Witness to County History 2-Giant Killers County v Luton Town 1958 FA Cup.
Last time we heard about the Longest Game which Alan Edwards witnessed way back in 1946 at Edgeley Park. This time we move forward 12 years to 1958 when County,playing in the Third Division( North) were drawn to play First Division Luton Town in the F.A.Cup. The rest is history......and Alan was there.......
County Memories No.2 ( as previously featured 2006 in` When I Was Young and Lazy')
The Luton Town Cup Tie
4th January, 1958
So here I was, coming towards the end of my Christmas leave. This was the last Saturday of my fifteen days at home and I would be off back to my base the following Tuesday. I was still in the Royal Navy, the Fleet Air Arm to be more precise, and was stationed at Royal Naval Air Station Abottsinch, which nowadays is better known as Glasgow Airport. I’d had a good time at home during the Xmas festivities but not much in the way of football at County. Just the one home match at home to Darlington on Christmas Day (we won 4 – 1). Boxing Day away to Darlo was a bit too far to go and Hull City away on the Saturday did not appeal (we lost both anyway). This was the last season of the old Third Divisions North and South and at the end of the season the top twelve in each would form the new Third Division and the bottom twelve would become the Fourth Division. At this point of the season County were hanging on to 12th place albeit only on goal average so one win and two losses over the holiday period was not a good sign.
Thanks to Ian Watts for this one!
But that wasn’t going to stop the County faithful enjoying a cup-tie against First Division opponents. Not that anyone gave County much hope. Luton’s recent games had included a draw with Manchester United, a win over Bolton Wanderers and a slamming of Arsenal by 4 goals. To add to this we couldn’t even play in our own black and white strip. These also being Luton Town’s colours the rules in cup-ties were that both teams had to wear their second choice strip. Again deadlock both teams second choice strips clashed. Those in authority at the F.A. decreed that Luton could wear their second choice and County would have to find a third choice. This final decision was made the day before the match so really neither set of supporters knew what coloured scarves etc that they should wear. So both sets of supporters, being very sensible, all wore black and white. We discovered on the morning of the match that Wolverhampton Wanderers had agreed to lend County one of their black and gold first team strips.
So there I was in my usual spot in the paddock propped up with my back against the wall and holding on to the rail of the bridge the players came across to get to the pitch. I’d gone a bit early to make sure of my place otherwise, being a bit short in inches, I found it difficult to see all the action. Although the report in the local paper on the Thursday said there were 8000 tickets unsold there was still a pretty good sized crowd. Officially it was 18,200 and receipts £2,970. We’d seen the team Willie Moir had selected and done the usual moan. It was Grieves, Betts, Webb, Murray, Franklin, Clempson, Finney, Moir, Holden, Jackson and Davock.
And so the game started. The noise was deafening as is usual in the first few minutes of a game but it got even louder from the County fans as in the third minute Franklin appeared with the ball down the right wing and put in a perfect cross which was met by Jackson’s head. Goal number one to County. As Dally Duncan, the Luton manager said in his post match interview “What’s a centre half doing down the right wing?” The home fans weren’t complaining. The rest of the half County played to their plan!!! Yes they had one for once and kept to it. Whenever a Luton player had the ball he was confronted by at least two opponents who had to be beaten before he could get a pass in. This was hard work for the home team but they all got stuck in and played their part.
And so on to the second half. Bill Holden had been with County for over a year and had never shown much form since his arrival but this was the day things would change. On 60 minutes he gathered the ball out on the right wing over fifty yards from goal beat two opponents on his way before slamming the ball past the keeper Baynham. The County fans were ecstatic and all the other things fans can be when their team score a wonder goal.
The game restarted once the exuberant youngsters had been cleared back over onto the terraces. There were still another 30 minutes to go and, after all, Luton as a good First Division team could be relied on to fight back. This they did and our lads stuck to their task of defending in numbers and managing to frustrate the Luton team. It was also good to see that they did this without resorting to rash tackles and fouls. In fact in the national press it was reported as being the cleanest cup-tie that that particular reporter had ever seen.
And so the game progressed. Luton switched their team round so they had a couple of their big defenders up front to try to get something from the game. But all to no avail. With six minutes to go Frank Clempson gathered the ball in his own half. A precision pass through to Arnold Jackson. He moves forward a few yards and a similar spot on pass out to Ken Finney on the wing who swiftly put the ball through to the unmarked Bill Holden who was so far clear of the opposition that he had time to have autographed the ball before banging it home. It was simple. It was sweet. It was football as it should be played. And it was our team that had done it. All I can say is “Wow!”
As the headline read in the next issue of the Stockport Advertiser “County, in Wolves Clothing , Lead Luton Sheep to Slaughter”. Yes it was certainly one of the best displays I have seen from County since I started going to Edgeley Park in 1937. And one that I will cherish.
Just as a matter of interest County finished the season in 9th position in the league and so were part of the inaugural new Third Division.