Manchester Utd v Posh FA Cup 4th Rd 24 Jan 1976
Venue: Old Trafford, Manchester
Score: Manchester Utd 3 v Peterborough Utd 1
Referee: W. Gow.
In front of the third biggest crowd the Posh had ever played in front of in the FA Cup they made their expected exit at Old Tafford with pride and dignity which all the majority of their 10,000 following desired.
If there is any glory in defeat then the Third Division side achieved it in one of the world’s greatest arenas, leaving the stage with tyheir heads held high.
Yet, after 10 minutes, there would have been few brave enough in the 56,000 crowd who would have staked any money against Tommy Docherty’s “Red Devils” from grinding their poor relations into the dust.
Two tragic goals, one deflection the other tinged with suspicion, had the delirious Stretford End sounding the last rites and baying for more blood. But it takes more than the best team in the country to bury Posh without trace.
Their character and ability shone through in the face of adversity to the extent that it took a world class goal from mrecurial Gordon Hill to steady a less than comfortable United team in the 68th minute.
And if Posh needed a further tribute to their bold, brave performance in rocking the Old Trafford steamroller then it was the sight of United adopting a few time wasting precautions much to the disgust of their own supporters.
They were tactics which United have rarely had to indulge in this season and underlines how shaken they had been by Posh’s “never say die” attitude.
Those early setbacks would have made even some top teams as meek as lambs for a slaughter.
But Posh, with Peter Eustace the classiest palyer on view and David Gregory and John Cozens posing problems, bounced back with such force that, until Hill’s “sniper” bullet of a goal, there was more than the hint of a replay hanging in the tingling atmosphere.
United always had the extra yard of pace and an abundance of skills on the flanks in Hill and Steve Coppell, but in the early stages of the second half Posh were having the affrontary, in the eyes of the loyal Old Trafford followers, to take the tie to United.
Posh created as many, if not more, clear cut chances, and had one of those been tucked away then who knows what the outcome might have been.
Cozens sent one header straight at goalkeeper Alex Stepney shortly after reducing the arrears in the 35th minute when he coolly made the most of a Brian Greenhoff slip.
In the early moments of the second period both Cozens and Jon Nixon had opportunities in the same raid to have thrown tie back into the melting pot.
But the Hill goal was a killer blow, the £70,000 winger blasting home from 25 yards with a goal that must surely win the “Goal of the Month” award.
Posh had no complaints about that one, but they felt disappointed with the first two goals which provided United with their foundation for victory.
Alex Forsyth’s 7th minute piledriver was deflected out of Eric Steele’s reach by skipper Chris Turner.
Three minutes later Hill chipped across for Sammy McIlroy to head a simple goal, but Posh’s complaints that Pearson was offside when starting the move seemed completely justified.
But, as man of the match Eustace recalled: “I glanced round at the rest of the lads. I could see by the defiant looks on their faces that bthey wouldn’t surrender easily.”
And surrender they didn’t.
Sir Matt Busby, the ManchesterUnited legend gave a glowing tribute to Posh manager Noel Cantwell after the game saying: “Your team is a credit to the Third Division. I was worried when the score was 2-1 because I could see you getting an equaliser. I have seen a lot of First Division sides come to Old Trafford without the conviction and purpose you showed today. Noel you have a good team.”
Manchester Utd went on to get to the final of FA Cup where they lost 1-0 to Southampton.
The Posh: Eric Steele, Bert Murray, Jim Walker, Peter Eustace, Chris Turner, Jack Carmichael, Jon Nixon, David Gregory, John Cozens, Lyndon Hughes and Tommy Robson (Mick Jones).
Manchester Utd: Alex Stepney, Alex Forsyth, Stewart Houston, Gerry Daly, Brian Greenhoff, Martin Buchan, Steve Coppell, Sammy McIlroy, Stuart Pearson, Lou Macari and Gordon Hill.
Unused Sub: Jimmy Kelly.
Goal scorers: The Posh – John Cozens 35 mins. Manchester Utd – Alex Forsyth 7 mins, Sammy McIlroy 10 mins and Gordon Hill 68 mins.