The Giant Killers

Every F A cup giant killing since 1888

All time greatest F A cup giant killings

Number 2

 

Colchester United 3-2 Leeds United
 
Fifth Round: Saturday February 13th 1971

Attendance: 16,000       

Scorers: Ray Crawford {18, 25}, Dave Simmons {55}, Norman Hunter, {60} Johnny Giles {73}     

Ranked at the time: 2

South Vietnam launches a United States' backed invasion of Laos, The UK, USA and USSR are among eighty-seven nations that sign a treaty outlawing the placement of nuclear weapons on the ocean floor, George Harrison's My Sweet Lord is top of the UK charts, Floods of tears pour out of cinemas everywhere as a dying Ali MacGraw spends her last days with her lover, Ryan O'Neill in Love Story, children are rushing home from school to see Timeslip and the banks are working overtime this weekend as the new decimal coin system is being launched on Monday

At Layer Road Dick Graham was picking his starting eleven for the biggest game in his career as a Football manager. He was going to send his Fourth Division Colchester United side out onto the same pitch as the mighty, treble chasing Leeds United. It was no contest. Indeed it was so little of a contest that at one stage, after the draw was made, some Colchester directors had even, albeit briefly, pondered the idea of switching the tie to Elland Road to maximize the money they could make from their almost certain defeat.

Such thoughts had quickly, and quite rightly, been dropped in favour of the magic of the cup and a grand day out for the 16,000 fans who would cram into Layer Road for the tie. The cup after all was where Colchester had made their name when they had beaten First Division Sunderland, when the U's had been a Non League side way back in the 1940s.

That memorable cup run had almost certainly led to their election to the Football League in 1949 and this season was their coming of age. Twenty-one years a Football League club, though never higher than the third tier. They had been relegated in 1969 and under Dick Graham were building an experienced side to try and make it back up into Division Three. So experienced in fact that the side had been dubbed 'Granddad’s army', a play on the popular Television comedy Dad's Army as Graham regularly fielded a side containing mostly players past their thirtieth birthday and in the twilight of their careers.

The most famous of Dick's veterans was striker, Ray Crawford who, at thirty-four was very much in the twilight of a career that had seen him finish top scorer in the Ipswich side that surprisingly won the title in 1962 under Alf Ramsey. Crawford himself went on to win two England caps and continued as a top flight marksmen throughout the 60s with Wolves and West Brom.

Club captain Bobby Cram had been a team mate of Crawford's at Albion and had played in the Baggie's two losing League cup final appearances in the previous decade. The Wearsider had put in over a decade of top flight Football at The Hawthornes before making the journey down the divisions to Layer Road.

The remainder of the over thirty brigade included Brian Hall [not the one of Liverpool fame], Brian Garvey, Graham Smith, Brian Gibbs and John Gilchrist. There were still two of the younger faction that had played at the highest level though as John Kurila had played a part in the crazy decade experienced by Northampton during the 1960s, joining them during their meteoric rise up the divisions and playing in their solitary season in the top flight before leaving again during their equally startling slump back down the leagues. Like Kurila, Brian Lewis had helped a team win their place in the top flight in the previous decade, in his case Coventry, staying at Highfield Road through their first season. At twenty-six, Mick Mahon was a comparative youngster to his team mates while the only player under twenty-five to take the field regularly was Dave Simmons, an F A Youth cup winner with Arsenal in 1966 who failed to progress to their first team and had moved down the Leagues in search of games.

Graham's charges made a sluggish start to the season but were soon on the fringes of the promotion hunt by the time Non League Ringmer were dealt with professionally to the tune of a Crawford hat-trick in a 3-0 first round cup win. Struggling Football League new boys Cambridge suffered an identical fate in round two, although the goals were shared around this time, before the third round draw dished up an away day at Non League Barnet. In a tie that neither side would have wanted but both would have seen as a great opportunity to progress. Mick Mahon scored the only goal of the game but the draw for round four yet again disappointed the U's faithful as a trip to Third Division Rochdale was offered.

It was perhaps a shame that this was naturally one of the fourth round ties relatively ignored by the media as it turned out to be one of the ties of the round as the two sides shared a six goal thriller. By the time the teams took the field for the replay, the prize couldn't be greater as they had been drawn to entertain League leaders, Leeds in round five. It must have come as a bitter disappointment to the travelling Rochdale fans when their team crumbled to a 5-0 mauling at the hands of the side a division below them. The eleven thousand bumper crowd at Layer Road celebrated more the prospect of the visit of the giants of Elland Road than they did the minor cupset.

A visit from the mighty Leeds at the turn of the seventies was just about as big a game as a Fourth Division side could wish for and they could also depend on the support of the whole nation too. In the six years since Leeds had emerged as a major Footballing force under Don Revie they had developed a reputation as a tough side who gave no quarter and asked none in return. Players and managers of other clubs began to label them as a dirty side. None more so than their biggest critic, Derby County's manager, Brian Clough, who, in his usual outspoken style declared that Leeds were nothing more than a team of cheats who hacked and fouled their way through games.

Despite these claims, Revie, a one time team mate of Dick Graham's in their Leicester City playing days of the late 1940s, Had built a fearsome machine of International players that could play a bit too. The press were convinced the tie was a foregone conclusion but Revie was uneasy. He was without his captain Billy Bremner and he had concerns over goalkeeper Gary Sprake's form. The Welsh International had gifted Liverpool victory in their previous match and while Revie publicly defended his custodian, in private Sprake was told that Saturday was his last chance. With Bremner absent, Mick Bates was the only member of the team Revie named that wasn't a full International while Eddie Gray would also miss the match, though Paul Madeley could hardly be considered a weak replacement. There was more concern on the eve of the game when striker Allan Clarke had taken ill and when checked over by a doctor was running a temperature of 106. A Taxi was booked to drive Rod Belfitt from Leeds to Colchester with no care at the expense, just in case Clarke couldn't play. Then again the rest of the Leeds team had been flown like superstars from Leeds to Southend. Footballing royalty had arrived.

Dick Graham's Colchester side warmed up for the tie with a routine League victory over Cambridge before he set about his plans to defeat Leeds. In the days leading up to the game Graham had chairs positioned at regular intervals around the pitch to give the impression that the field itself was even tighter than it actually was in a bid to put off the visitor's raiding wingers. He matched this with bullishness in the press, telling the media that Leeds might indeed win but not before they had been through one hell of a battle.

His talisman would be Crawford, who was reminded by the media of his good goal scoring record against Leeds and in particular his record of good performances when faced with United's famous Giraffe, aka World cup winner, Jack Charlton. The big centre half was less than impressed when reading that Crawford regarded him as his rabbit's foot, especially as this would be his first game after a lay off with a broken nose. Graham spent the morning of the game down by the banks of the Colne on what was a beautiful spring morning. He would later recall getting an overwhelming conviction that his underdogs would humble the mightiest side in the land.

Graham's conviction that Colchester would win was almost matched by Don Revie's growing pessimism about the game. Colchester were not rolling out the red carpet in the manner other lower division clubs had done for Leeds and Revie felt growing concern that it might just be one of those days. He naturally didn't verbally express this to his players but it may have been picked up as even the vastly experienced Norman Hunter got a bad feeling as he walked onto the Layer Road pitch. He turned to his England colleague, Charlton and suggested that if Leeds weren't fully up for this today they could be in trouble. And yet the conditions and pitch were exactly what a top flight side of the time would have wanted to ensure they could play their cultured style unhindered by bad weather.

Leeds started the game in their normal way. They were here to lord it over the minnows and put on a display for the locals and even Revie would later admit that in hindsight it was the wrong thing to do. They should have reverted to the dogged more physical side of their game that Colchester themselves would have been more used to. Revie would later feel that if his side had got down and dirty with Colchester from the off then they could have taken the game by the scruff off the neck and gained control before playing the cultured stuff later. Colchester's response to Leeds' slick passing style was to do what minnows have done from time immemorial. Get at them and not let them settle on the ball. It didn't make for pretty Football but it was effective in keeping the regal visitors in check. In true Dad's army style Leeds 'Didn't like it up em!'

Barely three minutes had gone when Clarke, still nowhere near fit enough to be on the pitch, sliced an effort wide from close range when the fans behind Smith's goal were already raising their hand to their heads expecting the opening goal. Colchester responded and began to have the better of the game. Their plan wasn't just to simply lash it up to the forwards though as they stunned Leeds with quick one touch passing attacks, the best of which put Mick Mahon in with a great chance only for Sprake to come racing off his line to push the shot away for a corner. 

No matter. Dick Graham knew his team’s best opportunities lay in set pieces and when they earned a free kick for a foul by Charlton in the eighteenth minute it gave Brian Lewis his first chance to test his manager's theory that Sprake was hesitant and vulnerable at crosses. Lewis drove the ball into the box exactly as he had imagined it. Not too close to Sprake but close enough to tempt him off his line. The Welsh International keeper was caught in no mans land as the ball sailed past him and despite there being four Leeds teammates in the six yard box it was Crawford who met the ball unchallenged to smash a rocket of a header between Reaney and Cooper into the net. Jack Charlton was a spectator a few yards away. Crawford's rabbit’s foot had failed to pick him up as had happened so often in past meetings.

 

{image below: Ray Crawford rises to thump home Colchester's opener while team mate John Kurila {6}looks on. Gary Sprake is the stranded keeper while Paul Reaney {2} and Terry Cooper guard the posts, Norman Hunter is unable to stop Crawford while Jack Charlton is left to realise that he has lost his man}

A nation of Football fans listened in disbelief when Radio Two's Saturday sports show gave the immortal words to its listeners "There's been a goal at Layer Road where Leeds are playing Colchester." which was followed by the commentator trying to be heard over the noise as he informed a stunned nation of the score. Now everyone outside Leeds was a Colchester fan, everyone prayed.

Those prayers may well have been just to keep the score as it was. So when Radio Two went back to Layer Road a few minutes later to report on another goal, those listening around the country sighed with resignation that Leeds had equalised. What actually was happening at the ground was complete pandemonium after Gilchrist and Cram combined to slot a good ball through to Brian Gibbs who resisted the temptation to run at Norman Hunter and instead lofted a ball towards the advancing Ray Crawford. The striker rose, under pressure from Paul Reaney and both came down in a crumpled heap. Gary Sprake responded to the danger and raced from his goal but it was too late. Crawford spun on the ground and hooked the ball goalwards, past the keeper, with just enough power for it to travel, almost in slow motion into the net off a post with Dave Simmons following up to make certain of the goal.

By now this was no fluke and Colchester, playing with a purpose well beyond their ability, drove at the shell shocked Leeds defence at every opportunity as further half chances fell to Crawford, Simmons and Gibbs before the break. Leeds were terribly out of sorts with Sprake, Charlton and Reaney standing out as the chief culprits in an awful display while Hunter, Giles and Clarke didn't have enough players around them playing well for their own performances to have an effect, which was especially high praise for the latter who came into the dressing room still in a desperately ill state.

As the players emerged for the second half, the entire nation could now listen on their radios to hear if The U's could hang on to their two goal lead. Hang on? No chance of that as Dick Graham sent his men out in the second half to finish the aristocrats off by playing exactly as they had done in the first and ten minutes in they increased their lead. Leeds had poured everyone into an attack which was cleared as far as Terry Cooper just inside the Colchester half. The England International turned straight into trouble as Crawford raced in to rob him and send Brain Lewis away on the wing. Lewis looked up to see Dave Simmons charging towards the Leeds penalty area with only Paul Reaney for company before lofting the ball towards him. A hesitant Reaney should have headed the ball out for a corner but instead allowed the ball to bounce and from that moment he and Leeds were in trouble. Sprake yet again sensed the danger and raced off his line but Simmons was now favourite to deal with the ball. Under pressure from the advancing keeper he need only make sure his header was on target and while it wasn't the cleanest of contacts it was enough to steer the ball past the now stranded Leeds number one and into the net.

As Ray Crawford ran to congratulate Simmons he would later confess to the justifiable feeling that Colchester had done it. Leeds were not coming back from three down and most of the fans in Layer Road would have agreed but there was still thirty-five minutes left on the clock.

Straight from the restart the game took a dramatic change. Leeds no longer had anything to lose, Colchester now suddenly were the team with the pressure of expectation on their shoulders. Both teams felt the effects as Leeds finally woke up and started passing the ball around with purpose as Colchester started to recoil back towards their keeper. Within a few minutes of the third goal, Peter Lorimer sent Mick Jones through but he fired wildly wide of Smiths goal. It was a warning shot to signify Leeds' arrival in the match. A minute later and this time Paul Madeley had his sights on goal only for his shot to be charged down just as he was about to pull the trigger, the ball spinning away for a corner. With nothing to defend any more, Leeds sent everyone bar Sprake into the box and it paid dividends when Hunter rose highest to head the visitors back into the game.

Half an hour to go and Leeds now had to find two goals but the whole ground was now filled with a sense of foreboding that all Colchester's good work in that first hour could now be ripped apart. Leeds were a wounded animal and as such, now at their most dangerous. The sluggish edge to their game was gone, they were finding each other with their passes and they were tearing Colchester apart. Gilchrist and Garvey now had to work overtime to throw themselves literally on the line to block Jones and Giles from getting any clear efforts at Smith's goal. Hall and Cram suddenly found themselves being twisted and turned inside out as Madeley and Lorimer remembered that they were among the best wingers in Europe. Gibbs and Lewis were increasingly becoming spectators on the wing as the defence were no longer able to get the ball out to them and Crawford and Mahon had to abandon any attacking hopes to help their overworked defenders. Even Kurila and Simmons, who had been involved in a ding dong midfield battle with Hunter and Clarke now found themselves being overwhelmed as the Leeds men now had the support they had lacked for an hour.

Sprake was now little more than a cheerleader to his team mates as they pounded Smith's goal until finally, with a full eighteen minutes still left on the clock, the visitors struck again. Cooper launched the ball forward but the Colchester defence couldn't clear the danger before Jones and Giles combined for the latter to drive the ball past Smith. Colchester fans concerns now bordered on panic. Leeds were on full throttle and most top flight teams wouldn't hold out against eighteen minutes of their best Football, never mind a Fourth Division outfit of rapidly tiring players. There were also millions more listening to the BBC commentary that had become Colchester fans for the day now performing every conceivable superstitious act to will the underdogs over the finish line.

The ball hardly crossed the half way line and when it did, no blue shirt got anywhere near it until it was whipped back into the Colchester penalty area. The one thing keeping the Colchester players going was the support of the crowd urging them on to the point where Crawford felt almost as if the crowd themselves were blowing the ball away from the goal on occasion. All the while the Leeds players could feel the time draining away as Don Revie roared from the touchline, nine minutes......seven minutes........five minutes.....

Norman Hunter was by now convinced Leeds would score again and save the tie and the golden chance to do so came with four minutes remaining. Yet another long clearance was tidied up by Reaney who moved unchallenged into the Colchester half. The ball was slid out to Lorimer who easily rode the challenge of Hall before making for the byline and drilling the ball into the box to be met by Jones who would surely score from barely five yards out. Perhaps the ball came to him too quickly but Jones was only able to steer the ball goalwards and then watch in horror as Smith showed excellent reflexes to not only keep the ball out but hold it. BBC commentator David Coleman gushed that if Colchester could now hang on for the final four minutes then the keeper deserved some sort of medal for getting them there while a relieved Smith was congratulated as if he had scored by his defenders.

Leeds kept the high tempo up to the last but no better chance to level the tie came their way and it was perhaps ironic that the ball was in their half when the referee blew for time. All eyes turned to Dick Graham as he came onto the field to praise his heroes before being mobbed himself by the delighted fans. The Leeds players took their defeat with the grace that the best Footballers do while Don Revie told an almost disbelieving media that he could not account for the reason why his players hadn't been on the field for the first hour but credited Colchester's performance as a good a reason as any. Dick Graham too praised the vanquished opponents saying that he had never seen a team play as well as Leeds in that final half hour. Unknown to everyone, including Allan Clarke was the fact that the ill Leeds man had played a full match while suffering from Pleurisy, a fact only confided to him by Revie on the team bus going home. 

The masses couldn't care less how well Leeds had played for any part of the game. The most hated but respected team in the land had been beaten fair and square by a Fourth Division team and better still for the fans of the other quarter finalists it gave a feeling that the 1971 F A cup was now a wide open affair. The Colchester players watched that evening's Match of the Day broadcast in a packed local pub where they had been celebrating since the early evening but even watching the events over again on the Television didn't make it sink in and many of the players had to read and reread the Sunday papers before they could finally stop pinching themselves.

Monday brought decimalisation but few cared in Colchester. Instead everyone had to get beside a radio to hear the draw for the quarter finals of the cup at lunchtime. Colchester's was the last ball to be drawn, paired to travel to Everton. The draw brought a mix of excitement and disappointment as Colchester had so desperately wanted another home tie but could hardly have any complaint at a crack at the reigning League Champions, even if they were something of a shadow of the previous season's team. Perhaps the Merseysiders were offended by Colchester taking the field in an all red Liverpoolesque kit but Everton took no prisoners and were four goals to the good by half time before taking their foot off the gas in a second half where a fifth goal was added. The Colchester players received warm applause at the end from an Everton crowd not only delighted to be through to the semi finals but also mightily grateful that Colchester had saved them the concern of having to beat Leeds to get there.

For Don Revie's mighty Leeds there would be a more controversial end to their title challenge. Having topped the table for most of the season, they lost a crucial game 1-2 against West Bromwich Albion after Tony Brown had been instructed to play on long after the Leeds players had stopped for an offside flag correctly over ruled by the referee. Albion scored from the resulting move and the violence that resulted not only saw Leeds miss out on the title by a point to Arsenal but they were also forced to play their early season home games the following season away from Elland Road. They failed to win any of them in a season where they yet again missed out on the title by a point. They did have the scant consolation of lifting the Inter City Fairs Cup in May and when the F A Cup came around again in 1972 they were in no mood for any Colchester style errors, going all the way to Wembley where they lifted the trophy for the first time with eight of the eleven that played at Layer Road.

Colchester finished the season missing out on promotion by just two points but in truth promotion had always only been a long shot; the gap closing at the end largely due to the fourth promoted team dropping points after promotion was secured. However The U's position as one of the two top scoring teams in the Division not to get promoted qualified them for a relatively new and short lived pre season competition sponsored by the famous brewery, Watneys, along with the two top scorers in the other three divisions not to qualify for Europe or gain promotion. Despite being a pre season event it was taken surprisingly seriously by all who entered so it was all the more surprising when Colchester not only got to the final but held First Division West Bromwich Albion to a 4-4 draw at Albion's ground, in front of a packed crowd, before winning the trophy via a penalty shoot-out.

Hopes of promotion in 1972 were sky high at the start of the season but The U's struggled to find consistency and finished in mid table. With his team now starting to break up, Dick Graham and a Colchester shareholder entered into a dispute, which saw the manager walk away from the club early the following season. The team struggled under their new player manager, Jim Smith and required re-election at the end of the season, although Smith kept his job and rewarded the club's faith in him by securing promotion in 1974.

Few of Dick Graham's dad's army were at Layer Road to celebrate that achievement however. Goalkeeper Graham Smith so impressed West Bromwich Albion in the Watney Cup Final that the First Division club paid £11,000 for his services shortly afterwards. It wasn't a great time at The Hawthornes though and Smith made twelve appearances for a side that were ultimately relegated.

When Brian Hall retired from the game he went on to run a sports shop with team mate Ray Crawford for a time. He passed away in 2002.

Club captain Bobby Cram got the pleasure of lifting the Watney Cup at the expense of his former Albion team mates. In later years he tried his hand in the newly growing Soccer craze in Canada where he died in 2007. Cram was the uncle of Olympic silver medal middle distance runner, Steve Cram.

John Gilchrist spent the remainder of his career in the lower divisions and it came as a great shock to all at Colchester when news came that he had died relatively young in 1991.

Like Cram, Brian Garvey also left the UK for pastures new, in his case, Australia, where he continued to work as a coach before his retirement. After his playing days, John Kurila went back to the scene of his First Division days, moving into the building trade in Northampton.

Brian Lewis was another who sadly passed away relatively young in 1998 while Dave Simmons also died too soon after a long battle with cancer in 2007.

Mick Mahon is probably better remembered by U's fans for a screaming goal he scored in the Watney Cup Final. He was voted player of the year in their re-election season but decided not to stay, moving to Wimbledon. In 1975 Mick carved himself even more giant killing folklore when he scored the winning goal for the Non League Dons when they became the first Non League side, since the creation of the Third and Fourth Divisions to win at a top flight club in the cup. When his playing days were over Mick returned to Colchester where he taught as a P.E. teacher at a school just around the corner from Layer Road. 

Ray Crawford's stay at Layer Road was quite a brief one in the measure of his career, though he is probably remembered better for that glorious swan song in 1971 than for his goal scoring exploits to win a title with Ipswich a decade earlier. Ray went on to become a regular summariser on local radio at Portsmouth games and occasionally at his old Ipswich stomping ground.

Dick Graham was the first non playing manager of Colchester to be inducted into their hall of fame in 2007 and was still regularly asked and reminded of the day he plotted the downfall of mighty Leeds right up until his death, aged ninety in 2013.

When Leeds next visited Layer Road in 2007 the finger of fate had conspired to make Colchester the stronger side as the U's were in the top half of the second tier facing bottom placed Leeds in a League game. A year later Layer Road closed it's turnstiles for the last time as the club moved out to a new home fit for 21st Century Football. Housing now stands where Brian Simmons and Ray Crawford once embraced and said to each other, we've only gone and beaten Leeds. 
 
Colchester: 1:Graham Smith, 2:Brian Hall, 3:Bobby Cram, 4:John Gilchrist, 5:Brian Garvey, 6:John Kurila, 7:Brian Lewis, 8:Dave Simmons, 9:Mick Mahon, 10:Ray Crawford, 11: Brian Gibbs
 
Leeds:1:Gary Sprake, 2:Paul Reaney, 3:Terry Cooper, 4:Mick Bates, 5:Jack Charlton, 6:Norman Hunter, 7:Peter Lorimer, 8:Allan Clarke, 9:Mick Jones, 10:Johnny Giles, 11:Paul Madeley