The Giant Killers

Subtitle

 

All time greatest F A cup giant killings

Number 53

 Mansfield Town 3-0 West Ham United

Fifth Round

Wednesday February 26th 1969

Field Mill, Mansfield

Attendance:21,117

Scorers: Dudley Roberts 22, Ray Keeley 37, Nick Sharkey 49

Ranked at the time:19

Pop Stars Lulu and Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees married, The Beatles gave their final public performance from the roof of Apple records in London, The gritty French political thriller 'Z', starring Jean-Louis Trintingnant opened at cinemas, The second series of 'Callan' starring Edward Woodward was on ITV and  Amen Corner were top of the charts with '(If Paradise Is) Half As Nice'

 

Mansfield Town should have started the 1968/69 season in the Fourth Division after manager, Tommy Eggleston’s rebuilding of the team largely backfired. Only an illegal payments scandal at Peterborough save the Field Mill club when the Posh were given a points deduction that ensured their relegation and Mansfield’s unlikely reprieve.

As a player, Eggleston was on the fringes of Derby’s 1946 cup winning side before moving into coaching in the 50s at Sheffield Wednesday, where he first teamed up with Harry Catterick. Eggleston followed Catterick to Everton to be on the coaching staff while that club won the title in 1963 and the cup three years later. The following year Eggleston took the next step, arriving at Field Mill for his first management appointment and set about completely rebuilding the team.

The club paid £7,000 for the veteran, Johnny Quigley, whose goal took Nottingham Forest to the 1959 cup final on the way to winning the trophy. Keeper, Dave Hollins started the decade in the top flight at Newcastle and went on to be capped by Wales. Nick Sharkey was playing his Football down the road from Hollins at Sunderland, helping the Rokerites into the top flight before also playing at the highest level for Leicester. Bob Ledger started out at Huddersfield, scoring in their famous 6-7 defeat to Charlton in a game they led 5-1 with twenty-eight minutes to play, but it was after a long career at Oldham that he joined Eggleston’s experienced side. The last member of his former top flight quintet was Jimmy Goodfellow who was a member of the Leicester side that lost the 1965 League cup final. Sandy Pate, Mick Hopkinson and Dudley Roberts were all signed from lower division rivals while Eggleston also found a promising youngster, Stuart Boam in his reserve team.  

The season started well with three wins in their first four games before a dreadful run of just one victory in twelve games from September to November saw the club plummet into a relegation battle yet again. A First round cup tie with Northern League Tow Law Town was the last thing the doctor ordered on the back of that form. Mansfield had been humiliated by the same opponents in the First Round twelve months earlier. This time around the Stags took revenge and moved on to beat divisional rivals Rotherham in a Second Round replay before pulling off a surprise victory over Second Division Sheffield United in round three. The potential banana skin of Fourth Division Southend was overcome in round four, though only after the Stags had fallen a goal behind before turning the game in their favour in a tie Eggleston had to admit they were lucky to win. Finally, the fifth round draw gave them the pay day of a game against high flying First Division West Ham. They went into the tie lying outside the relegation zone only on goal average.

Ever since 1966, The Hammers were often informally referred to as the World Cup winners, having provided England with Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters for the greatest day in English Football history. The East Londoners had never seen such a good side in claret and blue as they lifted the FA cup for the first time in 1964 and followed that with success in the 1965 European cup winner’s cup. Aside from the World cup trio there was duel trophy winner, Ronnie Boyce, John Sissons from the ’64 side, Bobby Howe, who was part of the West Ham side that lost the 1966 League cup final and former Scottish national goalkeeper, Bobby Ferguson, who journeyed south after winning the title in his homeland with Kilmarnock. Hammer’s manager Ron Greenwood combined this experience with the promising youth of players like Trevor Brooking, Billy Bonds and Harry Redknapp and in the early stages of the season they threatened a title bid before more consistent sides left them behind.

Five times the Hammers prepared to make the trip to the East Midlands and five times they got word back to say the game was off. When they did finally board the bus they did so on the back of a run of not having won in the league in seven games, dropping them down to seventh in the process. Their poor form was diluted a little by the two cup wins over Second Division clubs that earned them the trip to Field Mill.

The postponements, midweek kick off and the snow still lying on the streets of the Nottinghamshire mill town all served to make up the minds of a fair number of West Ham fans who chose not to make the journey, some having already made at least one wasted journey for the five postponements. Liverpool manager, Bill Shankly wasn’t so easily put off, the Scotsman taking his seat among the 21,000 crowd to see what his side could face in the quarter finals if they got the better of Leicester in their all First Division fifth round tie, which was also falling foul of the weather, to the point it was now scheduled for the coming weekend when the other quarter finals would be played.

The pitch had been heavily rolled and equally heavily sanded to make it as playable as possible and while in a terrible state by modern standards, it was no worse than some First Division pitches the Hammers found themselves playing on although the worsening condition on the pitches over winter might have been a factor in their current poor league form.

In the first fifteen minutes West Ham seemed to cope okay with the conditions. They started well and Harry Redknapp should have given them an early lead when put through on goal, only to fire wildly off target, sending the ball sailing out of the tiny ground in the process. Minutes later it was Geoff Hurst’s turn as he burst through but also blazed wide with the goal at his mercy. Their early rhythm was disturbed when Jim Lindsay went down clutching his ankle in the thirteenth minute and had to be replaced by Boyce. More noticeable was the way the pitch was starting to cut up really badly underfoot. West Ham’s passing game began to suffer as a result while Mansfield’s more direct approach started to pay dividends.

With twenty-two minutes gone, West Ham’s wasteful start was punished in excellent fashion as Goodfellow, Ledger and Sharkey combined well to carve the First Division defence apart and lay on a perfect ball for Dudley Roberts to tap home from close range.

{image left- Dudley Roberts [10] can't miss after a great move has carved West Ham up}

Disjointed and a goal down, the last thing West Ham needed was a dose of dodgy keeper but the usually sound Ferguson gifted Mansfield the opportunity to double their lead seven minutes before the break. Goodfellow’s cross was easily too close to the big Scot who inexplicably elected to punch clear rather than take the sensible option of catch and kill the ball. Ferguson’s punch wasn’t good enough but still had to be finished in fantastic style by a snap left foot volley from Ray Kelley.

West Ham’s urgency to get something back before the break increased and their best chance came to Brooking who burst through a pack of Mansfield boots, being stopped only by a last gasp challenge as he was about to lash a drive at Hollin’s goal. It served as a good warning that the team of this calibre are not dead at two goals down, a sentiment echoed by Liverpool’s Shankly at half time as he tipped the Hammers to turn the tie around in the second half.

Surprisingly it was Mansfield who started the second half on the front foot, forcing two corners, the second of which was cleared before Boam sent Mansfield back on the attack with Sharkey. He beat Stephenson to the challenge but the ball burst free to the advancing keeper. Yet again Ferguson offered the Stags a gift, diving almost over, rather than on top of the ball. Sharkey was rewarded for his anticipation, snatching the loose ball and stroking it home to signal wild scenes of celebration.

The body language of the West Ham players spoke volumes and showed they knew they were a beaten team and while they continued to work hard to at least restore some pride, it was Mansfield who should actually have gone on and increased their lead. Penalty appeals were waved away when Stephenson appeared to have felled Roberts while Ferguson redeemed himself with an excellent sprawling save to deny Sharkey his second goal. Several other half chances also came and went in front of a delirious home crowd. Bobby Moore came closest to finding some consolation when his header beat Hollins but clipped the bar while Bonds summed up the visitor’s frustrations with a nasty foul on Hopkinson.

The scene to sum up the entire evening was that of a flushed and muddied Bobby Moore running for the tunnel at the final whistle. A world champion and former Footballer of the year and a true star of the English game surrounded by youngsters but all of them running past him as if he were an unknown Third Division player, the object of their attentions were the men who two hours before had mostly been just that.

Tommy Eggleston was quick to put the result into perspective saying “I knew we were going to win once we got the second. We’re so desperate for [league] points, I won’t be able to take time off for the Leicester vs Liverpool match on Saturday.”

Ron Greenwood left the silence of the West Ham dressing room and placed no blame on his keeper “You can’t grumble if you miss chances as we did in the first half. We didn’t play badly so Mansfield must have played very well indeed.” Greenwood’s side ended the season in eighth place in the First Division.

Keeper, Dave Hollins would later say “I spoke with one of their [West Ham] players years later and he confessed that they didn’t fancy it even before they got off the bus. That was part of it. We had an excellent tactician in Tommy Eggleston and we were all surprised when he told our striker, Neil Sharkey to mark Bobby Moore. It was a masterstroke because everything West Ham did came from Moore and Neil gave him no time.”  [image below- Eggleston's heroes quickly become a favourite for press calls in the days after the victory.]

Bill Shankley’s journey proved to be for nothing when his Liverpool team lost their tie against Leicester in a replay, meaning it was the Foxes who would make the short trip to face the Stags a week after the other semi-finalists had been decided. Mansfield already knew they would face cup holders West Bromwich Albion should they pull off another shock, much to the disappointment of Dave Hollins whose brother, John was in the Chelsea side Albion knocked out the previous weekend.

 Tommy Eggleston exclaimed after the West Ham game that Mansfield could be the first team to go to Wembley from the Third Division and while much of this might have been just the excitement of the evening, they certainly gave Leicester a scare.

Their opponents fielded a young Peter Shilton in goal and he showed the calibre of keeper he was to become with a flawless display on what the journalist, Geoffrey Green described as glutinous swamp. At the other end the game was won when Hollins was left to regret not having worn a cap when he lost a cross in the sun and Rodney Fern headed the only goal. Mansfield’s cup run was over, having become only the fourth side in history to knock out teams from five different divisions.

Tommy Eggleston now faced the prospect of getting his team through a punishing eighteen league games in three months to save their status. The Stags were in the drop zone with four games remaining but had the insurance that most of their rivals had completed their league programme already. They needed to win one game but instead found a turn of form to win three and finish the season in fifteenth, three points above the drop.

Despite another close shave with relegation, Mansfield kept faith in Eggleston, though his team stayed gloriously inconsistent, steering clear of any real relegation dangers and ending with a solid top half finish while again forging another good cup run that ended with a defeat by the mighty Leeds. A lucrative deal in Greece saw Eggleston leave that year before he took a complete change of direction by becoming a physio, teaming up with Bobby Robson’s Ipswich side that won the cup in 1978.  He retired from the game in the late 80s, passing away in 2004.

In the same way that most of the team was assembled by Eggleston in 1967/8 they departed just as quickly after he left in 1970. Keeper Dave Hollins had already gone by then, having been loaned to Nottingham Forest when their own first choice keeper was injured. He later went on to become a painter and decorator.

John Quigley had been expected to replace Eggleston as manager but when he didn’t get the job he was let go, moving on to coaching in the Middle East during the early 70s. He later returned and continued to coach in Nottingham and like Eggleston, also passed away in 2004.

Neil Sharkey, Bob Ledger and Mick Hopkinson all also let the club in 1970 with Sharkey going to Hartlepool before later setting up a car show room with Colin Todd. After a further career as a fruit machine retailer both he and Ledger, who moved into non-league Football, passed away in 2015.

Stuart Boam was establishing himself as a player destined for bigger things and in 1971 Middlesbrough came in with £50,000 for his services, which served them well throughout the 70s in the top flight. Boam later returned to Field Mill for an unsuccessful spell as manager in 1981.

Dudley Roberts remained a favourite until 1974 when he left for Scunthorpe but it was Sandy Pate who would achieve the highest status of the men who sank West Ham, sticking with the club through relegation to the Fourth Division, promotion back to the Third and then being the only member of the ’69 team still at the club for the greatest season in their history when Mansfield won promotion to Division Two in 1977. Today the Scotsman has a bar at the ground named in his honour.


Town:  1:Dave Hollins, 2:Sandy Pate, 3:Mick Hopkinson, 4:Johnny Quigley, 5:Stuart Boam, 6:Phil Waller, 7:Ray Keeley, 8:Nick Sharkey, 9:Bob Ledger, 10: Dudley Roberts, 11:Jimmy Goodfellow
 
United:  1:Bobby Ferguson, 2:Billy Bonds, 3:Bobby Howe, 4:Martin Peters, 5:Alan Stephenson, 6:Bobby Moore, 7:Harry Redknapp, 8:Jimmy Lindsay {replaced by 12:Ronnie Boyce-13}, 9:Trevor Brooking, 10:Geoff Hurst, 11:John Sissons

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