The start of a series of blogs on the 1983/84 FA Cup, beginning with the first round in November 1983. A round of shocks, thrashings, replays, non-league success, and a reminder of a bygone era of football when some players simply turned up and played for the love of the game.
Turning back the clock
One of the biggest stories of the round was the Corinthian Casuals fixture against Fourth Division Bristol City. In the run-up to the match, the press were positively swarming over the non-league club, one of the few remaining that had retained their amateur status. Manager Billy Smith, a flower seller in Covent Garden during the day, had recently helped to turn around the fortunes of the club, and although they were not expected to trouble Bristol City, the romanticism of the tie was hard to ignore.
Formed in 1939 after a merger of the Corinthians and the Casuals, the amateur ideals of the club meant that their players were only paid 9p per mile travel expenses, and fitted in playing commitments around their various day jobs. The club were sharing a ground with Molesey, but the 1,000 capacity was clearly not suitable for a home FA Cup tie against Bristol City. Dulwich Hamlet stepped forward to offer the use of their ground, but seeing as the Corinthian Casuals were reportedly £6,000 in debt, the temptation to switch the match to City's Ashton Gate left the club with a moral dilemma.
Chairman T.R Liddle (known as "Tiny") admitted that the decision was hard, but eventually Dulwich was chosen as the preferred location. "We believe this (switching the tie) is not within the spirit of the competition and certainly not within the spirit of our club, which believes the ideals of sportsmanship and the game are paramount to monetary gains". Classy stuff.
As it would transpire, the club were winners both morally and financially, as a 0-0 draw - helped by the displays of future Crystal Palace cup finalists Andy Gray and Alan Pardew - gave the Corinthian Casuals a money-spinning trip to Bristol (reported to be worth £10,000). Although they were easily brushed aside 4-0, with Howard Pritchard scoring a hat trick, Corinthian Casuals could hold their heads high, helping to maintain the traditions of the FA Cup as well as boosting the club coffers at the same time.
Maidstone prove a point
The feeling of rejection felt by many a non-league club when they missed out on election to the Football League must have acted as a motivational tool when it came to FA Cup ties. Take the example of Maidstone United in 1982/83. Having missed out on the title by a point, the club suffered further disappointment when their application to join the bigger boys was refused. The club had a point to prove come the FA Cup first round in 1983/84.
Their tie with Third Division Exeter City was given a little more spice due to the fact that former England winger Peter Taylor would play for the League club against a team that he had left in controversial circumstances a month earlier. "I wanted to build a team around Peter and got rid of several players because of it," bemoaned Maidstone boss Bill Williams. "After he went we were in turmoil and fell out of the championship race".
A 1-1 draw in Devon gave Williams and his side the chance to right a few perceived wrongs in the replay, and they took their chance. A strike from Paul Lazarus, a man on loan from Finnish club Kuopion Pallotoverit, and only playing after delaying an appointment for a throat operation, and a second from Micky Dingwall, gave Maidstone a delicious 2-1 win.
Non-league successes and failures
Maidstone were not alone in helping the non-league get one over on League opposition. Whitby Town came from 2-0 down to defeat Halifax at The Shay, three goals in 13 second half minutes turning the tie upside down, and Telford easily saw off Stockport County 3-0 to continue their fine record in the competition in recent years. Worcester City beat Aldershot in a replay, although this did result in manager Nobby Clark having to rearrange his holiday plans, as a proposed break to Portugal clashed with the second match.
Elsewhere there were stirring performances in which the non-league clubs held their own. AP Leamington were extremely unfortunate to lose to Gillingham by a single goal, Gainsborough Trinity were not embarrassed after losing 2-0 at home to Blackpool, and Penrith went down by the same score to Hull. John Still's Dartford missed plenty of chances in their 2-1 loss at Millwall, with Boston United putting in a solid display before losing 3-0 to Bury.
Others only lost out after replays. Barnet, led by manager Barry Fry, who just a week before had suffered a suspected heart attack at Gateshead, took Bristol Rovers to a second match before exiting. Dagenham lost in a replay to Brentford, Gary Roberts' winner coming with just ten minutes remaining. A John Aldridge goal helped Newport County knock out Poole 3-1 after the original match had ended goalless, and Fourth Division table-toppers York needed two matches to shake off Macclesfield Town.
Waterlooville went even further before finally bowing out of the competition. Two 1-1 draws against Northampton, the second of which saw Waterlooville just nine minutes away from a place in the second round, resulted in a second replay, a tenth FA Cup game for the Southern Division side in 1983. Alas it was one match too far, as Northampton landed the knockout blow, winning 2-0 at the County Ground.
Alas things did not go as smoothly for player-manager David Needham at Kettering. After recently returning from a business trip to South Africa, Needham featured as his side were demolished 7-0 by Swindon, Darlington having a similarly comfortable time in their 5-0 win over Mossley. At least Hyde only lost 2-0 to Burnley in their match switched to Turf Moor, a full 24 goals better than the previous incarnation of the club had managed against Preston in the same competition in 1887.
All non-league ties
In total there were seven all non-league clashes, which at least made sure of a healthy representation in the draw for the next round. Chelmsford City defeated Wycombe in a replay, Frank Bishop scoring one of the goals, the son-in-law of Jimmy Greaves helping to knock out the Isthmian League champions. Wealdstone - only one defeat in the league season - needed three matches to get past Enfield, helped by the services of 1979 FA Cup winner David Price.
Northwich Victoria were knocked out by Bangor City, but the players, supporters and officials were merely grateful that the club were still in existence. A High Court hearing in London just eight days before the first round thankfully resulted in the club being saved from extinction, after the intervention of supporters and local businesses resulted in the £40,000 debts owed to the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise being paid. Chairman Derek Nuttall was overwhelmed with the actions of those determined to keep the club afloat: "The late surge of support was remarkable". Northwich may have had Bennett and Forshaw sent off in their replay defeat, but at least the club continued to fight another day.
Windsor and Eton produced a shock, the Isthmian Division One side beating Northern Premier League Burton Albion 2-1, a much more enjoyable first round experience in comparison to to their 7-0 defeat suffered against Brentford twelve months earlier. Giant killers Yeovil got a taste of their own medicine, losing to Harrow Borough, a team below them in the league structure, the winner coming from the goal scoring legend George Duck (a man who had previously scored 251 goals for Wealdstone in 370 appearances). Farnborough Town were unable to produce a surprise though, losing 2-1 to Barking.
Spare a thought for Frickley Athletic's goalkeeper Tommy Meehan. Not only did his side lose 1-0 to Altrincham, but the keeper suffered a fractured cheekbone, a broken wrist, and needed seven stitches in a head wound, as he attempted to save Altrincham's winner. Now that's what I call commitment to the cause.
The adventure begins
Two teams that would play a big part in the 1983/84 FA Cup started off on the road to Wembley. Third Division Plymouth, who would finish just one stop short of the Twin Towers, needed extra time in a replay to beat Southend, Tommy Tynan playing a prominent role in the win, setting up Micky Stead's unfortunate own goal, and notching the clincher himself in the 112th minute at Home Park.
Bournemouth found the going a lot easier, hammering a Walsall side that just ten days later would humble Arsenal at Highbury in the Milk Cup. For the recently appointed Bournemouth manager Harry Redknapp, the 4-0 win was a boost, with his team struggling towards the basement of Division Three, a position they still found themselves in come the visit of Manchester United in January.
In a nutshell
Generally the rest of the matches went the way of the league form and positions. Reading and Oxford United, both unbeaten at home in the league, unsurprisingly beat Hereford and Peterborough respectively, and Wimbledon - unbeaten at Plough Lane in 24 matches - defeating Orient 2-1, with two goals from Alan Cork.
Chesterfield beat rock bottom Chester in "that local derby", as Des Lynam had once mistakenly identified the fixture. Fourth Division Torquay lost 2-1 at home to Third Division Colchester, which was significantly better than Wrexham could manage, a 5-1 loss to Sheffield United indicating that this would be a long hard season for the Welsh club.
After three and a half hours of football, Bolton progressed at the expense of Tranmere, three goals in extra time finishing the job at Burnden Park, and Rotherham needed the same amount of playing time to edge past struggling Hartlepool. Elsewhere, Wigan saw off Bradford after a replay, and there were home wins for Mansfield, Scunthorpe and Rochdale, over Doncaster, Preston and Crewe respectively.
Finally, Lincoln City won 2-1 at Port Vale, although the victory was marred by the fact that Lincoln centre back Steve Thompson had his leg broken by Eamonn O'Keefe, and would not play again for nine months.
So after 57 first round matches, 40 teams had made it through to the next stage of the competition, just one match away from a potential date with one of the giants of league football. In a good round for non-league clubs, ten teams progressed, along with the same number from Division Four. The Third Division would continue to dominate the next round, although one non-league club would continue to shock, and a Bristol derby would see the form book abruptly thrown out of the window.