40th anniversary of Ipswich Town’s FA Cup win: Stuart Watson’s cup final match report from Wembley
PUBLISHED: 06:00 05 May 2018
On the 40th anniversary of Ipswich Town’s famous FA Cup Final win over Arsenal this weekend, chief football writer Stuart Watson pens a match report on the game with a modern twist.
When Pat Jennings’ flying body, elastic arm and shovel hand somehow denied George Burley’s thumping close-range header deep into the second half the initial instinct was to laugh. Just how were Ipswich Town not in front?
Then fear quickly took over as the over-riding emotion. Perhaps the footballing gods were simply not on the Blues’ side.
Town had rattled the woodwook three times – Paul Mariner firing against the bar from close-range early on, with John Wark rifling against the left-hand post with carbon copy strikes from the edge of the box after the restart.
Jennings had also pushed David Geddis’ dipping shot around the post and tipped Kevin Beattie’s towering header over the bar.
Then, finally, the breakthrough came in the 77th minute of a pulsating final that must go down as one of the best.
Geddis darted to the byline and delivered a dangerous low cross. The backpedalling Willie Young could only stick out a foot and divert the ball back into danger. Then, as time seemed to slow, Roger Osborne fired into the bottom corner.
When the final whistle eventually sounded there was a mixture of sheer joy and relief. No doubt about it, this was as comprehensive a 1-0 win as you are likely to see.
This was not in the script.
The Blues came into this game off the back of a 6-1 thrashing at Aston Villa. They’d just finished 18th following an injury-hit and below-par Division One campaign. The bookies made them 3-1 shots.
Bobby Robson’s men were meant to be just enjoying their big day out at Wembley – the club’s first-ever outing beneath the Twin Towers – following an emotional semi-final triumph against West Brom at Highbury.
Arsenal had Irish magician Liam Brady in midfield and the barrel-chested England international Malcolm Macdonald up front. Their considered, energy-efficient passing game was said to be better suited to the expansive, rain-soaked pitch than Town’s all-action approach. They were the team less likely to be over-awed by the occasion. They were even wearing their ‘lucky’ yellow and blue strip.
How wrong all the pundits were. Ipswich played like a team possessed from the first minute to the last.
Unlikely but fitting hero
Scoring proved to be Osborne’s final act. After hitting the back of the net he promptly fainted and, after being brought back around by smelling salts, was replaced by Mick Lambert. It was as if he’d even surprised himself.
Osborne is used to being the unsung hero after all. His job was to shackle pass-master Liam Brady just as he had done with Barcelona’s Johan Cruyff last November.
It looked like he may not even be picked last week. And now his is the name forever written in folklore. You couldn’t pick a more popular match-winner.
This is the man from a family of 12 who was playing for Grundisburgh in the Suffolk & Ipswich League little more than six years ago. Afterwards he was proudly telling reporters that he was from Otley (one wrongly assumed he meant the better known town in Yorkshire).
How fitting that a proper Suffolk boy gave the people of Suffolk such joy.
Built from the back
Kevin Beattie and Allan Hunter were pumped with injections pre-match and both full earned their cigarettes on the post-match lap of honour.
The central defensive duo – dubbed ‘eggs and bacon’ by Robson – were imperious. Full-backs George Burley and Mick Mills were equally unbeatable.
On the rare occasions Arsenal had half a look at goal the door was quickly slammed shut.
Robson deserves huge credit for devising the game-plan which left the Gunners firing blanks.
Abandoning the two up top system favoured for much of the season, he pushed Geddis out to the right in order to keep marauding left-back Sammy Nelson pinned back. It worked a treat.
Woods, out on the opposite flank, was given the freedom to drift. Paul Mariner constantly dropped deep to knit play. Town’s defenders pushed their team-mates up the pitch.
Arsenal were faced so many defensive conundrums that they never once were able to focus on their own attacking play.
1) Paul Cooper: Little to do. Crucial stop at feet of Sunderland in second half – 8
2) George Burley: Barely put a foot wrong. Bombed on. Denied by super Jennings save – 9
5) Allan Hunter: Passed fit on day. Early crunching tackle on Macdonald set tone – 9
6) Kevin Beattie: Read the game superbly. Won all his duels. Towering header tipped over – 9
3) Mick Mills (cpt): Captain fantastic was calmness personified. Nothing got by him – 9
7) Roger Osborne: Shackled Brady then popped up as unlikely goal hero. Promptly fainted – 9
8) John Wark: Rattled post twice after a quiet first half. Typically box-to-box – 8
4) Brian Talbot: Non-stop running. Kept finding reserves of energy – 8
10) David Geddis: Tricky teenager’s dart and cross led to deadlock finally being broken – 8
9) Paul Mariner: Roughed up defenders, dropped deep, a menace throughout. Hit bar – 9
11) Clive Woods: Mesmerising skill. Constantly on the move. Terrorised Rice – 10
Man of the match - Clive Woods
Experienced winger had the game of his life on the biggest stage of all. Primarily on the left, but drifted all over the pitch – especially in the frenetic opening exchanges..
Ball stuck to his foot like glue and he consistently spun on a sixpence, jinking this way and that, to leave defenders dazzled.