The Giant Killers

Every F A cup giant killing since 1888

All time greatest F A cup giant killings

Number 1

 

Oxford United 3-1 Blackburn Rovers

Fifth Round

Saturday February 15th 1964

Attendance: 21,700

Manor Ground, Oxford

Scorers: Tony Jones {13, 51}, Mick Ferguson {68}, Bill Calder {90}

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 Oxford United were the newest name in the Football League, quite literally. The club had been formed in 1893 as Headington, a later merger of two local clubs saw the addition of the name United before the club stepped up into senior Football, joining the Southern League in 1949. Ambitions were high at the tiny Manor Ground, which led to a change of name to Oxford United in 1960. Arthur Turner arrived as manager the previous year, having guided Birmingham to the cup final in 1956 and in his care the team won the Southern League title in 1962. It was perfect timing as they now stood to benefit from the misfortune of Accrington Stanley, whose financial difficulties created  space in the normally closed shop of the Football League.

Tony Jones, Peter Knight, Maurice Kyle, Pat Quartermain, John Shuker and Cyril Beavon formed the core of a team captained by a certain Ron Atkinson, a former Aston Villa junior, known to Oxford fans as the Tank. Turner’s main skill at the Manor Ground was to keep a settled team together and these seven were still first team regulars through Oxford’s first difficult season as a League club.

The squad was strengthened by the addition of Bill Calder, who had struggled to make just a few top flight appearances for Leicester in the late 50s before dropping down the divisions. Harry Fearnley spent a decade at Huddersfield, which included thirteen appearances for the side when they were relegated from the elite League in 1956 but the main addition was the signing of Arthur Longbottom in 1963 to become the club’s main goal threat.

With this team, Turner was able to build on their difficult first season with more stability and even a remote hope of a promotion campaign as they embarked on their cup run in November. Southern League duo, Folkestone and Kettering both fell 2-0 and 2-1 respectively at the Manor to provide a relatively trouble free path to round three where home advantage was again secured in an all Fourth Division tie with Chesterfield. The Us progressed with the only goal of the game to face tougher visitors in Third Division Brentford where the cup run looked like ending when the sides drew 2-2. Any critics of the ease of Oxford’s cup run to round five were silenced when they travelled to Griffin Park and secured the 2-1 win that earned them a crack at title chasing Blackburn.

Since promotion in 1958, Blackburn had rarely troubled the business end of the title race until this season when a good start was followed by a ten game unbeaten run from October, which took Rovers top of the League and saw them crush West Ham 8-2 on Boxing Day in London. That emphatic result rubber stamped ‘Jolly’ Jack Marshall’s team, dubbed Marshall’s misfits, as genuine title contenders but instantly the weight of expectation appeared to get to them as Rovers then lost the return match with West Ham two days later. It prompted a run of four games without a win that knocked them off the top spot in February, although cup wins over Second Division Grimsby and First Division Fulham broke up the poor run.

Rovers were back to winning ways and trying to get their title bid back on course when they arrived at the Manor Ground for their fifth round cup tie. Captain, Ronnie Clayton had been to two World cups with England as well as skippering the Rovers side that failed to do itself justice in the 1960 cup final. Another former England man, Bryan Douglas also survived from that side, along with John Bray and Republic of Ireland International, Mick McGrath. There were also young players with a bright future in the shape of Welsh International, Mike England and the, as yet uncapped Englishman, Fred Pickering. Mick Ferguson might have relished more than most the chance to sink Oxford. He was one of the players who had to find a new club when Accrington went out of business. And if Blackburn were going to win League, cup or even both, then Irishman, Andy McEvoy would be the biggest legend. On fifth round day he was English Football’s deadliest striker.

As the teams took the field, some seventy-seven League places separated the teams, a gulf that had never before been overcome by a minnow in the cup, never mind against a side riding so high in the game. Oxford too had never before witnessed such a big day in the cup and preparations at the Manor Ground included the erection of a temporary stand, allowing a record attendance of 21,700 fans to pack into the ground. That figure included a strong travelling contingent from Lancashire, riding on the crest of the greatest season they’d seen for half a century.

All the ingredients were in place for an over confident team to get complacent and when Oxford began robbing Rovers players of the ball in their own half the warning signs were there. They weren’t heeded and there were just thirteen minutes on the clock when Maurice Kyle got behind the defence and crossed into the six yard box. John Bray did enough to deny the stretching Bill Calder but succeeded only in laying on the ball on a plate for Tony Jones to slam home.

Jones had already proved himself more than capable against top flight opposition, having scored in away cup ties at both Leicester and Arsenal in recent seasons. Both goals proved mere consolations on those occasions but this time he’d given Oxford a lead they carried into the second half.

In their first attack, a lofted ball saw Calder and Jones yet again out think the Rovers defenders. Both were virtually left unmarked to allow the former time to nod the ball down for the latter to crash home a close range drive that gave Fred Else little hope of stopping.

Rovers needed to up a gear and to their credit they did, forcing Oxford back before Mick Ferguson was given the opportunity to drive through a crowd a give the title chasers hope and twenty-two minutes to save the tie.

Oxford neither panicked nor sat back to keep what they held and Blackburn were never able to commit fully to the all-out attack so common in cup fighting for fear of being caught on the Oxford counter. There were chances to level the tie but they were little more than glimpses of Harry Fearnley’s goal and the time ticked towards the final whistle with the small band of travelling Rovers fans in the Cuckoo End starting to resign themselves to humiliating defeat.

With time just about up there was one final opportunity but it was Oxford who took it. Pat Quartermain, who had tormented John Bray all day took him on and got the better of him one last time. His low cross evaded Walter Joyce and came through to Pat Calder, unmarked, who could hardly miss from barely six yards. A brief but friendly pitch invasion followed and was cleared to allow less than a minute of Football to be played before an outpouring of joy from the United fans signalled the final whistle.

The players were mobbed by delighted fans while Atkinson, the Tank, who had been a hero all day in keeping Rovers at bay, was chaired off the pitch. Marshall’s misfits returned to their League campaign, which fell apart in a disastrous run of seven games without a win and left them languishing in a remote final placing of seventh. Just two years later, Rovers were relegated.

Oxford meanwhile went into the quarter final hat with four elite clubs and three from the Second Division. A home tie with Preston North End was viewed as just about the most favourable draw the fans at the Manor could have expected.

A record crowd crammed into the tiny ground but Oxford’s giant killing abilities deserted them. Preston played with the form that made them serious Second Division promotion candidates and were deservedly two up at the break. For the first time in the cup run the Oxford players hadn’t risen to the occasion and could only improve in the second half. Tony Jones’ goal put the game on a knife edge in the closing stages with both sides threatening the goal that could force a replay or kill the tie off.

There was natural disappointment at the final whistle but it was short lived as a small band of pitch invading jubilant visiting fans were quickly joined by home fans keen to congratulate their side on the club’s greatest cup run. There must have been a great sense of lost opportunity when Monday’s semi-final draw revealed that Oxford would have avoided top flight opposition had they won as Preston were paired with Swansea.

In the League however, Oxford suffered and ended their campaign just two points above the need to go cap in hand to the League for re-election, though losing their place after such a magnificent cup run would have been highly unlikely.  

Things might have looked bleak for the Oxs when top scorer, Arthur Longbottom chose to move on to Third Division Colchester but instead the team kicked on, clinching promotion to the Third Division for the first time. Calder, Jones, Shuker, Kyle, Quartermaine and Beavon were all still in the side captained by Atkinson and managed by Turner and they cemented their place at that level before winning the Third Division title in 1968.

Bill Calder had moved on to Rochdale in 1966 but the other six players would all earn legendary status at the Manor Ground.

Pat Quartermaine was lured into non-League management in 1967 while Tony Jones, whose goals had been so crucial in the cup run and promotion campaigns, left at the end of the title winning season. Passing away at the age of just fifty-three in 1990. Maurice Kyle spent a season in the Second Division outfit but it was also time for him to move on before also dying young in 1981. Cyril Beavon also left the club after helping them to the second tier as manager, Arthur Turner stepped up into a general manager’s role.

Two of the club’s biggest stalwarts saw the club safely through their first few seasons in the second tier. John Shuker went on to set a club record for League appearances before he hung up his boots in 1977 to move into Non-League management. By then the only player to have played more games for Oxford than Shuker, including non-League, was now making his name as a manager at the highest level. Ron Atkinson was about to take on the role at West Bromwich Albion, with whom he almost won the First Division title. It earned him the chance to take charge of Manchester United where he steered the side to FA cup success in 1983 and ’85. Atkinson however was unable to end the club’s long wait for a League title and was fired, remaining in management at the highest level throughout the 1990s as well as becoming one of the most recognisable faces on TV. An ill judged comment, as a TV pundit in 2004, when he thought he was off air virtually ended his TV career amid accusations of racism, despite a great many black players who had played for Atkinson racing to his defence.

Oxford themselves would emerge once again as a major giant killing outfit in the early 1980s. This time around they kicked on further than their 1960s counterparts and reached the top flight in 1985, winning the League Cup the following year. Blackburn meanwhile watched on as a lower division side. This role reversal may have had some bearing as to why Oxford’s great cup win of 1964 seems to have been inexplicably forgotten.

Oxford: 1:Harry Fearnley, 2:Cyril Beavon, 3:Pat Quartermain, 4:Ron Atkinson, 5:Maurice Kyle, 6:John Shuker, 7:Peter Knight, 8:Arthur Longbottom, 9:Bill Calder, 10:Tony Jones, 11:Colin Harrington: Manager; Arthur Turner
 
Blackburn:1:Fred Else, 2:John Bray, 3:Walter Joyce, 4:Ronnie Clayton, 5:Mike England, 6:Mick McGrath, 7:Mick Ferguson, 8:Andy McEvoy, 9:Fred Pickering, 10:Bryan Douglas,  11:Mike Harrison: Manager; Jack Marshall