County`s Cup Warriors- Part 2 by Des Hinks.
Fifty years ago, County, rooted to the bottom of Division Four, embarked on an FA Cup run that captured the hearts of the nation.
Today, our special four-part series looks back at the games against Grimsby Town and Bristol Rovers.
The epic journey began with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over then non-League outfit, Wigan Athletic, a victory that earned the Hatters another home tie, against Grimsby Town.
However, seven days before the game against the Mariners, Edgeley Park was stunned when news broke that their star inside-forward, John Nibloe( seen in action far right above in the last game prior to his death), had been tragically killed in a car accident on the Woodhead Pass whilst returning to his home in Sheffield following County’s 2-0 defeat at Newport.
|Player Manager Trevor Porteous.|
Devastated player-manager Trevor Porteous said, “It is hard to find words to explain the pain the sorrow and upset we all feel. John proved himself a favourite on the field, as our most consistent forward, and off field with his personality, character and cheerful charm. He gave everything he had to the club.”
A little over a day before the Cup-tie, the whole Edgeley Park staff attended John’s funeral where his teammates, Graham Beighton, Frank Beaumont, Ian Sandiford, Ken Mulhearn, John Collins and Peter Phoenix carried his coffin.
So, it was hardly surprising that County were more than a little subdued against a far superior Grimsby side when the game unfolded.
|County stand in tribute to John Nibloe before the match !|
Although still goalless, the Third Division leaders were in total control when fate played its hand. Five minutes into the second half a thick, swirling fog descended upon Edgeley Park and the game was abandoned.
|County Chairman-Vic Bernard.|
Before the rearranged game, 48-hours later, Director, Vic Bernard made a passionate plea to the players. “John was so excited about this game,” he said. “We’ve got to win it for John, he would have wanted it.”
And play for John the County team did that cold Monday night.
In a super-charged atmosphere, the Hatters gave what a national reporter described as, “one of the greatest displays of spirit and determination I have ever seen.”
Another reported: “Grimsby were up against three enemies … a devastating wind, a team playing well above themselves and an emotionally-charged crowd that must have been worth an extra player.”
The inimitable Tom Turton, reporting for the Stockport Advertiser, wrote: “If the reward had been a home match with Manchester United or Everton in the next round, Stockport County could not have produced any greater effort than that which swept Grimsby Town back into the North Sea of FA Cup oblivion on Monday night.
“This was the blood and sweat after the TEARS. This was a triumph of teamwork. This was the night when eleven men in County colours gave a new significance to the term team spirit.”
For the record, the only goal of the unforgettable game came on 29 minutes when Frank Beaumont set up Derek Hodgkinson, who saw his shot on the turn take a deflection to beat Mariner’s ‘keeper Charlie Wright.
Hodgkinson was wearing the Number 10 shirt worn by John Nibloe at Newport, just hours before his tragic death.
County’s ‘reward’ for their lung-bursting effort in beating Grimsby was an away tie at Bristol Rovers who, by then, had taken over from the Mariners at the top of Division Three!
Although Rovers were red-hot favourites they were shocked when they emerged from the tunnel to hear the vociferous cry of, ‘When The Whites Go Marching In’ echoing around Eastville
Thousands of County fans, complete with black & white banners, flags, scarves and trumpets, had made the long journey – and they were in no mood to go home defeated!
And those magnificent fans were rewarded when, once again, the Lilywhites upset the formbook by battling tenaciously for a goalless draw.
A delighted Porteous said: “County played it ever so well. We made the Rovers forwards shoot from ridiculous situations, and behind us Kenny Mulhearn was absolutely brilliant.
“Ken has only been with us for a few weeks after signing on a free transfer from Everton.
“For a lad who is just 18 he gave a quite magnificent performance.”
At the end of the game hundreds of travelling County fans celebrated the goalless draw, which earned the Hatters a replay, by chairing Trevor shoulder high off the Eastville pitch.
Little did they realise that the most-magnificent, action-packed and emotional game Edgeley Park has ever witnessed was a matter of just 48 hours away.
To be continued ...