Walsall Web Fans looks back at one of Saddlers biggest FA Cup giant killing acts which occurred at Fellows Park on 25th January 1975 in a Fourth Round tie. Walsall had already disposed of the then Second Division Manchester United 3-2 in a thrilling replay in the previous round and went into this game full of confidence being unbeaten in seven games including five clean sheets. This period saw Doug Fraser being in charge of team affairs since the parting of the ways with Ronnie Allen in December. Walsall were in mid-table in Division Three with Newcastle in a similar position in Division One but they had been having a torrid time, losing 5-1 at Manchester City and 5-2 at home to Tottenham Hotspur previously but were expected to turn over Walsall none the less.
Leading up to the game, Saddlers Boss Doug Fraser commented, “The lads are quietly confident, especially after Manchester United, although I have found the best policy is not to talk to them too much about our opponents. If you do, you get their minds bogged down with tactics and that could spoil the good football we know they can play.” Meanwhile Newcastle United’s John Tudor, Malcolm Mac Donald’s usual strike partner, told the press,”I expect Walsall to play a lot of long stuff for Bernie Wright to cause havoc in the penalty area and Alan Buckley to pick up the pieces. Our back four must be prepared to scrap it out with Wright and Buckley.”
On the day of the game, Walsall were dealt a blow with Stan Bennett not available due to flu so John Saunders was drafted in. The visitors sprang something of a surprise by naming Paul Cannell as partner to Mac Donald. There were severe doubts the game would even go ahead. Heavy overnight rain had made the Fellows Park an absolute quagmire, so much so that the game needed two pitch inspections, the second one at 12.30pm with hundreds of Geordies already drinking away in the Walsall pubs! Thankfully referee David Wallace gave the game the go-ahead and if there was ever an example of a heavy pitch being a great leveler, this was it.
The pitch was certainly no stage for them to show off their silky skills and in the early exchanges The Magpies were literally bogged down in the mud. Then, on 34 minutes, the ground erupted when Roger Fry sent over a perfect free kick for George Andrews to rise majestically to outjump Pat Howard and head the ball into the Laundry End goal.
It was nearly all Walsall for the rest of that first half. Alan Buckley was robbed by Alan Kennedy when he was just about to shoot for goal and George Andrews went close again with another trademark header. Newcastle’s only noteworthy efforts were a poor Paul Cannell shot and a weak Malcom Mac Donald header
After the break, Newcastle came into it more with ‘Super Mac’ and Geoff Nulty having good chances but nothing, apparently, was going to get past Mick Kearns in the Saddlers goal. It wasn’t all one way traffic though, with Nick Atthey, Bernie Wright and Alan Birch all going close for the home team. In the very last minute Walsall fans had their hearts in their mouths when Malcolm Mac Donald had a great chance to force a replay but somehow managed to hit the ball hopelessly wide from eight yards.
So Walsall had done it again – a terrific, determined performance with a memorable goal from George Andrews to send Walsall into Round Five which meant an away tie at Birmingham City. The official ‘gate’ was given at two shy of 20,000 but those of us lucky enough to have been at Fellows Park would say there were a few thousand more actually present.
The starting line ups that day were…
WALSALL – Kearns, Harrison, Fry, Robinson, Saunders, Atthey, Taylor, Andrews, Wright, Buckley, Birch.
NEWCASTLE UNITED – McFaul, Nattrass, Howard, Keeley, Kennedy, Smith, Nulty, Craig, Mac Donald, Burns, Cannell.