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FA Cup 4th Round Memories 28th January 1984 Fratton Park
Wednesday, 24th Jan 2024 11:00

For some of us of a certain age, when we are in Watford on Sunday we will be remembering exactly where we were at that time exactly 40 years earlier, on what for those who were there will always be one of the greatest matches in the club's history.

When Saints beat Nottingham Forest in the 3rd round of the FA Cup in January 1984 it was a game that gave a taste of what would be about to happen in what what would be one of the greatest FA Cup runs in the club's history, although ultimately it did not end in a visit to Wembley for the Cup Final.

Up at the City ground in the 3rd round, Steve Moran scored in the 77th minute to give us the lead, but Forest equalised on 83 minutes, but they would not be on equal terms for long when with only a few minutes remaining it was Moran again who this time headed the ball past the keeper to put Saints in the 3rd round.

There was a buzz about Southampton this season, we started the year of 1984 in 4th place in the League and there was a feeling that we could get into Europe and a feeling that we could just do something in the FA Cup, a competition that meant something in those days so on the Monday lunchtime after the win at Forest, the City eagerly gathered around radio sets for the then traditional FA Cup draw broadcast.

Most wanted a nice home draw, an easy lower League side who we could turn over and progress on without too much stress, but there would be an almighty roar at both ends of the M27 as the words Portsmouth will play............ Southampton were uttered.

So for the next 19 days the South of Hampshire talked of nothing else, in the previous 18 years the clubs had met in competitive games just four times, all squeezed into a two year period when both were in the old Second division between 1974-76 and all four had been won by Southampton, in doing so we had scored 9 goals, Peter Osgood scoring 3 of them, David Peach 2 and Mike Channon netting the other 4, the last one in the last minute at Fratton Park a few days after winning the FA Cup semi final effectively relegated Pompey to the 3rd division, that wasn't a good week for the Blue few.

For Pompey this game was all about revenge, although we had barely played each other in that time, it was 30 seasons since Pompey had enjoyed a victory, that being in 1963/64.

For Saints it was about putting Pompey in their place, back in 1984 there were still some Pompey fans alive who could remember the good old days of Pompey being in Division 1, they considered themselves a sleeping giant and one that was about to awaken.

I remember in the build up to the game TV interviews with Pompey fans were all saying the same thing, we are the best club in Hampshire and we will smash Southampton they are nothing, whereas as Saints fans were more reserved, they spoke of how if things went to form Saints would win but this was the FA Cup and anything could happen.

At the time Pompey had just returned to the 2nd Division since their relegation to the third tier in 1976 and were mid table, so they didn't have a lot to back up their bluster.

But the two sets of fans talked of nothing else, Saints were allocated three sections of Fratton Park in an allocation of around 9,000 fans in a capacity of 36,000, we had the entire Milton End terracing, the terracing under half of the South stand and an allocation of seats.

But there were many other Saints fans who got tickets in home areas, the tickets were virtually photocopies and didn't have any real features on them, there were several hundred good forged copies made for the Fratton End and those who bought them all got in the ground, some in the Fratton End others just let in the away end to keep them penned in.

Fans who had the then much prized voucher handed out at turnstiles each season at a random game, queued round the block to get tickets.

Nottingham Forest defeated in the 3rd round still had a part to play in the 4th, they agreed to play their League game at the Dell on the Monday before the cup tie, this was a real favour as it enabled Steve Williams to serve a suspension and be able to play at Fratton, we had prioritised the Cup before the League, ironically this could be said to have cost us dearly, we lost at Old Trafford 3-2 on the Saturday and then two days later 1-0 to Forest, we finished 2nd in the League to Liverpool by 3 points.

The day of the game saw Saints fans in the Southampton pubs at 10am before travelling down in a fleet of coaches, a special train and other forms of transport, the papers were full of talk in the days before of how the police would control the two sets of fans as this was a time when violence at football was reaching a peak, it was a brave man who walked down Goldsmith Avenue wearing a Saints scarf as young, old, woman or child you would be considered fair game for the Pompey fans, but many still did and lived to tell the tale.

The game started in a red hot atmosphere, but it was a tense one, both sides and sets of fans seemed worried about losing more than winning, Pompey played with the bluster of what they were a second division side with nothing to lose and we played with composure but a nervy one at that.

It was a game of few chances, but the first decisive moment happened on the hour mark, Saints full back Mark Dennis went to retrieve the ball in front of the North stand and was felled by a coin, he was down for a couple of minutes and this would cost Pompey dearly 30 minutes later.

In the final third of the game, Saints seemed to become less tense and take control and Pompey seemed to be running out of steam, but it was they who had what was thought to be the last chance of the game when the ball fell to striker Alan Biley who seemed certain to score, but volleyed over from close range, much to Peter Shilton's relief, it looked like it would end in a draw.

But as the clock ticked past 90 minutes and with Pompey fans either whistling for full time or singing "Scummers Scummers here we come" referring to the replay at the Dell, came a moment that Saints fans from the time can recount with almost as much memory as Bobby Stokes goal at Wembley.

Frank Worthington sent David Armstrong clear on the right, strange as Armstrong was a left footed player and therefore his cross was not expected to be great with not only tired legs but his wrong foot, but perfect it was, curling into the box in what is now called the corridor of uncertainty where it tempts keepers and is hard to deal with for defenders on the back foot, initially it looked to be going across goal, but suddenly Alan Knight the Pompey keeper saw something and so did 9,000 Saints supporters, Steve Moran was coming in unmarked at the far post.

Moran met it with his left foot on the half volley and Knight badly positioned could do little apart from pushing it into the side netting inside the goal, the red & white army erupted and most of the other 3 sides of the ground stared in stunned silence.

The Milton end was a sea of celebrating red & white and Pompey had no time to reply, the final whistle blew virtually straight from the restart.

Pompey fans reacted with the predictable violence, Lawrie McMenemy talks of pocketing a few pounds worth of small change and a couple of bananas presumably aimed at Danny Wallace and Reuben Agboola as his team left the pitch.

Somewhere on the North stand was a Pompey fan who knew he had cost his side the game, I doubt whether it is something he tells the story of in the pubs of Portsmouth.

After the game it was chaos, Pompey were out for blood and when they were unable to find it they did what they traditionally do when they lose a big game, they wrecked their own City, Bus stops were wrecked and a few shop windows put through.

Back in Southampton that evening it was perhaps second only to that win at Wembley 8 years earlier, the pubs were full of celebrating Saints supporters, the old enemy had been put firmly in their place and we were now in the fourth round of the FA Cup, there was a feeling that it could be our season and it very nearly was.

So on Sunday you will see a few older Saints supporters up at Watford looking a bit wistful, yes the kick off timing will be slightly out, but they will be looking back to where they where at that very moment exactly 40 years ago on 28th January.

Photo: Action Images



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Bowlercow added 11:35 - Jan 24
Nick we don't play until Sunday

As Max Boyce once said "" I was there"
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SaintNick added 11:43 - Jan 24
It did say Sunday at the start of the story lol
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ItchenNorth added 14:13 - Jan 24
My favorite away day ever !
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Number_58 added 14:24 - Jan 24
Incredible day. Best goal celebration ever. I remember walking down the dodgy footpath behind the North Stand before the game and there was a Pompey bloke handing out bananas. I wondered at the time what he was doing, he didn't look like he was on a health kick. I was fortunate enough to have a terrace ticket under the South Stand which was normally their family section (surely only Pompey could have a family stand with a great big f*ck-off fence to keep people off the pitch!!). My memory's a bit shot but I'm sure one of their lot had wire cutters and was trying to cut a hole in the dividing fence behind the players tunnel to get at us. At the final whistle for some reason they opened the gates in our section and we were allowed straight out, so we missed all the stuff when the main Saints contingent were let out . It was fantastic walking up Goldsmith Avenue, desperately trying not to smile too much, watching the apoplectic neanderthals storm past us on their way to try and get at the away section. Later on we watched as the police chased dozens of Pompey hooligans by the big church in Fratton Road. At one point the police actually drove a squad car into the graveyard after them. Never been so relieved to leave a town after a game. If I can lose about 4 stone before Sunday I might wear the Air Florida shirt I wore that famous day at Fratton Dump.
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A1079 added 22:43 - Jan 24
For me, one of or possibly the most memorable day as a Saints fan. I remember it as if it was yesterday. That season, that game, the football we played. There have been memorable moments since of course, but for me, nothing thus far has ever matched it.
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InTimeAddedOn added 22:56 - Jan 24
Agreed one of the most memorable days as a Saints fan

Just one more time for everyone to enjoy


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Chesham_Saint added 23:02 - Jan 24
I couldn’t get a ticket for the Saints section so was in the North Stand with another Saints supporter. Difficult to hide the glee, but boy what a frothing mouthed bunch of Neanderthals they were. Racist as hell too.
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redwight added 11:26 - Jan 25
Seeing the goal again still makes me smile as much as it ever did. The greatest game in the greatest season I've ever known. Never forget trying so hard not to look ecstatic as we made our way back to the car. Just the best memories - before the cup became the soulless hollowed out competition it is now.
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SanMarco added 08:14 - Jan 27
We got tickets in the Poopey area right near where Dennis got hit. I remember the menace. A very large Poopey nutter was slavering at the mouth and trying to get to the Saints end. A Poopey supporter got in his way and said something sensible (yes it does happen!) like 'what's the point' or something - and the bloke punched him in the face - such lovely people!!

Yes - this and May 76 are my two favourite Saints moments. Funny - totally unmemorable game in footballing terms and at the end we were a trifle fortunate not to concede , but that goal - I will remember it for ever!!!!
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