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Easter 1962 Top of Table Ipswich Trounce Arsenal
Written by clivebleedingthomas on Monday, 13th Apr 2020 09:00

Easter 1962 could hardly have been more of a contrast to this Easter. It was sunny, though. Three football matches in four days over Easter was the common practice in those halcyon times. Town entered the holiday period one point ahead of Burnley, top of the league.

Ipswich Town 2 Arsenal 2 Good Friday 20th April 1962

The first-ever league match between the two clubs was watched by a record crowd of 30,649. It was the custom for the spectators to continue to be admitted to the ground after the kick-off, even if the terraces and seats were full.

Police would lead batches of new arrivals around the perimeter of the pitch to allow them to seat themselves on the grass just outside the touchline.

By the time the whole of the Portman Road side of the pitch was filled in this way, the gates were locked. Leaving hundreds outside.

A goalless first half was a disappointment but things certainly livened up after the interval. John McLeod hit a shot past Roy Bailey for 0-1 in the 55th minute.

Only four minutes later George Eastham doubled the visitors’ lead as he hooked the ball over his shoulder for a spectacular second.

However, a Town recovery began just five minutes later when Ray Crawford was fouled by Terry Neill in the penalty area. The formality of the ever-reliable Ted Phillips spot-kick reduced Arsenal’s lead.

The remainder of the match saw Town storming forward in wave after wave. Phillips hit the bar and was denied by an extraordinary Jack Kelsey save.

Bill Baxter had a header cleared off the line with Town players and supporters convinced that the ball had crossed the line.

With only five minutes remaining a Phillips shot was not cleared and in the melee that followed Jimmy Leadbetter squeezed between defenders to score the vital equaliser.

Burnley had won their match, so Town and Burnley were level on 51 points. Burnley’s goal average (not goal difference in those days) putting them top.

Chelsea 2 Ipswich Town 2 Saturday 21st April 1962

The next morning saw my Dad, 'Memory Man' Ron Ellis and me boarding the train at Ipswich Station, along with the team! Ron was in charge of the team’s kit. What a thrill it was for a 15-year-old to be wheeling the kit basket along the Liverpool Street platform to the team bus. We were en route to Stamford Bridge, Chelsea needed to win to avoid relegation that day.

The first half went badly for us. Indeed, on the balance of play the Town could have been five down by half time. We were down in the dumps to put it mildly; Chelsea looked like a team chasing the title, we looked the more likely relegation candidates.

Alf Ramsey’s team-talk during half-time sorted things out. Crawford pulled a goal back on the hour, he then had a strong penalty claim turned down. Ironically from the corner that followed, Chelsea defender John Mortimore fisted the ball clear giving Phillips the opportunity to equalise from the spot.

The final score meant relegation for Chelsea and for Town a return to the top as Burnley had lost away at Sheffield United.

After the rest day of Easter Sunday we were back down at Ipswich Station, along with the kit basket, on Easter Monday morning. Destination Highbury.

Arsenal 0 Ipswich Town 3 Easter Monday 23rd April 1962

England’s largest crowd of the day, 44,964, packed Highbury to see the Town put on a display worthy of a team chasing down the league title.

Two first-half goals, both laid on by right winger Roy Stephenson, scored by Phillips (13 mins) and Crawford (17 mins) typified the scoring pattern of matches during the 1961/62 season. This fearsome strike partnership scored 61 of the Town’s 93 league goals.

Town continued to dominate the second half with Crawford completing the scoring in the 81st minute with a sensational goal acclaimed as the best of his 33 league goals of the season.

He beat three defenders, including nutmegging Terry Neill, before slotting the ball home in front of we 5,000 deliriously happy Town fans.

The scoreline could have been even more decisive with Jack Kelsey making late spectacular saves from both Phillips and Baxter.

We bought a copy of the London Evening News at Liverpool Street. The headline: Top of Table Ipswich Trounce Arsenal.

With Burnley held to a draw at Blackpool, Town were now two points ahead of them.

I can recall the atmosphere on the train in the carriage occupied by the team. Alf Ramsey sitting silent, totally calm; his players quietly playing cards or dozing. The foundation had been laid, the crowning glory and the wild celebrations followed five days later.

Arsenal: Kelsey, Magill, McCullough, Clamp, Neill, Petts, Clapton, Griffiths, Strong, Eastham, McLeod.

Town: Bailey, Carberry, Compton, Baxter, Nelson, Elsworthy, Stephenson, Moran, Crawford, Phillips, Leadbetter.

This team had played in all three of the Easter matches. Remarkably, only 16 players were used in the 42 league matches.

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ChrisFelix added 09:29 - Apr 13
A little before my PR days but so much of Town folk lore. Contrast this season with 80/81when Villa only needed a small number of players. In 62 Burnley 'threw the league away', extra games with a run to the cup final. Sir Alf was a lucky manager whereas Sir Bobby was the nearly man. This includes their time as England managers
Thanks for another great memory

Nthsuffolkblue added 10:05 - Apr 13
Great read and lovely to know you are Ron Ellis's son.

Oh that we might at least see some success at whatever level again soon. To read of bright attacking football with multiple chances and multiple goals seems so far away from what we have seen for so long now.

clivebleedingthomas added 10:50 - Apr 13
Nthsuffolkblue - sorry to disappoint you but there were three of us. My Dad, Ron Ellis and me. Ron had a phenomenal memory. You could ask him something completely random, such as: Ron, who did the Town play on the first Saturday in March 1948? He would give it some thought and after about ten seconds his answer would come: that was the sixth, and we played Watford at home and lost 1-3. For good measure, he would then say, our goal was scored by Bill Jennings. I kid you not, I used to check up on his answers later as a stat-obsessed eleven or twelve year old; he was never wrong.
Ron was a bachelor, who lived with his Mum in Sherrington Road. He was a lovely man and had a regular column in the Town programme, as well as being featured on the sports pages of the Evening Star and the Anglian.

bugledog123 added 13:53 - Apr 13
Thanks for the article - way before my time but great to read.


Nthsuffolkblue added 22:01 - Apr 17
Sorry, I misunderstood the way I read it. Of course, if it had been as I had read there would have been another comma in it. So he was a friend of your Dad rather than a relative? Still must have been great to be able to know him and feed off that obsession both for stats and for Town.

clivebleedingthomas added 10:19 - Apr 26
Yes, he was a close friend of my Dad. They sat together in the old stand on Portman Road side of ground. They also went to some away matches together, taking me with them, which was a real adventure for a boy growing up to be as keen a Town fan as they both were.

ElephantintheRoom added 11:46 - Apr 27
A different era... seems a lifetime ago now but you could often travel 'with' the team on one of those compartmentalised diesel trains to and from London. The last time I recall being in the same railway carraige was on a return trip from Palace in the early Robson days.... I even shyly muttered 'good point' to colin viljoen.....maybe it all ended with those much hyped shiny team coaches
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