|Happy Highbury as Town Head to Wembley|
Written by clivebleedingthomas on Monday, 11th May 2020 09:41
As if going to an FA Cup semi-final was not stressful enough, I had added stress. I travelled on a Supporters Club coach, on board many families, including my father and my wife
Unfortunately, some of the wives (not mine) had persuaded the coach driver it would be a good idea to take in a bit of retail therapy on the way, at Romford Market.
Unlike my dad and wife, who had tickets for the seats, I had opted to stand on the Clock End, South Bank. By 2pm, the coach stuck in traffic still two miles short of our destination, I decided to leave the coach and run the rest of the journey.
I was wedged into the heaving mass of standing Town fans by the time the teams emerged, both in their change strips: West Brom in their hideous green and yellow stripes, Town in white shirts and black shorts, surely our best change strip of all time.
Another worry was the referee - our old foe from another semi-final three years before, Mr Clive Thomas of Treorchy.
Ipswich Town 3 West Bromwich Albion 1 FA Cup Semi-Final Saturday 8th April 1978
It had been a disappointing league season with Town in their lowest league position since 1971. West Brom were having a good season, ending it in sixth place. The fever the FA Cup generated brought 26,000 Town fans to Highbury hoping that the underdogs would rise to the occasion.
What followed was a tie full of drama which began in the eighth minute. Overlapping down the left wing, Mick Mills took a pass from Clive Woods in his stride and crossed for Brian Talbot to meet the ball with a brave diving header.
The ball nestled in the North Bank goal but Talbot lay on the grass, blood streaming from a gash above his right eye; his head had collided with John Wile’s head and both were led from the field bleeding profusely.
After being patched-up skipper Wile returned, his white bandage soon becoming crimson. Talbot never returned to the field and after a further 10 minutes. Mick Lambert replaced him.
Town built a two-goal buffer after 20 minutes. Lambert’s corner fell just right for Mills who netted from eight yards. The Clock End was a sea of blue and white. Two up in 20 minutes, the dream was coming true.
The comfort of the two-goal advantage remained for much of the second half. Wile had to be substituted on the hour mark. Having fought on valiantly he had to admit that Ron Atkinson was right to replace him with Laurie Cunningham
Town fans were enjoying themselves, we were looking comfortable with the defence strengthened by Kevin Beattie’s return to the side.
That was until the 76th minute when things got tense. Allan Hunter, in his efforts to stop Cyrille Regis having a goalscoring opportunity, handled a cross. Clive Thomas, correctly, pointed to the spot and Tony Brown sent Paul Cooper the wrong way to give the Baggies fans packed behind the North Bank goal their moment of celebration.
They could sense a comeback, we feared a comeback; only a month earlier in the league match at Portman Road, WBA had come from behind to equalise in the last minute for a 2-2 draw.
The final 14 minutes was an emotional time for everyone. However, this time it was the Town who netted in the 90th minute, John Wark’s header in front of the delirious Town support, booking our place in the Cup Final. Clive Woods provided the corner during a period of sustained pressure following the dismissal of Mick Martin three minutes earlier.
There was time for more drama when Lambert provided Robin Turner with an open goal, only for him to hesitate and allow Tony Godden to reach the ball first.
Town: Cooper, Burley, Mills, Talbot (Lambert 18), Hunter, Beattie, Osborne, Wark, Mariner, Turner, Woods.
WBA: Godden, Mulligan, Statham, Tony Brown, Wile (Cunningham 60), Robertson, Martin, Ally Brown, Regis, Trewick, Johnston.
In the interviews that followed the celebrations ignited by the final whistle, Brian Talbot said: “I couldn’t see properly, to give you an idea of how bad it was I thought Robin Turner, not John Wark, had scored the third goal.”
Mick Mills warned Arsenal: “We have a lot of very determined and very willing people. Arsenal will have to fight very, very hard and to the very end to beat us.”
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