The Giant Killers

Every F A cup giant killing since 1888

All time greatest F A cup giant killings

Number 11

 

Burnley 0-2 Swindon Town

Third Round 

Saturday January 10th 1948

Turf Moor, Burnley

Attendance:34,229

Scorers: Jackie Dryden {2}, Maurice Owen {40}

Ranked at the time:1

The Railway was Nationalised into British Rail, Burma gained it's Independence from Britain, Warner Brothers showed their first colour newsreel in cinemas across the USA, Humphrey Bogart portrayed a prospector driven mad by a gold strike in 'The Treasure of the Sierra Madre', The BBC launched its 'Television Newsreel' and Vaughan Munroe had a hit with 'Ballerina'   

Up at Birkdale golf course the players of Swindon Town were having a relaxing round of golf as they prepared for the trip to Turf Moor the following day in the third round of the F A cup. Earlier that day however the team had gone through the finer details of manager, Louis Page's master plan to defeat Burnley. Page was himself a former hero of Turf Moor in the late twenties and was a Burnley player the last time Swindon had visited in the cup, when the Robins secured a draw and went on to win the reply. That highly dramatic cup tie almost twenty years earlier was still fresh in the memories of those who witnessed it and the stories of how the Robins had blown a three goal lead at Turf Moor and then had to come from two goals down at the County ground were widely recalled in the pubs of Wiltshire the night before the game.

Page took over as Swindon's manager at the end of the war and built a team that put in a good attempt at promotion the previous season but made a terrible start to the current campaign. The Robins didn't record a victory until their tenth attempt in September, which kick started an improvement in form that put them comfortably in mid table at the turn of the year.

The stalwarts of Page's side were Don Emery and Billy Lucas, who had both been with the club when war broke out nine years earlier. The rest of the side joined the club at the end of the war, most notably goalkeeper, Frank Boulton who won the title while at Arsenal before the hosilities. Jimmy Bain also gained some top flight experience before the war while his understudy,Teddy Maguire was a beaten cup finalist and League runner up with Wolves in the year before the cup was suspended. Harry Kaye was the only other member of the side who had played in the top flight, making two appearances in the Liverpool side that won the title the previous season.

The remainder spent the war guesting among various clubs before most had been brought to the club by Page. Albert Young spent the war years at Arsenal but there was no place for him in the post war side. Jimmy Ithell came to the County Ground from Bolton on the promise of available housing while Maurice Owen and Jackie Dryden also joined the club in the two years since League Football resumed. Page added to his squad during the season when Morris Jones had been persuaded to join the club from fellow Third Division side, Port Vale in November.

With the exception of the injured Bains and the inclusion of the reserve, Eddie Painter, this was the team that gathered for training at Southport's Haig Avenue ground to hear Louis Page's plan to beat his former club.

Burnley came out of the blocks at the end of the war flying. Gaining promotion and reaching the cup final the previous season before taking the top flight by storm this term. The Clarets were managed by Cliff Britton and his team turned Turf Moor into a fortress, conceding just seven goals all season during a serious tilt at the title. They were lying second in the table behind Arsenal but went through a poor Christmas, suffering consecutive defeats, the second a drubbing at Manchester United, that formed part of a run of three games without a win going into the cup. Britton told the press that when it came to the visit of Swindon, he wasn't counting his chickens. Though, with his clarets tipped as 10/1 second favourites to lift the cup in April, most pundits saw it as a traditional airing of respect towards the minnow before putting them to the sword on the field. Britton's side contained eight of the team that walked out at Wembley nine months earlier, although one notable absentee was Peter Kippax, the amateur who was in dispute with the club and had not turned up when selected for a League game at Christmas. Britton's entirely English eleven contained no real stars of the game as individuals but as a unit they became a star team and defeat was unconsidered outside Swindon.

While watching Burnley, Louis Page believed he had found flaws in the machine and schooled his team well in countering Burnley's threat. In an era where defensive player's simply had a role to thump the ball up the field at every opportunity, Page instructed them instead to play the ball out of their own defence and through the congested middle of the pitch, rather than out to the wings. His wingers meanwhile were instructed to play more infield with the centre forward lying deep. The Swindon boss felt that Burnley's full backs enjoyed bombing forward, specially from throw ins and that if Swindon took advantage of this and doubled up on the backs and moved their entire forward line into the middle it would leave Burnley badly exposed in defence. The downside would be to completely surrender the wings to the top flight outfit, in which circumstance Page asked his wingers to constantly track back and help out the full backs. It would be a stamina sapping plan that, if successful would see every outfield Burnley player doubled up on when in posession.

For the Swindon fans planning to make the journey to Burnley it might also be a stamina sapping day as the government told them that the buses laid on for the trip would not be allowed to travel so far under the emergency fuel economy regulations in place. A last minute change of heart came too late as the bus companies had already made alternative plans for their buses, leaving thousands of Robin's fans to make a laborious train journey to Lancashire.

They arrived in good voice to take their place among the 34,000 cup tie crowd, reserving a special cheer for their heroes as they emerged in their traditional red shirts instead of the change strip of blue, suggested by the referee on the morning of the game. It wasn't long before their cheering was given reason.

With just two minutes on the clock the ball broke to Dryden who had the freedom of Turf Moor on Swindon's right wing to race towards goal, letting go with a crashing drive before Woodruff and Attwell were able to close him down. Strong was never getting near, the ball as it cruised past him on its journey into the top corner of the Burnley net. The only great disappointment for Dryden as he turned to meet the congratulations of his teams mates was that the newsreel cameras were not there to capture the event.

Few in the Burnley faithful worried too much at this stage. Perhaps, if anything, they felt Swindon had maybe scored too early and with Burnley now fully awakened from any dreams of a reasonably easy day out, they would kick into gear and salvage the game. The biteback wasn't forthcoming and as the half wore on the Burnley players could feel the gasps of exasperation as each attack broke down before troubling Boulton. The Swindon tactics were working as the Burnley players found themselves with no time on the ball going forward while their backs were being outnumbered each time Swindon came forward.

Particularly noticeable was that centre forward, Maurice Owen was staying deep to avoid being isolated from his team mates and this was causing Burnley all sorts of problems as Swindon counter attacked in numbers. Conversely Burnley tried to attack on the wings where they simply just kept getting crowded out. In short, a red shirt was first to everything and Burnley were second best. 

Concern turned to panic five minutes before the interval. Strong appeared to be favourite to win a long ball before Maurice Owen but the keeper somehow managed to take an age gathering the ball. Owen nipped it from him and, with both players on the ground, he was able to swivel and hook the ball goalwards. Strong looked goalwards for his confirmation, refwards for an infringement he knew wasn't coming, skywards in the realisation he'd made a mistake and finally downwards in the wish that he could be swallowed up for a moment. Owen was already taking the congrulations of his team mates for a goal he should never have been allowed the chance to score.

Burnley achieved little in the five minutes of the half that remained before departing to conduct a half time inquest and plot a way back into the tie. Louis Page was under no illusions that the job was only half done and one optimistic Claret's fan was heard to quip "Aye, they were three up last time and it weren't enough."

The optimism among the Burnley support increased with their team's approach to the second half. For the first time in the game they began to look like a First Division outfit, not least because of a switch in the forward line. Ray Harrison, who had been a largely forlorn figure in the first half, moved to the wing where he instantly began to cause problems while Jack Hays moved into centre forward, where he was soon aquainting himself with keeper, Boulton. The Swindon keeper was busier in the first ten minutes of the half than throughout the entire first period as the noise among the home crowd rose, anticipating that the breakthrough goal was surely coming. Gone now was Swindon's master plan and while the players themselves were holding up and not tiring, they couldn't stop the growing pressure on their goal. The effective clearances that had worked so well in the first half had given way to just getting the ball clear. it was exactly what Page had feared could happen if Burnley were allowed to get a grip on the game.

The breakthrough came twenty minutes into the second period when the referee pointed to the spot and Harry Potts was tasked with the responsibility of turning the tie. His penalty was perhaps not struck as cleanly as he may have hoped and gave Boulton enough for the keeper to effect a save and hold the ball to prevent any chance of a goal coming from the rebound. Potts placed his head in his hands, the crowd groaned and one or two Burnley heads went down, as if resigned that the big chance to save the tie was gone. 

It was also as good as a goal for Swindon who were able to reestablish control of the game against a team for whom the wind seemed to have been knocked out of their sails. The game began to fizzle out as a contest and the Swindon fans felt comfortable enough to start celebrating victory long before the end. Many of their Burnley counterparts preferred the idea of being first in the queue at the chip shop or pub to remaining for a last gasp fightback and were heading for the Turf Moor exits as the game moved into the final ten minutes. Burnley too were heading for the cup exit that nobody could have predicted beforehand. Never before had a team so high in standing fallen on their own field to a team so lowly. It was indeed the biggest upsetting of the odds that the F A cup had ever seen. 

The majority of the Burnley support remained to see the dying embers and gave the Swindon players the reception their performance deserved at the final whistle while Louis Page was given the highest compliment the Burnley directors could offer when being told that Swindon were the best side the Clarets had entertained at Turf Moor this season. 

Page's master plan had worked, although Boulton's second half penalty save had been the turning point that gave the swindon players the momentum they needed to get over the finish line. Now it was back to the Birkdale Hotel to celebrate. 

3,000 people gathered at Swindon station to greet the team home, though they perhaps found it a little disappointing that all bar four of the team were able to make their way home without the need to call at Swindon station. Louis Page was also there to accept the reception of the local dignitaries who hailed the victory as the best moment in Swindon since their heady cup days before World War One when they twice reached the semi finals. Page was quick to give the credit to his keeper, Frank Boulton who in turn thanked everyone present on behalf of the whole team. 

Next up came Monday lunchtime and the draw for round four and a home pairing with fellow Third Division side Notts County. Normally those involved at Swindon would have been disappointed with such a draw but this time they were excited. Since County's League visit in October they shocked English Football by securing the services of Tommy Lawton when he was still among the best centre forwards in the First Division and an England regular.

Over 27,000 fans packed into the County Ground on fourth round day to see Lawton largely kept under wraps by the same Swindon eleven that performed so well at Burnley with victory secured by the only goal of the game from Billy Lucas.

There were mixed emotions in Swindon when the fifth round draw paired them with a trip to Second Division Southampton. No home tie and no First Division opponent either at a stage where a Third Division club could have at least expected the latter. Saints were right in the mix of the Division Two promotion race and the Gods ensured that the fates were on their side as a Jimmy Ithell own goal helped them to a comfortable 3-0 victory. 

With the cup run at an end, Swindon's players returned to the bread and butter of League Football as the final months of the season saw them drift from relative comfort dangerously towards the re-election zone. Four consecutive defeats at the end of the season left them just two points clear of needing to go to the Football League to ask to retain their place as a member. Burnley's season ended with them having never been able to reduce a six point gap to eventual Champions Arsenal and even being pipped for the runners up spot by Manchester United on goal average. Manager, Cliff Britton would be tempted away to Everton at the end of the season and Burnley would not make another title bid for over a decade.

Times at Swindon became tough for Louis Page in the years that followed as the board were either unwilling or unable to back him in his ambition to get the Robins into Division Two. Page's best players were often sold to balance the books and life became a regular struggle in the lower reaches of Division Three before the cup run hero was axed in 1953. The unfortunate coach took the job at Third Division North side Chester but life there was even tougher and after surviving three consecutive re-elections to the League, he left management, taking up a role as a scout for Leicester before dying in 1959 aged just 60. 

By the time Page was asked to leave in 1953 most of his team had already moved on. Billy Lucas was first to depart, being signed by Swansea before the season was over, helping them to promotion to the Second Division. Don Emery departed for Scottish Football at the end of the season, where he remained for the rest of his career, while Jackie Dryden also moved on, in his case south to Leyton Orient. By 1953 the rest of the team had either joined other lower division clubs or retired with the exception of Maurice Owen.

Perhaps the most talented player in the team, Owen was twice told that a fee had been agreed for him to join other clubs but twice he told the Swindon board that he didn't want to leave. His place as a fan favourite cemented his resolve not to leave the County Ground and even when Portsmouth and Wolves both offered him the chance to join them in sides that were competiting for League and cup, he still refused. He later claimed that playing in the First Division would have been nice but he just couldn't bear to leave The Robins. Even when Owen hung up his boots in 1963, having finally helped the club achieve promotion to the Second Division, He remained as a coach and later groundsman at the County Ground into the 1980s. He passed away in 2000. 

Burnley: 1:Jimmy Strong, 2:Arthur Woodruff, 3:Harry Mather, 4:Reg Attwell, 5:Alan Brown, 6:George Bray, 7:Jack Billingham, 8;Harry Potts, 9:Ray Harrison, 10:Jackie Knight, 11:Jack Hays Manager:Cliff Britton

Town: 1:Frank Boulton, 2:Albert Young, 3:Don Emery, 4:Harry Kaye, 5:Jimmy Ithell, 6:Eddie Painter, 7:Jackie Dryden, 8:Billy Lucas, 9:Maurice Owen, 10: Morris Jones, 11:Teddy Maguire Manager:Louis Page