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On This Day In History - The 1986 FA Cup Semi Final
Sunday, 5th Apr 2020 10:00

This was the second FA Cup Final in three seasons, sadly it would have the same result as the previous one in 1984, an extra time defeat to a Merseyside team.

Saints had got the draw in the semi final that no one wanted, Liverpool reigned supreme in the 1980's and in 1986 they were on their way to another League title their fifth of the decade and they were aiming to do their first league & FA Cup double, back then it had only been done twice in the 20th century.

Again the semi final would be played in London, but this time the venue was White Hart Lane, Saints had half of the stadium, with the ground being split in half along the half way line.

A sell out crowd of 44,605 assembled and the trouble that had occurred after the 1984 semi final this time didn't wait for the game to finish, major disturbances at Seven Sisters Station as two sets of fans clashed and also trouble in the pus near to the ground, but some of these were not Saints & Liverpool fans but Spurs supporters who were mobbed up looking for trouble. at least one pub had tear gas thrown into it.

It was a brisk sunny day very much like the weather this week although it also had a little rain in the air, back on Merseyside the Grand National was being run, but both it's football clubs were out of town on semi final duty.

Saints first choice right back was Gerry Forrest, but he was cup tied, Steve Baker usually deputised but Chris Nicholl in his debut season as manager decided not to use him so it was a little imbalanced at the back.

Saints lined up Shilton, Holmes, Bond, Wright, Dennis, Case, Cockerill, Moran, Armstrong, Wallace, Lawrence Sub Townsend.

But Liverpool had more than a few aces up their sleeve and dominated the early play, Peter Shilton had to make a save or two and Nick Holmes clearing a Ian Rush header off the line, it was not starting well for Saints.

Like the 1984 semi when Steve Wiliams played although not 100% fit, Danny Wallace had a hamstring issue which meant he was not firing on all cylinders, although he was still causing Jim Beglin a few problems.

After weathering the early storm Saints started to get into the game and have chances of their own, but just as you thought that we might just pull off a shock disaster struck.

on 39 minutes Craig Johnston chased a through ball that was the keepers all the way, but as Shilton slid in to collect with Mark Wright covering the three crashed into each other with Wright the meat in the sandwich, you could tell from the reaction of the players surrounding that this was bad and Wright was stretchered off with a broken leg.

With it being near half time, Saints kept it tight and regrouped, it was a makeshift defence with Kevin Bond being the only recognised central defender and David Armstrong having to take Wright's place, a position he had never played for Saints before, but there was no other option, Nick Holmes might have been the usual choice but he was the only option for right back so had to stay there, Andy Townsend was a left footer as was Mark Dennis, so they were not options either.

Peter Shilton was in superb form and made a string of saves with the patched up defence in front of him playing out of their skins.

There was nearly a great ending when on 89 minutes Mark Dennis hit a long range shot that skimmed the bar, but it was always rising.

So like 1984 into extra time, but you felt that the best we could hope for was to keep them out and get a replay where we could at least bring in a central defender to replace Wright.

For the first portion of extra time it looked like we might just hold on, Liverpool were getting frustrated and the break on 90 minutes had taken some of their impetus, but in the 100th minute the game was effectively won, sadly by a defensive error, Kevin Bond had plenty of time to deal with yet another through ball and was under no real pressure, his header back to the keeper though was too soft, it left Shilton stranded and this was just the sort of chance Ian Rush thrived on and he took the chance.

If Saints thought that they might keep standing firm and then throw everything in the final minutes of extra time in a grandstand finish they would be wrong, 5 minutes later they were caught sleeping and Ian Rush fired home his second of the game.

That was it the 2nd half of extra time was played out with Saints knowing they wee beaten and Liverpool content to do nothing that might give Saints a lifeline, in 1984 the defeat was cruel, in 1986 it perhaps had a question over it in what if Mark Wright had not got injured, but up to that moment we were matching Liverpool but not stretching them, as Saints fans trooped out, unlike two years earlier they were not fighting mad, but deflated and just wanted to get home.

We had had 2 FA Cup semi finals in 3 seasons, indeed 3 in 10 years, we would not have another one for 17 years.

Photo: Action Images

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