Sunday, 9 January 2011

Sutton United blog: Terry Wogan, Jack Charlton, Coventry City and the FA Cup.

Rather like another fine innings from England’s Ashes hero Alistair Cook I feel inclined to raise not my bat, but my laptop, with this, my fiftieth post.
Well done me.
Thanks for the support guys and gals.
Any rate, let’s crack on...
I would have posted this yesterday had I not ended up finding the answers to all my problems in the bottom of a beer glass in Horsham. I’ll come to that in my next post, this one is all about the FA Cup Third Round.
There are a few websites and blogs offering rundowns of FA Cup Third Round shocks from down the years. I thought it would be a good idea to take a closer look at Sutton United’s Third Round appearances.
Aaah, the memories of Middlesbrough 88, Coventry City 89, Notts County 93 and, for some of you, Hillingdon Borough 70, come flooding back.
Put together, our record in the Third Round isn’t bad at all: P6 W2 D2 L2 F9 A7. Let’s leave the statistics there though, our Fourth Round results don’t make for such pleasant reading.
So, better late than never, here we go...

1970  Hillingdon Borough Drew 0-0 & Won 4-1
Having beaten Dagenham away (1-0) and Barnet away (2-0) Sutton made it to the magical Third round of the Cup for the first time in the club’s history.
Let’s be honest, the draw could have been kinder. Instead of Liverpool, Manchester United or Arsenal, the Us were paired with that football powerhouse from the Southern League, Hillingdon.
Still, looking on the bright side, it offered both clubs a great chance to progress even further in the competition.
I can only imagine how tense the match must have been as the teams fought out a 0-0 draw. Crikey, Sutton really worked hard to earn home advantage in the Cup proper that year.
I think I’m right in saying that 8,000 people attended the replay at Gander Green Lane and witnessed the Us triumph 4-1.
That must have been a magical night because the winners knew they would earn the right to entertain Football League Champions Leeds United whose side featured the likes of Billy Bremner, Jack Charlton, Norman Hunter, Peter Lorimer, Johnny Giles and Allan Clarke. In other words, after all their hard work, the Us had hit the jackpot.
I struck a  jackpot of sorts myself a few years later when my mum bought a copy of the programme from the Leeds game at a jumble sale for 10p. She’s always had an eye for a bargain.
Leeds went on to win the Cup in 1970, beating Arsenal 1-0 at Wembley thanks to an Allan Clarke header.

Did you know? From 1970-74 there was an FA Cup Third Place Play-off.

1988 Middlesbrough  ­Drew 1-1 & Lost 0-1 (aet)
Right, now I can comment on the next four entries with first-hand experience. Next up, Middlesbrough.
Gary Pallister, Stuart Ripley, Brian Laws, Bernie Slaven, Tony Mowbray and Colin Cooper may not be in the same league as the aforementioned Leeds legends, but Boro’ were riding high in the Second Division at the time, they may even have been top when the draw was made.
The Us battled hard and gave a great account of themselves in front of the ITV cameras, but fell behind to a Pallister header midway through the second half.
However, just as legendary commentator Brian Moore was preparing to try and put a positive spin on Sutton's disappointing afternoon, up jumped Mark Golley to plant a header past Stephen Pears into the top corner of the net. The goal sent the Sutton fans, a large number of whom were wearing Campri ski jackets, wild and earned the Us a midweek trip to Ayresome Park.
I was one of those hardy souls who made their way to Cleveland, as it was back then. I think there was something in the region of 18,000 at the replay which saw the Us give it their all.
With three minutes left, and with the game level at 0-0, a header from Nigel Golley, Mark’s brother, hit the crossbar and bounced away. I tried not to allow myself to think of what might have been when a Paul Kerr strike in extra-time earned Boro a trip to Everton in the next round. The Merseysiders eventually won 2-1 in the second replay.
I remember being very proud of the Sutton boys when they came over to supporters at the end of the game. I even caught sight of myself in the background on Thames News the following evening when Tony Rains was interviewed on the pitch. I was wearing something very similar to a Campri ski jacket, but believe you me, it wasn’t a Campri ski jacket. It was a cheap imitation my mum bought for me from Sutton Market. Like I say, she knew a bargain when she saw one.
Rains, of course, wouldn’t have to wait long for another moment in the spotlight.
And here it is...

1989 Coventry City  Won 2-1
The route Sutton took to the Third Round was similar to that of that of 1970.
Once again the Us had to overcome two non-league sides away from home, and once again Dagenham were our First Round victims (4-0).
In the next round Sutton went to Aylesbury United and triumphed 1-0 after a tense tussle thanks to a Lennie Dennis goal. By the time the referee blew his final whistle I was a bundle of nerves. The boys had made it through to the big stage for the second season in a row, that's quite an achievement.
That evening I sat glued to the television to watch the draw for the Third Round on Match of the Day.
When Sutton's name was pulled out the hat first I was so excited that I could hardly speak. When Coventry City were next out I found my voice all right, I almost shouted the house down. And so began six or seven weeks  
I spent much of that time reading the Internet of the day, Ceefax (BBC) or Oracle (ITV). I cut out every snippet of FA Cup news from the Sutton Herald as the countdown to the big game gatherered pace and the profile of our club rose to unprecidented levels.
I remember the weekend before the big game going for a kickabout over the park on a bleak wintery afternoon with some pals and we enacted what we imagined to be a famous Sutton victory. Of course, we never for one minute thought it would come true.
And so, to the day itself. I was at Gander Green Lane early to soak up the atmosphere. There was definitely a special feel in the air.
I could write reams about this day, and perhaps on another post, I will, but to cut a long story short, this was one of the greatest days of my life.
With a mixture of desperate defending, the odd counter-attack and more desperate defending the Us held the Sky Blues to 0-0 as half-time approached. Then, an intelligent near-post corner from Micky Stephens was flicked on by Nigel Golley for that most lethal of predators, Tony Rains, to head past Coventry skipper Brian Kilcline and into the net. Cue, euphoria. I have never cheered a goal so hard in all my life. When the referee blew his whistle for the break my pulse was racing.
The second period was possibly the longest half of football I have ever had the pleasure of watching. I can say that now, 22.year on, but at the time it was like watching a scary film from behind the sofa.
Dave Phllips made many of us put our fingers over our eyes when he scored Coventry's equaliser in the 52nd minute and we sat back to prepare for the First Division side to rack up a cricket score.
Hold your horses!
Seven minutes later, following another fine delivery from Stephens and cross from Phil Dawson, Matthew Hanlan volleyed Sutton ahead once again. Flippin' heck. I cheered so hard that I spent the rest of the weekend talking like one of Marge Simpson's sisters.
The next half-an-hour seemed to last a lifetime. Coventry hit the post and bar with a single effort on goal from Steve Sedgely, Cyril Regis saw a close range effort saved by Sutton goalkeeperTrevor Roffey, and Dave Bennett went close with an acrobatic overhead kick. They were just three of the many chances the Sky Blues missed as the minutes ticked away.
The closing stages felt like an eternity which made the sound of referee Alf Buksh's final whistle sound all the sweeter.
The result propelled Sutton manager Barrie Williams, Rains and Hanlan into the national media spotlight with the latter two even appearing on Terry Wogan's chat show on BBC1. Meanwhile, being the only Sutton fan at school, I was treated like one of the cool kids by my fellow pupils after my team's famous victory rather than a bit of an oddity.
That all changed when we got thumped 8-0 at Norwich City in the Fourth Round.

1993 Notts County Lost 2-3
Yet again, the Us made it through to the Third Round thanks to two victories on the road.
In the First Round they beat Colchester United in an epic encounter 4-3 thanks to a late Ollie Morah strike after a frenetic final few minutes at Layer Road. In the Second Round a solitary late goal from Dave Jones saw Torquay United also suffer a home defeat the hands of Alan Gane’s men.
Sutton's reward was somewhat disappointing, a trip to Notts County.
Things couldn’t have got off to a worse start in this one with the Us going 2-0 down after just ten minutes. I remember thinking that the boys might get embarrassed at that point. However, they dug deep and hauled themselves back on level terms with goals from Steve Smart and Paul Barrowcliffe in the second half.
The Us really fought hard but, just as we had hopes of earning a replay, we were undone late in the game when Paul Devlin pounced to score the winner after it looked as though Sutton keeper Fitzroy McCaulsky had been fouled. Balls.

Any rate, well done to Stevenage who beat Newcastle 3-1 yesterday and good luck to Crawley Town who fly the non-league flag against Derby County tomorrow

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