On This Day In History - FA Cup Semi Final 1976 Part 2
Friday, 3rd Apr 2020 10:00
The exodus to Stamford Bridge was under way, in part 2 we look at the game itself and the euphoria at the final whistle.
I cant remember much about the coach trip up, I have vague memories of the road being a sea of red & white and that we sat at the back of the coach and sang a lot, as we neared Stamford Bridge a ground we had only seen on TV the excitement heightened, my away trips so far had been to the likes of Orient & Bristol City in the second division and Bradford in the Quarter finals the nearest i'd come to seeing Saints on a big ground had been in the 5th round at West Bromwich Albion, i'd been to Anfield & Goodison Park whilst staying with family in Liverpool but this was going to be bigger than both of those.
When we got off the coach I remember we parked near the Gas works, there didn't seem to be many Palace fans around, but I presume few came by coach and most on the tube.
It was straight to the ground, we were all 14 with the odd 15 year old, we didn't have the money to go into pubs even if we could have got served, but we wanted the atmosphere.
Straight into the Shed and it started to fill up, I remember just before kick off some of the lads from the year above us at Redbridge had made a banner and they nipped over the wall at the front and tied it to the little fence the other side of the dog track.
When the team came out to look at the pitch as was traditional at semi's and finals, the atmosphere went up a notch with cheers fro our end and howls of derision from the other, but the feeling was good, we had the better side and noisier fans this seemed to be our destiny, from the moment we equalised against Villa in the 3rd round I felt we were destined to win the Cup, mind you I have felt that several times since and been disappointed.
The game was a tense nervous affair as so many semi finals are with so much to lose, so the game was goalless at the break.
Now we were kicking towards the Shed End and our own fans, but chances were few and too many times both teams wasted the final ball, but with 16 minutes to go the game changed.
We had started to get on top although it didn't feel like that at the time, but then on 24 minutes Paul Gilchrist the man originally signed to replace Ron Davies but now a converted midfielder smashed the ball home from 25 yards, Mike Channo will always claim it brushed his sock, but the truth was nobody from Southampton in the ground that day cared as the net bulged.
We were now truly in command and five minutes later Mike Channon, back then it was still Mike and not Mick, was fouled right on the edge of the area and the ref to Palace's dismay pointed to the spot.
The problem here was who would take the kick, Channon had been the penalty taker but had missed two, Jim McCalliog had also missed from the spot, David Peach was now the nominated taker but he had never taken one in a game at least not for Saints and certainly not in a game of this importance.
The Saints end behind the goal was quiet, Peach stepped up blasted it down the middle and the keeper was already committed it was in and we went wild behind the goal.
The next ten minutes seemed to drag, but we never looked like letting Palace back into it, indeed Channon missed a good chance to make it three, then the whistle went and for the first time in my young life I saw grown men cry.
I had never seen a team acclaimed after a game like it, back then teams just walked off, or ran off if there was a mini pitch invasion of autograph hunting school kids, the tradition of clapping the crowd etc was yet to happen at least not with Saints, in the four years I had been watching them a this point we hadn't had a lot to cheer.
But 23,500 or so Saints fans sang cheered and cried in various variations, I had never seen anything like this raw emotion, everyone hugged each other and then eventually it was time to go back to the coach.
I didn't see any trouble, Palace fans slinked off as we celebrated, but then again as I said I was back to the coach and they didn't have many in that part of the area.
The coach driver was in a good mood too, back then coach drivers got into the game free and ours probably had been just as happy as us, he suggested we take the A3 rather than the M3 to beat the traffic and then stopped at a pub called the Windmill at Four Marks just North of Alresford for a drink, it was full of Saints fans and they were so happy that they were happy to buy broke and underage 14/15 year old's a beer or 2.
Then back on the coach, raucous singing in the final 45 minutes back to Bedford Place and I arrived home just in time to see the awful group the Brotherhood Of Man win the Eurovision song contest with the sickly Save All Your Kisses For Me, so not quite the end to a perfect day, but the perfect day was still four weeks away.
Photo: Action Images
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