Here is our first memory post from Bazza who is a regular contributer to the blog.
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My most memorable match was a FA Cup 5th Round Replay against Arsenal in 1968.
Blues had grabbed a freak equaliser at Highbury on the Saturday with a header from Geoff Vowden which looped up in the air from the edge of the penalty area seeming to take all day to get there before the Gunner’s keeper, Jim Furnell allowed the ball to lob over his head to send the assembled Bluenoses into raptures. We were in the old Second Division and Arsenal were high and mighty in the First as they have always been! We weren’t fancied to get anything else but beat so a replay was a bonus.
The replay was midweek and St Andrews which was all terracing apart from the old main stand was packed to the rafters. 55,000 as I recall. An entertaining first half ended goalless and the faithful applauded the lads off the pitch for their energetic display matching the top tier side kick for kick. The second half Blues kept up the tempo and pressurised Arsenal but could not carve out a decent chance. Then after about an hour (sorry I can’t be more precise) A cross came in from deep and big Fred Pickering won the ball on the edge of the area just inside the D. His flick on fell towards Barry Bridges who with an overhead kick connected fiercely to send the ball like a rifle bullet hurtling towards the railway end goal.
Bob Wilson had been drafted in to replace Jim Furnell and although he made a valiant attempt to save the ball was past him before he could raise a hand to the shot. I am convinced had he managed to get his arm up in time the ball would have ripped it off at the shoulder! Words cannot truly describe the power of the shot which scorched past the hapless keeper and hit the roof of the net so hard that the crossbar rattled! The roar, I am certain, could have been heard in the town centre and the goal was memorable for another reason. I was standing in the Kop stand about where the Directors’ Box now is. I was 14 at the time so nowhere near fully grown. My feet were suddenly no longer in contact with the terracing as the crowd surged forward down and to the left for what seemed like eternity. We must have travelled twenty feet or so before the human wave still obliviously celebrating started the journey back from whence we had all come. I was deposited still thankfully in the upright in exactly the same spot that I had started from. When I think back if anyone had stumbled they would have been crushed but I suppose that the fact that we were packed in like sardines kept us all stable as there simply wasn’t room to fall over.
The goal has to be the finest I have ever seen before or since and I doubt I will ever see it bettered. The rest of the game went like a blur but I do remember that Bobby Gould, the ex-Coventry centre-forward equalised for the Gunners less than five minutes later but Blues roared on by the St Andrews crowd would not allow Arsenal to take what was rightfully our victory. Cajoled by Ron Wylie, orchestrated by Trevor Hockey and supported by Malcolm Beard, Geoff Vowden, Johnny Vincent and Big Fred up front Barry Bridges scored with another glorious cross shot late on to seal the game 2 – 1 and send the faithful home delirious. What a night, what a game and what a fabulous goal.
That season we went on to beat an excellent Chelsea side in the quarter-final in another epic 1 – 0 with Pickering scoring the winner only to fall to the Baggies at Villa Park in the semi-final 2 – 0. That is another story but Albion were totally outplayed and still won! They have the Holte End woodwork and Osbourne in goal to thank for going on to lift the Cup at Wembley against Everton. The great, late Jeff Astle scored in every round of the Cup including sadly against us.