Portsmouth v Posh 3rd Rd – 7th Jan 1961
Venue: Fratton Park, Portsmouth
Score: Peterborough Utd 2 v Portsmouth 1
Referee: A.L. Mason.
Jimmy Dickinson, former England international and one of the best defenders in the country, must still be wondering what happened in the dying seconds of this Third Round FA Cup match at Fratton Park when Peterborough United’s non-stop right winger Billy Hails wriggled past him and blasted home a brilliant shot on the run which put Posh in Round Four of the competition for the third time since 1954.
Dickinson said after the game “I just don’t know how he did it, but what a great goal. Peterborough deserve their success. Good luck to them in the next round.”
This tribute from a great international sportsman just about sets the seal on yet another story-book ending to a Posh cup triumph. It adequately sums up the feelings of the majority of spectators at Fratton Park. There were few who did not agree that United fully deserved to win.
For the 5,000 Posh fans at Portsmouth this was a game which produced thrills and excitement equal to the memories of Cardiff, Lincoln, Ipswich, Walsall, Fulham and Sheffield.
That magnificent winning goal by Billy Hails only 70 seconds from full time will be remembered forever.
It wasn’t a classic match – the mud stopped all that – but nevertheless it was a splendid occasion with United finding the little extra which is the difference between victory and defeat.
United needed to beat the mud to get through to the next round. Fortunately the game was preceded by 24 hours of dry weather and the mud wasn’t as bad as expected, but it was bad enough and Posh are to be congratulated on the way they apparently made light of the atrocious conditions.
Portsmouth are old hands at playing on their own sticky pitch, but United showed them a thing or two and when it came to stamina Posh had the edge in every position.
It was soon obvious that spectators were to see very little of United’s crisp style of attacking football. Instead Posh players had to plough through mud, often without a hope of reaching the ball, but always trying to get there.
Perseverance paid off, and so did the stiff training routines so arduously undertaken by the United players in the week before the game.
Posh were faster, fitter, and at times more far more clever than Portsmouth. Even when Pompey were throwing in everything the United defence looked to be master of every situation.
For skipper Norman Rigby this was a memorable game. He played magnificently and inspired his full backs and goalkeeper to such an extent that they rarely put a foot wrong.
At times it seemed as though Pompey must break through and score but always there was a Posh defender on the spot and the home team resorted to hurried shooting from long range in their efforts to get a goal.
Jim Walker and Dick Whittaker kept a tight grip on tow unorthodox wingers while in goal, Jack Walls, give an inch even when Portsmouth forced corner kick after corner kick and the ball swung back and forth across his goal.
The wing halves, Jim Rayner and Keith Ripley, suffered most from the muddy pitch. Both struggled to break up attacks in midfield and are to be congratulated on the way they stuck manfully to their task.
Any let up by these two tireless workers would have meant a glut of goals from the eager Pompey attack.
Ripley wrote his name in the FA Cup history book with his goal in the first half. What a commotion it caused in the interval when the majority of spectators were not certain whether or not the referee had allowed the goal.
Ripley’s snap shot after a right wing attack had only been partly cleared, took the Pompey goalkeeper by surprise and although he got down to the ball it seemed to slip through his arms into the net.
Earlier, both forward lines had seen shots rebound from the woodwork. In the opening minutes Peter McNamee positioned himself well to head a centre from Hails against the crossbar, while at the other end Chapman saw his shot rebound from an upright with Walls beaten.
In the second half Posh very nearly got another goal early on but soon it was Portsmouth who were dominating the game and forcing United back on defence.
Pompey deserved to get an equaliser after 77 minutes when left winger Wilson headed home a centre from the right wing. Walls had no chance with the well placed header and Portsmouth came roaring back for a winning goal.
The home team tired, however, and United got a second wind as they played out the remaining minutes of the game full of confidence that they would not be beaten.
And there is no team in the world like Posh when it comes to story book endings. Secretly and silently many fans hugged memories of Shrewsbury’s defeat at London Road. Posh fans knew United could and would produce something in the dying minutes of the game, and they were not disappointed.
With the referee looking at his watch the ball went from man to man across the entire United attack. Ray Smith had half a chance to shoot, but it would have been a wasted effort.
Instead, however, he gave the ball to the last link in the chain, Billy Hails, and when Hails has the ball and there are only a couple of seconds left to play he becomes a winger inspired.
Only former international Jimmy Dickinson stood between him and a shot at goal from an acute angle, Hails slipped by Dickinson like a ghost and, running in towards goal at top speed, he unleashed a tremendous shot which smacked into the back of the net before the Portsmouth goalkeeper had begun his despairing dive to the right.
There was just time to restart the game before Posh fans took over at Fratton Park as they took over in the corresponding match at Ipswich last year.
A cordon of police couldn’t keep them away from those United heroes and while it was Ray Smith and Billy Hails who disappeared from view in a swarm of excited fans the echoing cheers were for the entire Peterborough team who had once again shown the soccer world exactly why they are known as Posh.
The Posh: Jack Walls, Dick Whittaker, Jim Walker, Jim Rayner, Norman Rigby, Keith Ripley, Billy Hails, Dennis Emery, Terry Bly, Ray Smith and Peter McNamee.
Portsmouth: Beattie, Rutter, Dickinson, Howells, Gunter, Harris, Priscott, Chapman, White, Blackburn and Wilson.
Goal scorers: The Posh – Billy Hails and Keith Ripley. Portsmouth – Wilson.