Memory Match: Blackpool 3-2 Arsenal, 1970
Matt Scrafton trawls through the archives to take a look back at Blackpool's extraordinary FA Cup third round replay upset against the Gunners on January 15, 1970.
Brave outsiders Blackpool produced a stunning FA Cup third round upset against Arsenal thanks a dramatic injury-time winner.
This was a night in a thousand for Blackpool, a night to live alongside the great FA Cup occasions of their past; a night when a hundred frustrations of a decade of cup gloom were forgotten in a triumph that comes near to anything Blackpool have done in the post-war years, short of winning the trophy itself.
This was a night to remember for every excited member of the 24,801 crowd at Bloomfield Road, an occasion that will live long in the minds of all who saw it with a second half fightback that was a dream come true.
It just wasn’t on that a Second Division side should be so presumptuous as to give an accomplished First Division outfit two goals start in a replayed cup tie, come roaring back to win 3-2 and go at them so hard as to make them look ridiculous.
Or that winning goal should come with the hands of the clock moving into injury time.
Or that the winning goal should be headed home by the smallest player on the field, a forward who less than a year ago was playing non-league football.
If this does not create new interest in the club and the side, I doubt very much if anything will.
Arsenal, knocked out of the cup for the second time by the Seasiders, must take a lot of the blame for their own downfall, although nothing should be taken away from Blackpool’s outstanding qualities of skill, fight and courage.
But the Gunners got the first half breaks and scored twice. Two up at the interval, they looked home and dry.
Full marks to Blackpool though. Their bravery and effort was a joy to see. Arsenal may make the excuse that fixture congestion finally beat them, and they were a leg-weary lot, but this won’t wash.
They were eventually worn down, beaten and outplayed by a side who lasted the pace better and showed much more skill.
However, it didn’t look that way at the interval.
Blackpool had started with a rush and were doing most of the attacking when disaster struck.
With home defenders thin on the ground, Radford moved away in the 18th minute, played a short pass to Armstrong and the winger’s square ball found Sammells. From outside the box, the inside man’s shot deceived Harry Thomson and dipped into the net.
Worse was to follow, Blackpool were again pressing hard when another Arsenal counter attack saw Mowbray, attempting to find a colleague, put Robertson away with a misplaced clearance.
Thomson parried instead of gathering the shot which looked like it was going wide and Radford, following up, pushed the ball home.
Both goals were against the run of play but at this stage it looked like Blackpool could forget about a fourth round tie against Mansfield.
The turning point in the game came when Bill Bentley came on as a substitute for John McPhee in the 57th minute when the Scot limped off with a thigh injury.
Within two minutes, Bentley was pushing a through ball on to Alan Suddick who ran clear of a motionless Arsenal defence, drew Bob Wilson and pushed home Blackpool’s first.
It was a cooly taken goal and all credit to Suddick, who until then had been having an off-night.
That goal gave Blackpool new life and had an extraordinary effect on Arsenal. Experienced defenders such as Terry Neill, Bob McNab and Peter Simpson were all of a sudden a bag of nerves.
Blackpool weighed in with everything they had and Arsenal looked unsure of themselves everywhere, with the possible exception of keeper Wilson, who played to his usual high standard.
Bentley, every man’s idea of a true cup fighter, and Craven began to dominate the midfield and Arsenal were forced back and back.
Six minutes after Suddick’s goal, Bentley charged through to win possession midway inside the Arsenal half, pushed the ball on to Fred Pickering who took it round Neill and calmly picked his spot.
There was no doubt then who the eventual winners of this tie would be, even if it went to extra time.
And it was looking that way until, in the second minute of injury time, Suddick wandered out to the right to collect a pass and pinpointed a perfect centre into the middle.
Micky Burns, who minutes earlier had crashed a tremendous left-footed drive against the crossbar, rushed in from the left and headed home a dream winner from seven yards out.
For Burns it was the greatest moment yet in his young career; for thousands of pent-up Blackpool fans it was heaven.
It was justice for a fantastic second-half fightback which saw Blackpool hit the woodwork, Pickering bring Wilson to a tremendous save and the Seasiders produce their best football this season.
Manager Les Shannon said: “What can I say about a performance like this? The way the lads came back was terrific. It proves what what I have been saying all along about how hard the boys are working.”
Captain Jimmy Armfield added: “This was the most thrilling cup tie I have played in for Blackpool.
“I don’t think we deserved to be 2-0 down at half-time.
“But the important thing as far as I was concerned is that we beat them by playing football.
“We had enthusiasm too, of course, but it wasn’t just that. All of our goals were well worked.”