Blast from the past

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BISHOP’S STORTFORD 4 ILFORD 1 – FA AMATEUR CUP FINAL – 20/4/74

ac1Winning the FA Amateur Cup at Wembley may well remain the biggest achievement in the 143-year history of Bishop’s Stortford FC. When it happened in the club’s centenary season, it certainly was the biggest thing that had ever happened to the club.ac3 It is hard now to understand what a big deal the FA Amateur Cup was in those days. Non-League football, whether amateur or professional was regionalised and until the FA Trophy started in 1969 there was no other national competition for clubs outside the Football League. Amateur clubs were excluded from the FA Trophy so at our level the FA Amateur Cup was the biggest prize on offer. Add to that the fact that the only club games played at Wembley were cup finals and this was a big day in our centenary season. We had, of course, made the semi-final the previous season and with much the same team had made it all the way in our last chance. Due to the abolition of the distinction between amateurs and professionals this was the last season of the FA Amateur Cup. The success of the team coupled with a floodlight ban due to miners and power workers strike meant an incredible fixture backlog. Stortford would play two midweek games the week after the Wembley final followed by the London Senior Cup final and then an incredible nine league games from 30 April to 22 May 1974 as well as the Herts Senior Cup final. On the big day several train loads of Blues fans outnumbered the Ilford fans in the 30,000+ at Wembley and the team started favourites with memories of a 5-0 win over Ilford earlier in the season.ac8 At first Ilford seemed to settle quicker as Blues felt the tension of the occasion but in the 11th minute John Dear was booked for a foul on Roger Day. Ilford suffered worst though as the influential Day was unable to take any further part in the game. Before that Stortford had a shout for a penalty in the seventh minute when Bass was brought down. ac6For much of the first half hour Ilford played some nice football in the middle of the pitch while Stortford absorbed the pressure and gradually played their way into the game. Almost out of the blue came the first goal in the 34th minute. Murphy crossed, Bass headed the ball down for the captain Dave Lawrence who scored confidently. This brought all the confidence back of a team that had not been beaten since the previous November and Blues created several more chances before half time came with Ilford grateful to be losing only 1-0. Ilford came out chasing a goal early in the second half and pushed Blues back again for the first quarter hour but Stortford weathered the storm and then struck a killer blow just after the hour. A great long throw from Lawrence found Murphy who beat his man, then the goalkeeper and calmly found the net – 2-0. Ilford struck back almost immediately as Moore could only partially clear a cross and Drabwell headed in firmly to bring his side back into the game. Instead of faltering Blues struck back within two minutes to restore their two goal lead. Another good throw from Lawrence found Bass who laid the ball off with his head to Leakey on the edge of the area. Unmarked, Leakey took his time and shot past James to make it 3-1. After that Ilford visibly wilted and in the 75th minute a penalty completed the scoring and won the game for Blues. Bass was brought down by Guiver and Martin Smith stepped up to make no mistake and put the game beyond Ilford’s reach at 4-1. ac7Dave Lawrence won the man of the match award from the press while the player of the season, Terry Moore, had very little to do but mostly did it well. John Still was a rock in the heart of the defence, while Tony Bass handled some rough treatment well and although not scoring himself was instrumental in three of our goals. It was 10 days before the next home game but on April 30th a huge crowd of over 2,000 saw us beat Leatherhead in an Isthmian League game with the FA Amateur Cup proudly displayed beside the London Senior Cup at Rhodes Avenue. In a way it was an anti-climax as we were never able to defend the cup and a great team quickly broke up the following season, but on the day it was a magnificent occasion. At the end of the game the huge scoreboard at Wembley Stadium was lit up with the words, “ Congratulations Bishop’s Stortford, FA Amateur Cup winners in their Centenary Season.” Blues: Moore, Gibson, Coombes, Lawrence, Still, Payne, Leakey, Dear, Bass, Smith, Murphy

 

THE RUN TO THE FINALac2

2nd round     HITCHIN TOWN           H   2-1

3rd round     WALTON & HERSHAM       A   0-0

Replay     WALTON & HERSHAM       H   1-0

Quarter-final BLYTH SPARTANS         H   3-1

Semi-final   ASHINGTON              N   0-0   @ Sunderland

Replay     ASHINGTON              N   3-0   @ Brentford Final       

ILFORD                   N   4-1   @ Wembley

Don’t forget that the Amateur Cup will be on display in the Mitre Suite on Friday evening when some of the team that won the competition at Wembley in 1974 will return for a question and answer session.    

Pictures courtesy Herts & Essex Observer

Author: Dave Ryan