With this weekend’s focus turned to the FA Cup, I figured I’d go back and visit possibly the best FA Cup upset in history. Let’s go back to 1972, with Hereford United v. Newcastle Utd. in a 3rd Round Replay. Newcastle came into the tournament in the third round, while Hereford United had to enter by beating Cheltenham Town, a replay with King’s Lynn, and finally Northampton Town. After a 2-2 draw at St. James Park (the match was postponed a few times due to inclement weather, namely rain), Southern League’s own “The Bulls” hosted the Magpies at Edgar Street. With a little over 14,000 seats sold, the front office sold extra tickets, and the actual tally of spectaors is not know. Let’s just say it was over capacity. Check the people who climbed high in the trees to see this replay, most likely one of the best matches to ever take place at the grounds. With all the rain that had been falling, the pitch was in utter shambles. It did not get any better as match time grew near, and once the two clubs took to the pitch, it never got better.
Newcastle may or may not have been running their mouth about the match, and Malcolm MacDonald was to have allegedly said that he would be scoring an upwards of ten goals at the replay at Edgar Street. That is not confirmed. What is confirmed is that the traveling back and forth by Newcastle United due to the weather was definitely a factor in how they played against the Lilywhites that day. Both teams went for it early in the match, but could not score a goal. Late in the first half, MacDonald looked to be on the way, or at least 1/10th of the way when he finally scored. The goal, however, was called back, and due to a harsh foul Newcastle got a free kick. A tough few minutes ensued for Hereford, with an errant clearance that resulted in two Magpie shots rebounding off the wood work. The next few chances for both teams were exciting, as each club had goals taken away by the woodwork, or in Hereford’s case, saved by great goal keeping from Fred Potter. MacDonald and Newcastle turned up the heat. Despite an open goal miss by Mac, much to the chagrin of the Newcastle supporters and to the relief of Hereford’s, the pressure continued. Newcastle would finally go ahead with a goal by MacDonald in the 82nd minute. Hereford were not down and out. A substitute by player/manager Colin Addison of midfielder Ricky George for Roger Griffiths (who had played 80 long, painful minutes with a broken leg on the mess of a pitch) proved to be a move he would not regret. His fresh legs and cardio would be a turning point in the short minutes left in the match. He took part in setting up a Ronnie Radford 30 yard shot that went right to the back of the old onion bag at the 85th minute, three minutes after Newcastle’s opening goal. A young, green, John Motson was calling the match and exclaimed that the ball “flew into the top corner of McFaul’s net!”. A voice that would become synonymous with football for years to come. Of course this goal would force the match into extra time, where Ricky George would become the hero by scoring in the 103rd minute, and a gutsy Hereford squad would hold on to win the match. What followed after, was nothing short of madness. A massive pitch invasion on the small ground that was replayed on the telly for quite some time. It just goes to show you that no matter how big or small your club is, anything can happen on the pitch during the FA Cup. In 1972, Hereford United were giant killers, their motto of “Our greatest glory lies not in never having fallen, but in rising when we fall” rang true. The colorful history of English football and the beautiful game was alive and well then, and it still is now.