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On This Day In History - 1978 A Vital Away Trip
Tuesday, 7th Apr 2020 09:50

Things were tight at the top of Division Two as Saints headed into the last six games of the season and a Friday night trip to London meant they got the chance to steal a march on their rivals.

A week earlier Saints had destroyed promotion hopefuls Blackburn 3-0 at the Dell to effectively end their challenge with the Lancashire club now 5th on 43 points having played a game more than Saints.

We sat in 3rd place as shown in the table below
1 Tottenham Hotspur 37 18 15 4 78 43 35 51
2 Bolton Wanderers 36 21 9 6 57 31 26 51
3 Southampton 36 20 9 7 61 34 27 49
4 Brighton and Hove Albion 36 17 11 8 51 35 16 45
5 Blackburn Rovers 37 16 11 10 53 50 3 43

We had gained a bit of ground on Brighton but it was still far from certain who the top three would be come the final reckoning and indeed what order they would be in.

So on Friday night 7th April thousands of Saints fans headed up towards London by train and by coach and car.

The road trip was far from easy back then, the M3 then only reached as far South as Basingstoke and although the first part of the journey was dual carriageway when you arrived at Winchester you encountered the infamous Hockley Lights, a set of traffic lights which were congested at the best of times, so when you had a travelling army passing through it was chaos, 15-30 minute delays were not uncommon at rush hours and after you had passed through these and round what is now the Twyford Downs cutting, you then had to go on a 10 mile or so single lane road to join up with the M3 at Dummer.

I am not lying when I say the opening of the M3 extension in the mid 80's and the cutting in 1994 took around 30 minutes off the journey time.

The destination on this occasion was Craven Cottage the home of Fulham, the Cottagers were mid table neither in danger of going down or getting promoted this was one that we could win. and for that matter needed to.

I would estimate around 8,000 Saints fans made the trip in a crowd of 16,915, mostly packed onto the big open terrace that still serves as the away end now, back then there were no seats at either end, luckily for us it wasn't raining as it was exposed to the elements.

The line up that had beaten Blackburn was unchanged and it would remain so for all but the last game of the season when Mick Pickering would miss his only game of the season and Malcolm Waldron would come in.

it was
Peter Wells

Manny Andruszewski, Chris Nicholl, Mick Pickering, David Peach

Steve Williams, Alan Ball, Nick Holmes

Phil Boyer, Ted MacDougal, Tony Funnell

The line up back then was usually a solid a 4-3-3 formation but Lawrie McMenemy sometimes employed a fifth defender at the expense of a forward, most of these names will be familiar to even Saints fans who weren't even born at the time, Andruszewski and Wells will not be too well known, but the former a Chandlers Ford lad played 98 times for the club in a 6 year period and was a reliable deputy when called upon whether for just the odd game or for a run in the side as he was now getting and he played 27 times in this League season.

Peter Wells was at the club for six years and he too had spells as first choice and others playing second fiddle and it was only after Peter Shilton arrived did he leave in 1983, at times he had been dropped and then regain his place, Ivan Katalinic, Terry Gennoe had both been signed to replace him but he always fought back.

Mick Pickering was a rock in our defence this season, but after promotion he could not make the transition and would play only three times in the top flight.

That brings us to Tony Funnell, perhaps a 1970's version of Manolo Gabbiadini, but he wasn't Italian and he didn't cost us much, signed from non league Eastbourne in January 1977 and a prolific scorer in the reserves, he played a couple of games in the early part of the season, scoring in his first full appearance in a win away to Notts County.

With the array of striking talent in the squad for most of the season he failed to get much of a look in after this goal but he was scoring regularly in the reserves and at the end of February was on the bench his big chance would come against Crystal Palace when he came off the bench to score both goals in a 2-0 win, after one more game off the bench he would start the last 10 games scoring 5 goals in those appearances and they always seemed to be vital goals, sadly he like Pickering would play only twice in the top flight and be sold by the end of the year.

But back to Craven Cottage, the game could not have started worse for Saints, many of the Red & White army were still getting into the ground when Lacy opened the scoring for the home side, but it was Tony Funnell who scored in the 23rd minute to bring us level.

Roared on by around half the crowd Saints searched for a winner but it was not to come and we had to be satisfied with a point, not a total disaster back then as it was still only two points for a win.

Afterwards a couple of pints in a pub near the ground, I was still only 16 at this time, but big for my age and there wasn't the fuss back then about underage drinkers as long as they looked 18, not many had passports back then or carried around with them the cumbersome paper driving licences, so barman could not really ID you.

Then it was a hectic weekend, I had to go to Liverpool for a family thing, so it was arrive home in the early hours of Saturday morning and then a drive North a few hours later, I even took in Liverpool V Leicester at Anfield which saw the first team debut for future Saint Sammy Lee who capped his first appearance by scoring a goal that went straight through the keepers legs.

Back then you could afford to watch two games in a weekend if the opportunity arose, standing on the terraces was cheap, around 80p. probably the equivalent of about £10-12 in today's money for a Division One game given the price of a pint was about 25p.

Anyway I digress, after the rest of the games were played on the Saturday the point had kept Saints in the mix, but Brighton had won and gained a point on us as had Spurs who were now 3 clear of us at the top although we did have a game in hand.

Bolton had lost so we had gained on them, but Brighton were now the in form team and we were looking over our shoulders.

There would be a few twists and turns in the race yet though and some exciting games to be at as a Saints supporter.

Photo: Action Images

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