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Orient 1978 Style
Orient 1978 Style
Friday, 8th Apr 2011 12:10

A look back 33 years to our last promotion season.

Saints travelled to Brisbane Road on the 25th April 1978 in the penultimate game of the season knowing that after winning at Luton three days earlier courtesy of an 87th minute David Peach penalty that gave them a 2-1 win and meant that a point in this game would virtually see them back into the top flight.

On the day of the game the table stood as follows

Saints 55

Spurs 55

Bolton Wanderers 54

Brighton 53

Saints & Bolton both had two games left and Spurs & Brighton only the one each with Spurs at the Dell and brighton home to Blackpool.

A win for Saints at Orient aligned with a Bolton defeat at Blackburn the following night would make the game at the Dell the title decider, all Spurs and Brighton fans could do was watch, hope and pray.

And to be pedantic it was Orient FC back then and not Leyton Orient, for a short period in the early 70's they dropped the Leyton from their title.

An army of 12,000 or so Saints supporters invaded East london, back then the ground was very different from today, the old main stand which we will occupy on Saturday was there then, but the other three sides consisted completely of terracing and where mainly occupied by the visiting contingent, the most vocal of whom were on the West Stand side under the roof.

The gate was 19,248 and also had a few Spurs fans cheering on Orient for obvious reasons.

The game kicked off and it was clear from the start that Saints were edgy and well aware that a point would be enough, however the gameplan went out of the window in the 33rd minute when Fisher scored for the O's it was weird to be in an away ground when only about a quarter of it celebrated.

But things were back on course six minutes later when Tony Funnell who would become the man who would be the deciding factor between going up or staying down met a cross and equalised with a header from a David peach cross, ironically it was a Terry Paine header that had given Saints a 1-1 draw at the same venue 12 years earlier for the same result.

The game was pretty tight from then on with neither side really prepared to gamble too much on going for a win and risking a point, Orient themselves were not quite safe from relegation and had three more games to play after this one, they would get four points from those final three games including a last game win at Cardiff that would propel them above Blackpool who would be extraordinarily relegated on 37 points with no less than seven clubs on 38 above them.

But I digress both sides seemed content with the point and the final whistle saw a massive pitch invasion from the Saints supporters who poured on to the turf in their thousands to celebrate what they saw as promotion, in the processa wall collapsed and several Saints fans suffered injuries including a broken leg.

The celebrations went on in the pubs around the ground and the North Circular and the M3 became a procession of celebrating Saints fans.

In the cold light of the following day Bolton won 1-0 at Blackburn and although this mean that Saints were still not mathematically sure of going up, the turnaround in goal difference to send Brighton up and send Saints down needed to be eight, ie Saints lose 3-0 and Brighton win 5-0.

It was still game on, come Saturday though with anyone of three sides able to win the title and three from four able to go up, although Bolton were already there.

Saints V Tottenham would always be tense and a 0-0 draw suited both sides, with Brighton winning, older Saints fans still talk about how Funnell hit the post from a yard out when it was easier to score and suggestions where that neither side was prepared to go full out and start a competitive game that could go either way.

Bolton scraped the draw they needed for the title and Saints and Spurs went up with them leaving Brighton fans fuming and ranting about a carve up.       


Photo: Action Images

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legod7 added 14:24 - Apr 8
I was there in 1966 when we drew 1-1 to virtually ensure promotion to Division 1 for the first time ever

VancouverSaint added 16:01 - Apr 8
I was there in '66 too. Greatt mid week game and party atmosphere. On the pitch after game with Terry Paine sitting on one shoulder and Sydenham on the other. Good old days!!

arfurdent added 07:44 - Apr 9
I was at that game after the delightful away day to to the war zone called inner Luton.

I remember a dwarf wall collapsed at the front of the stand. Bits of brick were being passed back as keepsakes

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