The Giant Killers

Every F A cup slaying since 1888

All time greatest F A Cup Giant Killings
No 7

Harlow Town



1-0



Leicester City

Image right. Copyright Historical Football Kits and reproduced by kind permission.

Third Round Replay [Last 64]


Tuesday January 8th 1980


Attendance: 9,783


Harlow Sports Centre, Harlow


Scorer: John MacKenzie {42}

  • US President Carter issues a $1.8 billion bailout to troubled car maker, Chrysler.
  • British Steel workers go on strike for the first timer in over half a century in search of a 20% pay rise.
  • Dennis Christopher and Dennis Quaid were enjoying break through roles in the coming of age comedy. Breaking Away at the cinemas.
  • Simon Cadell and Paul Shane were starring in the debut of a new, holiday camp based comedy, Hi Di Hi.
  • Pink Floyd were topping the charts with Another Brick in The Wall.

Harlow Town were riding high, having celebrated their centenary year in 1979, with promotion to the top flight of the Isthmian League. For the first seventy five years of their existence they’d been content in the depths of the amateur game but, after the war, their star began to rise, moving into the London League before spells in the Athenian and Delphenian Leagues.


With the club’s rise through the amateur and semi professional ranks beginning to stutter as their centenary approached, they turned to former England Amateur International keeper, Ian Wolstenholme to get the team back on track. The young manager had enjoyed a brief career in the Football League before securing an honoured place in Enfield’s history with a last minute penalty save in the Amateur cup final, which earn his side a victorious replay.

Having cut his managerial teeth at Bishop Stortford, PE teacher, Wolstenholme arrived at Harlow in 1975 and instantly set about building a side capable of gaining promotion, which meant that four years later only Ray Wickenden would remain at the club of the players he inherited. Wolstenholme began periodically returning to his old Bishop’s Stortford haunt to secure the services of goalkeeper, Paul Kitson, defender, Tony Gough and then, most tellingly, the goal scoring fire power of Peter Twigg and John MacKenzie. Twigg would be the club top scorer in their centenary promotion season, scoring a club record double hat-trick in one eight goal mauling. Vic Clarke arrived at the start of the promotion season to complete a quintet of players from the Bishops.


Added to that was Fred Flack from Epping, Peter Adnams from Biggleswade and Micky Mann, a former West Ham youth teamer. Only former Doncaster Rovers reserve, Roy Austin and Ipswich reserve, Alan Jones had any Football League experience, but it was Harlow’s own youth ranks that produced arguably the star player of the team as Neil Prosser was attracting the attention of the scouts from the Football League. If Harlow weren’t the strongest team in the division in 1979, they could certainly put a good case for being the best educated. Aside from Wolstenholme, five of this regular starting eleven earned their living in the classrooms of the local comprehensives.


Harlow were now technically among the elite of Non-League Football, but the Isthmian League had turned down any involvement in the creation of a new national division for the top semi pro teams, stating it had no wish to become a feeder league to anything other than the Football League. Despite hopes they would remain a peer of the new Alliance Premier League, it was clear from the start of the new season that they weren’t. it mattered little to Harlow at this stage anyway as Wolstenholme’s side needed to concentrate on just staying in their new division as opposed to winning it.

The Owl’s F A cup run started in August with four qualifying rounds against teams from the lower divisions of the Isthmian league and its feeder, the Eastern Counties League. Lowestoft were seen off in a tight encounter by the odd goal in three with Prosser and Jones on the scoresheet. Peter Twigg joined Jones on the cup goal trail with a brace against Hornchurch. Another nail biting encounter was played out at their Sports Centre home against Bury Town, where Graham Parker and John MacKenzie got the goals in a 2-1 victory while it needed an own goal to settle their next round tie with Harwich & Parkeston.


It wasn’t until the fourth qualifying round that Harlow faced a task that placed them in the underdog category against Alliance Premier League side, Margate Town. By this stage the Isthmian League 

Harlow Town 1979/80

clubs had been left in no uncertain terms that they were now considered inferior by the Football League’s decision that only teams from the new division could apply for Football League status. Harlow struck a blow for the old League with a 1-0 win, secured by a Peter Admans’ goal, and a debut in the First-Round proper of the cup.

To the surprise and perhaps a little disappointment of everyone at Harlow, they were paired with Leytonstone & Ilford, the leaders of the Isthmian league Second Division. A third 2-1 victory of the cup run was secured with Twigg netting his third goal of the run before yet another school teacher, Paul Fairclough, grabbed the winner. Finally, Harlow were now given their first crack at a league club when paired with struggling Third Division Southend United, breaking a sequence of four consecutive home ties.


Despite their lowly position, Southend were a decent cup side and had given mighty Liverpool a real test in the previous year’s contest. Harlow’s cup run looked to be over as they trailed at half time but Neil Prosser levelled early in the second half to force a replay that delivered cup fever to the town. Harlow’s Sports Centre was a nice location, used in the 60s by both Benfica and the Uruguay World cup squad, but its suitability for staging a cup tie was in question. The police immediately advised that no more than 5,000 be allowed to attend, prompting a suggestion the tie might be switched to Tottenham or Leyton Orient’s League grounds. Harlow’s management announced they would stay loyal to their fans and remain at the Sports Centre, which was promptly overwhelmed by over 1,000 fans clamouring for tickets.


While most of the 5,000 watched from grass bankings, one of the fortunate few to get a seat in the stand was Tottenham and England International, Glenn Hoddle who’d never played for Harlow but was a local lad and still lived nearby. Southend arrived in confident mode, their manager quipped before the game that his side would be more relaxed away from home. Perhaps they were a little too relaxed when a defensive blunder midway through the second half gifted Micky Mann the only goal of the game. Southend were stunned, leaving the Sports Centre in a hurry and without a word to the press while Harlow celebrated the greatest night in their history and a trip to Second Division promotion chasers, Leicester City in round three.

The fans of Filbert Street could never know what to expect from their team in recent seasons. They spent most of the 70s battling relegation from the top flight then, just as they started to look like a team about to challenge for honours, went and got relegated in 1978. Worse still that they then almost sank straight through the Second Division the following season. Jock Wallace was lured south from a hugely successful spell as boss of Rangers to steady the ship.


By the turn of 1980 he was doing better than that. Leicester were pushing hard for promotion and sat fourth in the Second Division, failing to score in the league just once all season at the time of the third round draw. The star of Wallace’s team was Eddie Kelly, who’d been a member of Arsenal’s double winning side nine years earlier. The rest of the dressing room contained plenty of top flight experience and had a strongly Scottish feel, although there were no Internationals and any honours won had been secured in Scotland and Ireland. Despite their rank in the second tier, The Filberts suffered a dip in form in December, failing to win in four games before returning to winning ways on New Year’s Day.


None of the Harlow players had ever performed in front of an audience even half that of the over 20,000 attendance at Filbert Street but, to their credit, none of them froze on the big occasion, despite coming under intense pressure throughout the game. Martin Henderson stabbed home from close range midway through the first half and, with the Owls unable to produce a potent threat of their own, it looked like a result that both sides would probably have settled for before kick off.

To their credit, Leicester never settled for the single goal, but it would prove their downfall. Instead of closing out the game in the dying minutes, they continued to press hard to kill off the tie, instead leaving the defensive space for Neil Prosser to score a sensational late equaliser to stun the Filbert Street audience. The twenty-two year old expectant father felt the moment happen almost in slow motion as his effort beat Wallington to guarantee a replay. A major shock elsewhere reduced the Owl’s great result to bit part status on the back pages as speculation once again began on where the replay would be staged.


Yet again Harlow resisted the temptation to switch to a big money gate in London and brought Jock Wallace’s promotion chasers to the Sports 

They spent a lot of money to watch us when we didn't do ourselves full justice. Hopefully, we have something in reserve for them on Tuesday

Neil Prosser Harlow Town: On Leicester 1-1 Harlow

Centre. Temporary stands allowed for the attendance to be almost doubled to 10,000 but it was still a precarious vantage point for those thousands standing on the slippery grass banks after a day of wintery rain.

Harlow fielded the same side, but Wallace made one change, bringing in a young local teenager, of whom the Foxes had high hopes. Gary Lineker hadn’t expected to play and when picked, was too terrified to speak up and advise Wallace he was feeling ill with tonsillitis. Unsurprisingly, the youngster endured an anonymous role on the wing that did little to trouble the home side.


Eddie Kelly remained the player most likely to hurt the Owls in what was otherwise a relatively young and inexperienced side. The brief in the Harlow dressing room was to stifle Kelly’s influence on the game. It worked to perfection in a helter skelter first half of disjointed Football. Three minutes before the interval Micky Mann’s free kick fell to John MacKenzie inside the six yard box. Wallington did well to get a hand to his close range shot, but not enough to prevent the ball crossing the line before Williams lashed the ball away.


Harlow kept the game broken up in the second half as an increasingly frustrated Kelly became a peripheral figure on the pitch. Leicester struggled for a leader to turn the game around and Harlow, if anything, looked more likely to increase their lead than lose it. As the Harlow players celebrated, Jock Wallace told the Sportsnight TV cameras he had no complaints and that the Owls deserved their night of glory. Such a shock can focus the mind and the Filberts went unbeaten in their next five league games, clinching the Second Division title four months later. Perhaps the only tinge of disappointment was that Harlow hadn’t clinched the grand prize of a top flight opponent in the fourth round. Second Division Watford lay in wait as their next hosts.

Yet again, Harlow continued to defy the odds when Neil Prosser’s first half flick on from a corner was misjudged by Watford keeper, Steele ho appeared to scoop the ball from over the line. A well placed referee agreed, much to the fury of the Watford defence. The Hornets used their aggression wisely in the second half and produced a blistering sixteen minutes response where they netted four times. With the tie seemingly over, Harlow now played for pride and from another corner Watford were caught out as Clarke’s goal bound header was flicked past Steele by a now heavily bandaged MacKenzie, the result of a nasty clash of heads in the first half.


Eight minutes from the end MacKenzie faired the tie back to life and set up a nervous finale in which the Owls came agonisingly close to equalising before the Hornets held out. It was another gutsy display that this time brought only plaudits but no ball in the hat for the fifth round, which would finally have brought that dream date with top flight Wolves.


Among the rewards for their efforts was £500 from one sponsor and two crates of gin. Unknown to the latter sponsor the entire Harlow team were tee total so the spirit was distributed out to the 7,000 travelling fans to enjoy on the buses back to Harlow.


Such a great cup run, and the finances that came from it, should have been a platform for Harlow, and some of the team to move on to bigger and better things. Alas that wasn’t to be for either. The quality of the Isthmian League began to fall along with its status as a fifth tier league to effectively a sixth tier league while Harlow struggled to stay in the newly renamed Premier league. The long expected transfer of Neil Prosser came before the year was out but he struggled to make an impression at either Bournemouth or Tranmere in three years as a full time pro, while none of his team mates followed suit. Ian Wolstenholme’s side began to break up and he left when relegation followed in 1982, to trigger a yo yo existence between the sixth and eighth tiers of the game.

Harlow Town: 1:Paul Kitson, 2:Ray Wickenden, 3:Fred Flack, 4:Tony Gough, 5:Vic Clarke, 6:Peter Adnams, 7:John MacKenzie, 8:Micky Mann, 9:Neil Prosser, 10:Peter Twigg, 11:Roy Austin. Manager:Ian Wolstenholme


Leicester City: 1: Mark Wallington, 2:Tommy Williams, 3:Denis Rofe, 4:Mark Goodwin, 5:Larry May, 6:John O'Neill, 7:Gary Lineker, 8:Martin Henderson, 9:Alan Young, 10:Eddie Kelly, 11:Bobby Smith. Manager:Jock Wallace