Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Memorable Midlands season 1953-54 - Part six

Posted by Tony Hutton


SATURDAY 27TH FEBRUARY 1954

LEAGUE DIVISION ONE AT MOLINEUX, WOLVERHAMPTON

WOVES 3 (Broadbent, Wilshaw, Slater) NEWCASTLE UNITED 2 (Milburn, Broadis)

Williams; Stuart, Shorthouse; Slater, Wright (capt), Chatham;
Hancocks, Broadbent, Swinbourne, Mullen;

Simpson; Cowell, McMichael (capt); Stokoe, Brennan, Casey;
Foulkes, Broadis, Milburn, Hannah, Mitchell;

Referee:- F. Thurnam, Preston

It was raining when play began, but Wolves soon got into their stride and scored with a marvellous, though lucky, goal by Peter Broadbent. Williams threw the ball to Hancocks who push it to Broadbent standing just inside his own half. He promptly set off at speed straight for goal. The defence opened up to mark for a pass, which did not come. Broadbent was not tackled until inside the penalty area, he stumbled but the ball bounced off Brennan back to Broadbent who evaded Cowell's tackle and hit the ball into the net to Simpson's left.

Broadbent nearly got another when Simpson fumbled Hancocks' centre. Broadis missed a good chance for United when Shorthouse dispossessed him when he had a clear shot at goal. Then Williams dived at the inside forward's feet. Wright stopped Milburn with ease before Hancocks forced a corner on the left. Mullen hit it all along the ground, Broadbent missed it, but Wilshaw hit it into the roof of the net.

Cowell managed to hit the ball away off the line from Hancocks and Swinbourne whose energy was troubling Brennan went close on several occasions. Stuart playing only his second game at right back was doing quite well. Stokoe was warned by the referee following a tackle on Swinbourne and after Wilshaw had headed wide, Cowell charged Swinbourne in the back when heading the ball. The referee took Cowell's name and Swinbourne went off injured just before the interval. Half-time 2-0.

Swinbourne's injury meant that he had to hold his right arm to his side during the second half. Broadbent went down the left to take Mullen'spass and Swinbourne beautifully flicked it for goal but Ronnie Simpson made the save of the match by touching it over. Milburn got in a grand header but Williams saved well. Following a Foulkes corner Milburn screwed the ball home from close range and Newcastle began to pile on the pressure.

                                                  Bobby Mitchell challenged by Ray Chatham

Then from a free kick by Alf McMichael, Broadis ran through and after a scramble ran the ball into the net, much to Newcastle's delight, especially Stokoe. 2-2 and all to play for. Wolves would not rest on this, they forced a corner and Slater ran in to head a goal from Hancocks' cross, knocking himself out in the process.This goal won Wolves two precious points and Slater, when he came round, must have been very pleased with his second match as a professional after playing as an amateur for all of his career to date.

Newcastle tried a final rush, with Broadis and Stokoe dashing in on Williams and the enthusiastic Stokoe ended up entangled in the goal net. The Wolves defence were annoyed with this show of aggression. With the home crowd enraged by this incident Williams took the resulting free kick and sent it straight into touch, at which point the referee blew for time. Newcastle had seeral good ball players in Casey, Broadis and Mitchell in particular, but with Milburn bottled up by Billy Wright they had no real punch in front of goal.

(Wolves were locked in a battle for the First Division title with their near neighbours West Bromwich Albion and this narrow victory was vital for them to keep in the race, but Albion were also going for the league and cup double and were involved in a quarter final tie the following week).

SATURDAY 13TH MARCH 1954

F.A. CUP SIXTH ROUND AT THE HAWTHORNS, WEST BROMWICH

WEST BROMWICH ALBION 3 (Nicholls 2, Barlow) TOTTENHAM HOTSPURS 0

Heath; Rickaby, Millard (capt); Dudley, Dugdale, Barlow;
Griffin, Ryan, Allen, Nicholls, Lee;

Ditchburn; Ramsey, Willis; Nicholson, Clarke, Burgess (capt);
Walters, Bennett, Duquieman, Bailey, Robb;

Referee:- Arthur Ellis, Halifax

Albion, top of the league and bidding for the coveted league and cup double, were a little off top form recently, this prompted critics to tip Spurs, now only a shadow of the great team of three years ago. Ron Burgess, now reaching the end of his great career and hoping to win a cup medal, started well by winning the toss and making Albion face a strong cross wind.

Frank Griffin, who greatly improved his play recently, was soon in evidence on the right wing with two good centres. Rickaby with a grand interception and pass through the middle had Harry Clarke hastily passing back to goalkeeper Ted Ditchburn. Ramsey kicked the ball away from Lee, when the winger was about to shoot and at the other end Eddie Bailey cleverly took a return pass from George Robb but shot wide.
Barlow got in a great run for Albion but his final shot was deflected and Ditchburn saved from Ronnie Allen

After seventeen minutes Albion scored a grand goal. Allen., continually wandering, gained possession on the left, midway inside Spurs half. Nicholson came across to challenge and with Clarke static on the edge of the area, Nicholls ran into position behind him for Allen to cross a wonderful ball which 'Johnny on the spot' Nicholls crashed into the net.


After another Griffin run and shot over, Allen put Ryan in a wonderful position just to the right of goal. He sent in a ground shot but Ditchburn dived full length to save. Then in a Spurs breakaway Rob had Heath diving too late with a grand shot which pass a yard wide. Back to the other end again with a goalmouth scramble. With Ditchburn on the floor Griffin shot through but Alf Ramsey appeared to block the shot on the line. Ditchburn had to receive attention after this effort but was able to resume.

Albion's defence made the stopping of Tottenham's attacks look easy, Rickaby and Barlow were outstanding. Heath ran outside his area to tackle Bennett who beat him, but Nicholls was in the right spot again to put the ball into touch. Nicholson was a little slow in clearing when 'hurricane' Allen arrived and from fully thirty yards hit the ball just inches over the bar. Rickaby joined in the attack and again Ditchburn had to go down to save.


Griffin again got in several splendid runs, how he has improved. After rather a shaky start Dugdale had settled down to play Duquieman out of the game and as far as Spurs' right flank was concerned they might as well have stopped at home. Half time 1-0.

Four minutes after the interval Nicholls was brought down on the edge of the area, Spurs put up rather a half-hearted barrier and after some dispute as to who should take it, Ray Barlow stepped up and slammed it past the well beaten goalkeeper into the corner of the net. There was no stopping this Albion football machine now and after sixty seven minutes Barlow put a beautiful long pass to Lee, who could beat Ramsey for seed whenever he liked. Lee put over a grand centre and there he was again! Johnny Nicholls with a flashing header into the corner of the net. Nicholls nearly got another when he beat Ditchburn in a race for the ball, which struck the goalkeeper's body and Griffin running in hit it over the bar.


Dugdale went off for five minutes following a crack on the head and Ditchburn saved well again from Nicholls. Summing up this wonderful performance you feel Albion should win both Cup and League with this great side. As for Spurs what a change, Nicholson and Ramsey are now far too slow and Burgess only shows flashes of his former brilliance. Bailey and Robb are the only reminders of what Spurs were once like. Clarke stuck to his defensive job well, but Allen (and Nicholls) were Albion's match winners.


MONDAY 22ND MARCH, 1954

FRIENDLY MATCH AT MOLINEUX, WOLVERHAMPTON

WOLVES YOUTH TEAM 4 (Mason 2, Murray, Bonson) ENGLAND UNDER 18s 1 (Rucker)

Sidebottom; Griffiths, Harris; Bolton, Timmins (capt), Fallon;
Round, Mason, Bonson, Murray, Cooper;

Cakebread (Middx); Platts (Leics & Rutland), Hillsdon (Liverpool); Campbell (Liverpool -capt), Higgs (Stafffs), Osmond (Hants); Wootton (Essex), Jones (Sheffield & Hallam), Minton (Staffs), Gregory (Bedford), Rucker (Manchester);

Referee:- Mr W. Ratcliffe, Leek

Both teams took time to settle down under the floodlights, but it was soon obvious that Wolves had the better team. Their hard tackling and high kicking defence stopped the clever England forwards. Wolves best forward was little Len Cooper, but he saw little of the ball in the first half, while Round on the other flank couldn't do anything right. Bonson had many tussles with the powerful Higgs, a competent centre half. Left back Hillsdon and 6ft 2 ins. Platts did well against early Wolves raids and goalkeeper Cakebread dealt effectively with Wolves few shot. Two minutes before half time Bonson broke through on the left, his shot from close range was deflected and Mason from the right hand corner of the area put everything he had behind his shot which flew into the far top corner of the net. Half time 1-0.

Within ten minutes of the resumption Mason scored again, with the goalkeeper on the floor following a miss by Bonson. Quarter of an hour later inside left Murray shot a good goal and then after seventy three minutes Harris made a run upfield and put the ball at Bonson's feet. The centre forward turned and swerved round Higgs and from just outside the are cracked the ball into the corner of the net.

Gregory, England's inside left, had hurt his leg when challenging Sidebottom. He went to outside left with Rucker moving inside, where he scored from close range when Minton headed down Platt's free kick.


SATURDAY 27TH MARCH 1954

FA CUP SEMI-FINAL AT VILLA PARK, BIRMINGHAM             Attendance 68,221

WEST BROMWICH ALBION  2 (Dudley, Allen pen) PORT VALE 1 (Leake)

Heath; Rickaby, Millard; Dudley, Dugdale, Barlow;
Griffin, Ryan, Allen, Nicholls, Lee;

King; Turner, Potts; Mullard, Cheadle, Sproson;
Askey, Leake, Hayward, Tomkinson, Cunliffe; 

This was a game I didn't see as for once I had been unable to obtain a ticket such was the demand from both sets of supporters for this Staffordshire derby between hot favourites West Bromwich Albion and giantkillers Port Vale from the Third Division North.

The following report from the Stoke Sentinal was re-printed on the 60th anniversary of the game in 2014.

Vale had stunned the nation. Not only had the Third Division (North) leaders from the Potteries dumped holders Blackpool out of the FA Cup, they had then beaten Leyton Orient to claim a place in the semi-finals. It was a virtually unheard of achievement. Only Milwall in 1937 had done likewise. The only question now was could they win one more game to take their place in the final at Wembley Stadium.


It would not be an easy task but that had not bothered the plucky Valiants before. They were having a superb season. They had already beaten two top flight teams in Cardiff City and Stanley Matthews' Blackpool in the cup and were five points clear in the Third Division (North) having conceded just 17 goals in 41 games. Winston Churchill may have coined the phrase 'Iron Curtain' but the Vale defence became known as the 'Steele Curtain', named after their manager Freddie Steele.

But that defence was likely to be tested as never before in the semi-final, where Vale's opponents were First Division leader West Bromwich Albion. The game was to be played at Villa Park, and Vale were allocated 25,000 tickets. Such was the interest that up to 40,000 fans turned up
for a reserve game at Vale Park the week before in a bid to buy tickets, bringing Burslem to a standstill with enormous queues not seen before or since.

Up to 30,000 supporters had passed through the turnstiles by the time the 'sold out' signs went up at 2.30 p.m., making it technically the biggest gate of the season ....although only 2,000 stayed to watch the reserves play Mossley. Some of those who failed to get a ticket immediately set off for Birmingham, as the next day they were on general sale at West Brom and Villa Park.


                                           Port Vale come out to a great reception.

And so it was that more than 100 coaches and 14 special trains eventually made the trip to Villa Park for the semi-final tie on March 27th 1954. There was huge anticipation as the game got underway in front of 68,221 supporters, and Vale proved they were not overawed when they won the first corner.
Vale keeper Ray King turned away a 20 yard effort from Ronnie Allen as West Brom hit back, but Vale almost scored on 29 minutes when Norman Heath made a desperate save to keep out a Tomkinson header.

The breakthrough came on 40 minutes, and it was Vale who got the goal they had been threatening from the off. Cunliffe put the ball into the Albion goalmouth and after a hectic scramble Albert Leake succeeded in forcing it into the net. It was his seventh FA Cup goal of the season - he had scored in every round bar one - and it send the thousands of Vale fans in Villa Park crazy. 

The second half began in end to end fashion but there were no clear cut chances until the 62nd minute when Jimmy Dudley sent a long, high ball into the middle. It was to be a hammer blow for the Valiants. Tommy Cheadle, who was being bustled by Allen, just about grazed the ball with his head and it dropped into the goalmouth and rolled into the corner of the Vale net after catching King unawares. At 1-1, a replay at Stoke City's Victoria Ground was a possibility, but the Baggies were now scenting blood.


                                              Jimmy Dudley's equalising goal for Albion

Allen had already hit a post when Albion winger George Lee escaped from Stan Turner in the 70th minute and powered towards the Vale goal. Cheadle was in pursuit, and both men crashed to the ground near the edge of the Vale penalty area. Cheadle was left on his back outside the area, while Lee stumbled to the ground inside the box, but Burslem hearts were shattered as the referee pointed to the spot.

Vale skipper Cheadle, who died in 1993 aged 74, would later recall ' I wouldn't say the penalty decision wasn't a foul, but it definitely wasn't in the area.' It was left to Fenton-born Ronnie Allen, a former Vale player sold to West Brom for a club record £20,000 in 1950, to take the penalty. He made no mistake, and Vale were behind for the first time since the first round of the competition.


Five minutes before the end Cunliffe went close with a drive that went just wide, and a minute later Leake actually had the ball in the West Brom net, but was given offside. So near, yet so far. Allen, whose ticket allocation included one for his father, a staunch Vale supporter, said taking the decisive penalty was the most nerve wracking moment of his career.

Colin Askey, who was one of only three survivors (all in their eighties) of the team still alive when this article was reprinted was still convinced that the penalty offence was outside the area and that TV replays confirmed this. He was also devastated when after putting Leake through to score what the Vale players thought was an equaliser, the goal was disallowed just before the end.


So an epic FA cup semi-final. Port Vale felt they were robbed but Albion went to Wembley and beat Preston North End in the final to take the Cup.








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