‘My greatest Pompey FA Cup tie’

John Milkins challenges Ray Kennedy whilst Fred Smith and Eoin Hand look on. Picture: Pompey History Society Archive
John Milkins challenges Ray Kennedy whilst Fred Smith and Eoin Hand look on. Picture: Pompey History Society Archive
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Don’t believe what you might read elsewhere - when Pompey play Wycombe Wanderers at Fratton Park on Saturday, there will still be a hint of that ol’ Cup magic in the air.

Okay, crowds might be lower nowadays for many ties on the world’s most famous football tournament, but for me and I reckon many other fans, the FA Cup will always add a bit of spice to the season.

Over the years, I guess I have seen dozens of Cup ties involving Pompey. There have been many great moments - the so-close-to-Wembley semi-finals against Liverpool in 1992, the 3-2 win at Premiership Leeds United in 1997, the semi-final triumph over Harry Redknapp’s Spurs in 2010 and of course the Cup win itself two years earlier - but for me, one match will always be that extra bit special.

As a 13-year-old, I was one of almost 40,000 who packed into Fratton Park for the fourth round tie against mighty Arsenal in January 1971.

Me and my mates were in the queue when the gates opened at 1pm and stood in eager anticipation - and pouring rain - as the minutes ticked down to the big match.

What a difference in those days before fan segregation - half of the top of the Fratton End was occupied by noisy Arsenal supporters (I can still recall a regular rendition of the slightly surreal ‘I’m Popeye the Arsenal fan’) and the other half by equally boisterous Pompey fans.

There were a few scuffles in ‘the gods’ but thankfully peace reigned among the rival supporters standing side-by-side lower down the stand.

We stood next to two great old fellows from North London, who regaled us with stories of how they had watched Arsenal at Fratton Park doing their utmost to hold the best team in the land, with Dickinson, Scoular, Flewin, Reid, Harris et al thrilling all true football fans.

To be frank, Pompey’s players of 1971 were not quite of that class, but they were to give the all-conquering Gunners a good old run for their money.

I remember as Arsenal kicked towards the Fratton End in the first half that their strikeforce of John Radford and Ray Kennedy - fed by the jinking George Armstrong and the lank-haired youngster Charlie George - proved a constant menace.

Radford thundered a shot against a post before, almost inevitably, the visitors took the lead. The ever-popular George Ley prevented a certain goal by handling on the line (thankfully not an automatic sending off in those days) and up stepped Peter Storey - regarded by many at the time as the hardest man in football - to smash the penalty past John Milkins.

Say one thing about Pompey fans - they never give up. And neither did the players as the crowd roared them on.

On a pitch that had long since turned into a mudbath, the home side surged forward in search of an equaliser against the North London superstars.

But try as they might, they couldn’t blow Arsenal down. Until, that is, THAT magic moment.

With a minute to go, a hopeful cross was pumped in from the right. Ray Hiron darted to the near post, pulling tired Arsenal defenders with him and leaving Mike Trebilcock free.

The popular Cornishman, who had written his name into FA Cup history by scoring twice in Everton’s Wembley triumph five years before, was about to enter another chapter in the book of his goal exploits.

Six yards or so out, he caught the ball as sweet as a nut and it rocketed into the top of the net past a flailing Bob Wilson.

Cue one almighty roar - described by Reg Betts in the Football Mail that night as the loudest heard at Fratton Park for years - and cue one 13-year-old going on the ride of his life.

As Trebilcock shot, I had leapt into the air in the sure anticipation that he would score. A split-second later, hundred of people around me were concertinaed in a surge forward.

I stayed suspended among the crowd for what seemed an age until, still hollering with unbridled joy, I found myself up against the Fratton End front wall, just at the spot at which Trebilcock had performed the first somersault I ever saw a footballer complete.

That, though, was as good as it got. Arsenal won the replay 3-2 and went on to win the Double while Pompey slipped back to Division Two mid-table mediocrity.

But the magic of that wet and wonderful day in 1971 will never leave me and, I’m pretty sure that whatever Pompey do in the future, it will always remain by favourite FA Cup tie of all time.

* Mark Acheson is head of digital at portsmouth.co.uk

* What’s your favourite Pompey Cup tie? E-mail your memories to sport@thenews.co.uk or message us on our ‘Portsmouth FC - The News’ Facebook page.