The Giant Killers

Subtitle

 

All time greatest F A cup giant killings

Number 81

 

Millwall 2-0 Bury

 Fourth round replay {last 32}: Thursday 4th February 1926

The Den, Cold Blow Lane, New Cross, London

Attendance: 32,115 

Scorers: George Chance {43}, Alf Moule {48}

Charlie Chaplin took his little tramp character to the Klondike in search of wealth but instead fell in love with saloon girl Georgia Hale in 'The Gold Rush'. Irish tenor, John McCormack had a worldwide hit with Irving Berlin's 'All Alone'. The last British soldier left Cologne while a square inch of New York's Broadway or Wall Street would set you back $7. 

On the south bank of the Thames at New Cross, third division Millwall, the name Athletic having been dropped last year, prepared for a fourth round cup replay with the surprise packets of the first division Bury after the two sides had fought out a ding dong battle at Gigg Lane, which had ended three apiece.

The Lions had developed a fearsome reputation as tough cup fighters in the early years of the century with their pre war upset of Chelsea in 1914 still fresh in the memory but it was the huge upset of Aston Villa in a memorable marathon tie in 1900 that remained the mother of all F A cup giant killing acts and the game which still ranked as probably the greatest day in the history of the club. So influential was that game that it created a new identity for the club itself as Millwall Athletic dropped their Dockers nickname to become the Lions, after being described as fighting like lions during the tie with Villa, and also took a new motto, 'We fear no foe'. Why should they? Foes didn't come any bigger than Aston Villa at the time.

That great day had been in the Isle of Dogs itself but the need for a new home had seen the club move south of the river and out of the area from where they took their name by the time of the Chelsea tie but the working class east end dockers who followed the club didn't desert them and many had returned from the war to continue following the Lions into the inevitable move towards League football when the Southern League became the third division in 1920.

Although officially called Cold Blow Lane, the new venue in the tough working class area of New Cross was nicknamed The Den and became notorious as a venue despised by visiting teams and fans alike for the intimidating atmosphere generated. Unsurprisingly few visiting teams were able to hold their nerve and win there as Millwall were able to string together an unbeaten record at home that stretched back over a season. When Plymouth Argyle broke it their players were stoned off the field and attacked by disgruntled home fans, placing Millwall in hot water with the Football League for the first time of many over the next eight decades.

Millwall's great home form had so far been unable to secure them the solitary promotion spot out of the southern section of the third division by 1925 and by February 1926 their present bid saw them hanging on the coat tails of the league leaders.

In the cup Millwall had already secured a minor upset when, after being held at home by second division Oldham, they won the replay at Boundary Park to set up the trip to Gigg Lane to face Bury.

The Shakers were unlikely title contenders, lying fifth in the top flight but with two games in hand that, if won could take them top of the league and possibly bring the League title to Gigg Lane for the first time. This was an impressive performance for a club that had been in the second division two seasons previously and contained no players that would have been considered household names outside of the town for whom they played.

Despite their status, Millwall, in contrast named a side that contained two England Internationals in an all English team with Len Graham, who had faced the Scots and Welsh the previous season, and Dick Hill, recently called up for his first cap for his country but aside from their two internationals their side was lacking in top flight experience and with five players over thirty was also considered to be an aging one with only another couple of seasons left in it before it would need to be rebuilt.

Many of the Isle of Dogs docks downed tools early on Thursday February 4th to enable over thirty thousand fans, including a small contingent of travelling Bury supporters to make their way to the Den to see this battle of two teams going into the game in great form. The home side hadn't lost in seven home starts, which included the cup defeat of Oldham and a seven goal drubbing of Luton in December while Bury had won all of their previous six road trips including five in the top flight but they arrived without their top scorer, Norman Bullock, who two decades on would lead out Leicester for the 1949 cup final but whose part in the 1926 cup run had ended when limping off at the end of the 3-3 draw at Gigg Lane. The Millwall fans let out the first cheer of the day when they saw Bury's take the field without their best player.

Bury kicked off in their traditional white shirts on a pitch that was in unusually good condition for the time of the season under clear skies but the early stages were frenetic with both defences happy to clear the ball from their respective danger areas with wild clearances that the forwards could only chase after in hope. The home side settled down more quickly though and Dick Parker saw his drive take the paintwork off Billy Richardson's crossbar with the Bury custodian able only to watch on to set the tone for the rest of a first half in which the home side were on the front foot. Richardson saved well from Gore and Parker while Alf Moule sent another effort inches wide of the Bury goal with Lansdale being well protected at the other end by Tilling and Hill who found the first division forwards toothless without their top scorer.

With half time rapidly approaching Millwall finally made the breakthrough when Andy Lincoln's cross was met with a spectacular overhead kick from George Chance which just crept over the line before Parker made certain, crashing the ball into the net to set the home fans into a round of cheering that hadn't died down when the half time whistle sounded.

Millwall again came out of the traps very quickly at the start of the second half with Andy Lincoln put in a position straight from the kick off where he looked certain to score only to put his shot wide but Bury's relief to still be in the tie was short lived as Millwall doubled their lead just three minutes into the second period.

Millwall were awarded a free kick in a dangerous position which Chance floated in to be met by Parker whose headed effort was pushed onto a post by Richardson before Alf Moule followed up to slam the rebound home.

Bury's hopes of saving themselves looked bleak, especially as they had yet to force Joe Lansdale into a save but he and his full backs did their fair share to earn Millwall's place in the fifth round in the remaining forty minutes of the tie as Bury suddenly came alive and poured forward.

Wally Amos now looked the most likely to force a fightback but he blazed wide when set up with a great chance and minutes later beat Lansdale only to see Millwall's local boy, Horace Tilling get back to head off the line but Lansdale too did his bit with three great saves from Ball, Stage and Porter, all in the space of ten minutes after the Shakers had conceded their second goal.

The sudden pressure and plethora of chances now falling to the visitors had the visiting fans feeling certain that the first division side would get back into the game but Millwall weathered the storm and as the final half hour progressed Bury's chances grew fewer and less clear cut, with the exception of a scorching long range effort from Ball that crashed back off Lansdale's crossbar.

Had it gone in then it could have set up a grandstand finish but with a quarter to four fast approaching the noise began to grow once again in the ground as the Millwall fans realised that Bury were a beaten team and needed only the final whistle to end their suffering. minutes later the whistle signalled the now familiar pitch invasion that had become tradition during such upsets with Millwall's heroes being chaired off the field as the white shirted title chasers vanished in the melee.

For Bury the rest of the season offered a brief flirtation with winning the title, which ultimately saw them finish fourth, a position they have never since equalled while for their conquerors came a fifth round battle with second division Swansea Town, which many Londoners saw as a formality on the road to the quarter finals. It wasn't to be though as Swansea came away with the only goal of the game to add another paragraph to their own exciting cup journey and leave Millwall with yet another failed bid for promotion

The Lions did finally win the third division south in 1928 and met Bury as equals the following season when the Shakers were relegated while left half, Alf Amos {below} would go on to be the memorable member of the side, being inducted into the Millwall hall of fame.

Millwall: 1:Joe Lansdale, 2:Horace Tilling, 3:Dick Hill, 4:Alf Amos, 5:Archie Gomm, 6:Len Graham, 7:George Chance, 8:Alf Moule, 9:Dick Parker, 10:Andy Lincoln, 11:Sid Gore {Manager: Robert Hunter}

Bury: 1:Billy Richardson, 2:Fred Heap, 3:Tom Adamson, 4:Jimmy Porter, 5:Tom 'Tiny' Bradshaw, 6:Bill Turner, 7:Cyril Matthews, 8:Billy Stage, 9:Wally Amos, 10:Jack Ball, 11:Joe Hughes

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