WEST BROMWICH ALBION 2 –v-MANCHESTER UNITED 2
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FAC 6th Round. Saturday March 1st 1958.
1958-01-Albion-v-Man United line ups
Less than a month after the Munich air disaster, in 1958, that left so many of United’s young men dead, or dying, on a German air-strip, the completely re-shaped ‘Reds’ were back in action, for their first away fixture since the tragedy, a daunting 6th round tie against Albion at the Hawthorns.
Albion’s 1950’s cup exploits were infamous, winners in 1954, Semi-Finalists in 1957, and now a year later, two matches away from another Wembley appearance.
Of the pre-Munich side, only Gregg, Foulkes and Bobby Charlton, survived, to take their places in the team at the Hawthorns that day. The rest of the side, was put together by Jimmy Murphy’s magic. Ex-‘Throstle’ of course, Jimmy was the United assistant manager, who took charge of things whilst the great Sir Matt Busby, was battling for his life in a Munich hospital. He ‘begged’ ‘borrowed’ and ‘purchased’ fine players from a host of clubs, just to ensure that United survived the events of a month previous, and of course the harrowing months ahead.
The fact that Murphy’s team, were able to make this fixture at all, was a miracle in itself, and the years ahead were to bring forth many, many more of them, in the life, and ‘post Munich’ times, of this great club. The fact that his ‘stricken’ team, oh so nearly made it through to the semi-final at the first time of asking, says as much for the determination of United’s ‘waifs and strays’, as Albion’s stubborness and determination to book their own place, in successive FAC Semi-Finals.
1958-01 Albion-v-Man united programme
United never allowed Albion to settle into their silky stride, which had accounted for lesser men than those representing ‘the Red Devils’ today. Arch schemer, and bargain purchase from Blackpool, ‘wee’ Ernie Taylor, orchestrated everything for the men from Manchester, and was, as it was reported on the day, ‘A constant thorn in the Albion’s defence, who coaxed and brought these Busby babes into fullest flower’.
Taylor, it was who put United into a 5th minute lead. After Ronnie Allen equalised for the ‘Baggies’ in the 11th minute, it was Taylor again, who on this occasion, powered a drive against Albion’s crossbar, the ball falling nicely for Alex Dawson to head the rebound home, with just a couple of minutes to spare in the first half.
In the second period, United more than held their own, repelling everything that Albion had to offer. Unfortunately, for Albion fans, it wasn’t much, and certainly nothing that they (United) couldn’t handle. Until, that was, a fantastic, last 15 minutes, when Albion, maybe realising that their dream was dis-appearing, threw everything at the visitors, that they could possibly muster. Gregg in the United goal, was forced to make three great saves from Allen, Whitehouse and Robson, although, it was reported, Whitehouse and Robson, could possible have done better, with their efforts.
Just when it seemed, that everything Albion had to offer, was not going to be good enough, Ronnie Allen crashed a stinging drive, which Gregg could only parry out. The ball fell at the feet of the on-coming Roy Horobin, who forced the ball over the line for the equaliser, with just 4 minutes of the match remaining. A goal, that was to spark some controversy, as many in attendance that day were convinced, the ball did not cross the line. Gregg, however, as honest as the day is long, ‘scotched’ all the doubts, by confirming ‘Yes, the ball was over the line’.
On the day, Albion sorely missed the services of Frank Griffin, who suffered a broken leg in the previous round against Sheffield United, and Maurice Setters, who surely would not have allowed the menace of Taylor and co to develop. Whitehouse, Griffin’s replacement, never had the same impact as Griffin, whilst Barlow and Dudley, had poor games by their own high standards. Never-the-less, Albion lived to fight another day. Unfortunately, that day, was to be one of defeat, when Webster’s last minute winner, in the replay at Old Trafford, was to settle this absorbing tie, and push United one step nearer, that Wembley dream.
For Albion, no complaints really. Over the two games, they never really re-created their best form, and far too many chances were squandered. It was indeed, a great fight, in very difficult circumstances, and as usual, they were most stubborn when the odds were against them. As they were, at Old Trafford,
where, the gates were closed 90 minutes before the start of the game. Ironically, just before the United winner, Brian Whitehouse, having a better game than the Hawthorns en-counter, had crashed in a shot, that had ‘Goal’ all the way, ‘written on it’, only to see the ball crash against the cross-bar, and bounce harmlessly over the top.
So, for Albion, it was not to be. Nor for United either. Having beaten Albion, they accounted for Fulham in the semi-final, only to be defeated by 2 goals to nil, by Bolton Wanderers, in the Wembley showdown. Nat Lofthouse, the ‘Lion of Vienna’ it was, who hoisted the cup aloft that sunny day. For United, beaten finalists the year before, by Johnny Dixon’s Villa, they had to wait another five long years, before realising that FAC dream, beating Leicester City 3-1 in the1963 Wembley showpiece.
Laurie Rampling – March 2010.