When Ipswich Town and the FA Cup were a fun combination.... Part 1
Ipswich Town’s FA Cup first round defeat to Portsmouth continued a recent sad and depressing record in the competition. But, believe it or not, there was a time the Blues and the FA Cup were fun. In part one of this two-part feature, MIKE BACON takes a look.
I know it might be a trifle hard for younger Ipswich Town fans to compute.
But there was a time when the Blues and the FA Cup were fun. A time when we all looked forward to the Blues pitting their skills against different opposition, even non-league – without it filling us with dread!
The excitement of a next round draw, extra money in the coffers. Wembley dreams.... Ah, we all remember it well.
Sadly, today, and including the 1-0 victory in the first round replay at Lincoln last season, Town have won just that solitary game in their last 19 FA Cup matches, stretching back to 2010. Shocker!
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In the pursuit of promotions back to either the Premier League or Championship - neither which have as yet materialised - it appears to most Town fans the FA Cup isn’t really for their club, as weakened teams and poor performances have produced that depressing stat of 1 win in 19.
However, winners in 1978, it hasn’t always been this way.
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So, let’s indulge ourselves.... And remember a time when Town and the FA Cup did enhance our season - did go hand in hand.
Championship - FIFTH ROUND
The 2006/07 season was a transitional one for Town.
Jim Magilton took over from Joe Royle in the summer as Town embarked on their Championship campaign and a steady, rather than spectacular 14th-placed finish followed. However, it did enjoy some highlights, none more so than Town’s 3-1 defeat over Norwich in November which saw Town finish two places above the Canaries.
As regards the FA Cup, the Blues saw off Chester City 1-0 in round three, but only after a 0-0 draw at Chester. In the replay Matt Richards scored the only goal.
Round four saw Swansea visit Portman Road and an Alan Lee penalty saw Town progress into the last 16. However, the run came to halt away at Watford, 0-1, in front of just over 17,000 fans.
First Division - FOURTH ROUND
It was the season that Town won their one and so far only First Division Championship.
But if you think the FA Cup wasn’t for them as they eyed up the title, think again. Town played five FA Cup games that season and nine of Alf Ramsey’s squad played in all of them. By the end of the season, eight of Ramsey’s men had played 50 games or more.
However, back to the FA Cup, and although the Blues only got through one round, they played five games! In round three Town played Luton, drawing 1-1 at both Portman Road and Kenilworth Road, before thrashing the Hatters 5-1 at neutral ground, Highbury, Arsenal, in front of nearly 30,000 fans in a second replay, Ted Phillips and Roy Stephenson getting two apiece.
Norwich awaited Town in round four and after a 1-1 draw at Carrow Road, the Canaries won 2-1 at Portman Road in the replay.
Division Three South - FIFTH ROUND
This was another Championship-winning season for the Blues, but again, if you thought the FA Cup may be a distraction, think on.
While Town went on to win the title ahead of Brighton, they also enjoyed a long FA Cup run that began in round one.
Fellow Division Three South side Reading were well beaten 4-1 at Portman Road, before non-league Walthamstow Avenue nearly caused an upset, drawing 2-2 at Portman Road, before Town won the replay 0-1.
In round three Second Division Oldham, who went on to get relegated that year, drew 3-3 in Suffolk, but Town pulled off an excellent 0-1 victory in the replay.
Then came a big scalp, as Birmingham City were beaten 1-0 in round four at Portman Road. Town’s run came to an end in the last 16 with First Division, Preston North End thrashing the Blues 6-1. But it had been an exciting run.
First Division - SEMI-FINALS
Nine FA Cup games played but still the Blues were left seeking their first-ever FA Cup final appearance at the end of a rollercoaster campaign.
A fine 2-1 victory in round three at Wolves saw the Blues get a tough fourth round draw at home to Liverpool – a late Mick Mills goal sealing a 1-0 victory. Round five was a thriller at home to Aston Villa. The away side went 2-0 ahead, but cue a big Town comeback. David Johnson pulled one back before Bryan Hamilton scored twice in the final minutes to claim a thrilling win for the Blues.
If that was exciting, no-one could foresee what round six would bring, as Town and Leeds went at it FOUR times before Town won 3-2 at Filbert Street, on a neutral ground - Clive Woods netting a curling winner.
The semi-finals saw Town play West Ham.
After a 0-0 draw at Villa Park, Town were beaten 1-2 by the Hammers in controversial fashion at Stamford Bridge, referee Clive Thomas disallowing two Town goals.
It was heartache for Town.... But thankfully they would only have to wait a few more years to lift the FA Cup at Wembley.