What a mad mad night at St James Park 40 years ago today – Blyth Spartans doing us proud
On 27 February 1978 it was a remarkable night at St James Park, with Blyth Spartans and not Newcastle United taking centre stage.
Non-league Blyth Spartans had been involved in an unbelievable run to the FA Cup fifth round and had been cheated out of progress to the sixth round by some shocking decisions from the officials, the game ending 1-1.
Wrexham were busy getting promoted to the second tier (Second Division) and ironically had knocked out First Division Newcastle United in the previous round.
A 2-2 draw at St James Park in front of 29,344 was followed by a 4-1 hammering at Wrexham in the replay.
With Newcastle having a dismal season and getting relegated at the end of it, the following season (1978/79) saw Newcastle meet Wrexham in the Second Division.
Anyway, 40 years ago today, Blyth Spartans were given permission to host their fifth round FA Cup replay at St James Park.
Anybody who was there will never forget it.
The crowd was officially 42,187 but if there were less than 50,000 inside St James Park I would be astonished.
I was just a kid in the Gallowgate End and I have never felt so crushed, the old Leazes End was also still up, which meant some 80% of the stadium was standing.
There was hell on outside the ground as well with over 10,000 said to be locked out, as the sheer numbers of people wanting to turn up and back Blyth Spartans had been very much underestimated.
After the match, Newcastle United confirmed that a number of gates had been forced open by fans desperate to get in, so exactly how many were inside St James Park will never be known.
The official capacity at the time was around 47,000 but judging by how packed it was, it was definitely over that figure. NUFC and the Police had closed the turnstiles after the gates were forced, to try and relieve the packed terraces – hence why the official crowd figure was some way under that 47,000 mark.
As for the actual match, after 7 minutes a dodgy penalty saw Wrexham take the lead through Graham Whittle.
Then Dixie McNeil made it 2-0 on 26 minutes after future Newcastle striker Bobby Shinton’s excellent run.
Blyth should have had a penalty for handball just before half-time but it was waved away by the referee.
Terry Johnson scored with seven minutes remaining to make it 2-1 and set up a thrilling finish but it wasn’t to be.
As well as Shinton for Wrexham, Blyth also had two future Newcastle players in their team, Alan Shoulder and Steve Carney.
Great footage of that night below, the crowd scenes and just look at the pitch conditions as the rain lashed down – those were the days!
Blyth Spartans: Clarke, Waterson, Guthrie, Varty, Scott, Dixon, Shoulder, Houghton, Johnson, R.Carney, S Carney
Wrexham: Davies, Evans, Dwyer, Davis, Roberts, Thomas, Shinton, Sutton, McNeil, Whittle, Cartwright
Blyth Spartans manager Brian Slane:
“After what happened in the first match the referee was determined to show he was not pro-Blyth but he went completely the other way. It was never a penalty.
“That sort of challenge happens dozens of times in a game. We should have had a penalty when John Roberts tipped the ball away in the first half. But there is nothing we can do now, we have just got to accept it.
“I’m sick at the result for the lads but I’m proud for every player because of the way they played. But that’s football and you have got to accept it.
“We have done a wonderful public relations job for football and we have shown many professional sides how to accept defeat with dignity.”
Go to 4.38 on the video if you want to go direct to the game at St James Park, skipping the draw at Wrexham.
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