris saved the day.

Another one bites the dust

By the end of the fourth round only Everton would remain of the so-called big five (Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham, in case you're not old enough to recall the quintet). Norwich may have recently gone through the disappointment of a quarter final exit in the Milk Cup to Aston Villa, but after drawing 0-0 at White Hart Lane, there was now every chance that they could recover from this and claim a prize scalp. "They were singing and cheering in the tunnel going down to their dressing rooms," claimed Glenn Hoddle. "They think they've won. Let's see".

Hoddle's accusation was strongly refuted by Norwich boss Ken Brown, yet a calf injury to the England midfielder meant that he could play no part in silencing the Canaries, Ossie Ardiles coming in to the side for his first FA Cup match in 22 months. In a classic end-to-end cup tie, which if you watch the highlights seems to be played at x2 speed, Norwich went into the break 2-0 in front, with a Dennis van Wyk screamer and Mick Channon's 250th goal in senior football edging the home team closer to the next round.

Mark Falco's 46th minute effort immediately changed the complexion of the evening, with both teams going hammer and tongs at each other in a breathless second half. "There was more than a hint of toe-to-toe gladiatorial combat in this fearfully competitive fourth round replay," wrote the Express' Steve Curry, highlighting the intense feeling of the match.

Tottenham were unable to find the equaliser, leaving Keith Burkinshaw to rue a missed opportunity. "It is sickening to be out when you see what is left in the competition," he noted, as Burkinshaw's last season in charge at Tottenham looked to be ending in a damp squib. Salvation would come in the form of the UEFA Cup though, as Tottenham's reputation of Cup kings continued, even if their pride had been dented at Carrow Road on a night of compelling football.

In a nutshell

Snow would play a significant role in many of the remaining FA Cup ties, although Bob Wilson incorrectly announcing that the Sunderland-Birmingham match had been postponed on BBC's Football Focus at 12.22pm did not go down too well with the North East club, chairman Tom Cowie threatening to sue the BBC due to a loss of gate receipts.

On the pitch it would be Birmingham's Mick Harford who would dominate matters, his elbow leaving Sunderland centre back Ian Atkins with a fractured nose and black eye, and his 86th minute winner sending his local town club out. Harford's winner had come a minute after Martin Kuhl's equaliser, so all in all, it was an intensely frustrating day for the home team.

Twelve inches of snow had seen Huddersfield's home tie against Notts County postponed on the Saturday, before an excellent Rachid Harkouk free kick gave County a 2-1 win in the rearranged fixture. Middlesbrough also had to call off their match against Bournemouth, with two Paul Sugrue goals eventually enough to put Malcolm Allison's through to the next round. West Brom defeated Scunthorpe midweek, a strike from 19-year-old Noel Luke just enough to see off the Third Division side that come the end of the season would suffer relegation to the basement.

Elsewhere, Plymouth continued on their cup adventure, despite manager John Hore describing his team's 2-1 win over Darlington as "our worst performance since I took charge in October". Goals from John Uzzell and Gordon Staniforth saw Plymouth come back from a goal down, sending Darlington home disappointed; however, unlike their fans, the players and club officials could at least make the 380 mile trip home quickly, the club flying to a match for the first time in their history.

Oxford made up for their recent Milk Cup replay hammering at Everton, two Bobby McDonald penalties giving them a 2-1 win over Blackpool, yet local rivals Swindon not so fortunate. Second Division Blackburn may have been undefeated in thirteen matches, yet Swindon dominated the first half, with Jimmy Quinn giving them a deserved lead.

The match changed, however, when an injury to defender Charlie Henry forced a change early in the second half, and Blackburn took advantage. Substitute Glenn Keeley played a big part in Blackburn's 2-1 win, setting up Simon Garner's equaliser in the 75th minute before he forced Paul Batty's own goal just four minutes later.

By the end of the 1984 FA Cup fourth round, eight First Division clubs were still standing, along with six Second Division teams and two from the third tier. Calling a winner was a tricky task, with no outstanding favourite remaining in the last sixteen, and although a few of the clubs could point to having luck on their side, it was hardly a firm enough basis for predicting the outcome of the competition. There would be more shocks in the next round too, with one particular Third Division team continuing to defy the odds in a memorable FA Cup run.

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