Posh v Harlow Town FA Cup 1st Rd 16 Nov 1991
Venue: London Road, Peterborough
Score: Peterborough Utd 7 v Harlow Town 0
Referee: R.L. Biggar.
The sweet scent of FA Cup romance didn’t waft over London Road in this game – there was just one ugly dark cloud of despair for tiny Harlow.
The only hint of surprise here was that Posh didn’t finish well into double figures.
That’s not intended to be critical of the way the Posh mean machine went about their business, especially in the first half when they destroyed the Diadora League side with six goals inside 39 minutes.
And it shouldn’t be interpreted either as being derogatory to the gallant battlers from Harlow whose hopes of at least making it some kind of a contest were not aided when big defender Rory Gleeson was ordered off in the 16th minute for the so called professional foul.
It’s simply to illustrate just how one-sided this tie was from the first whistle, and it’s more than fair to assume that even had the Harlow side remained intact, the score line would have still reached similar proportions.
By the time Gleeson went from the scene in tears, Posh were already a goal in front and producing clear signs that a rout was on the cards.
Posh’s first goal came in the 6th minute when a right wing cross from Worrell Sterling was headed on by Gary Kimble to David Riley who controlled and played the ball into the stride of Gary Cooper who speared a left foot drive into the corner of the net from just inside the penalty area.
The second goal was a penalty scored by Gary Cooper who buried the ball wide to the goalkeeper’s right. The penalty decision from Croydon referee Ray Biggar, apparently on the support of a linesman, was debatable to say the least. Riley went down under a challenge by Gleeson but he supported the initial theory that the luckless defender had appeared to make contact first with the ball.
The goal ignited a devastating four goal onslaught in only nine minutes to leave bemused Harlow staring at the prospect of total humiliation on their biggest day for something like ten years.
Even considering the severe limitations of the Harlow side – they didn’t force one corner all match let alone concern home goalkeeper Fred Barber -Posh’s incisive and clinical football in the first half would have unhinged far more competent and professional teams.
Just a minute of after the penalty, a long clearance by Posh keeper Barber evaded Harlow’s final defender Gary Armstrong and David Riley hooked a right foot volley wide of the advancing Harlow keeper David Mallett.
On 23 minutes a cross from Mick Halsall was deftly headed down by David Riley for Worrell Sterling to send a left foot shot crashing into the net from the edge of the penalty area.
Then four minutes later Ken Charlery put Halsall clear through the middle and the skipper hit a crisp shot from the edge of the penalty area into the corner of the net.
On 39 minutes a deep cross from the left from Gary Kimble was headed home at the far post by Charlery despite valiant attempts by the goalkeeper to prevent it crossing the line.
But for the half time interval, which enabled Harlow to reassess their defensive strategy, Posh would have comfortably run into double figures.
As it was, Harlow regrouped at the back in order to retain some semblance of pride and they managed to keep their goal intact for almost an hour.
Posh, without Worrell Sterling for the second half, were certainly not as effective in creating space up front after David Riley was substituted on the hour, but it was clearly going to be difficult for them to pick up that first half momentum with the tie already dead and buried.
Even so, only brave goalkeeper from Dave Mallett prevented another bucketful of goals in the second half. The fork lift driver made at least five crucial saves to add to the three in the first period, although he was also rescued by the crossbar and a defender on the line, both efforts from Steve Welsh.
Posh did score again in the 87th minute when Garry Butterworth’s long ball sent Paul Culpin clear down the left and he swerved a left foot shot from the edge of the penalty area beyond the reach of the goalkeeper and into the far corner.
Posh may have had a few easier rides than this in the FA Cup over the years, but some predecessors might well have made harder work of it.
The Posh: Fred Barber, Noel Luke, Peter Johnson, Mick Halsall, Dave Robinson, Steve Welsh, Worrell Sterling (sub Garry Butterworth), Gary Cooper, David Riley (sub Paul Culpin), Ken Charlery and Gary Kimble.
Harlow Town: Mallett, Armstrong, Burns, Gleeson, Durrant, Emanuel, St Hilaire (sub Porter), Battram, McLean, Margerrison (sub Cottingham) and Head.
Goal scorers: The Posh – Gary Cooper (2) 6 mins & 18 mins (pen), David Riley 19 mins, Worrell Sterling 23 mins, Mick Halsall 27 mins, Ken Charlery 39 mins and Paul Culpin 87 mins.