This last time that Boston United played First Division opposition in a major tournament was back in 1972, when it was known as the Second Division! Their opponents for this FA Cup match at York Street were Portsmouth. Boston had reached the third round proper for the second time in their history courtesy of 3-0 away victories over both Winterton Rangers and Ellesmere Port and a fine 2-1 home win against Fourth Division strugglers Hartlepool. Portsmouth had been achieving respectable mid table finishes in the Second Division since being promoted there ten years earlier. This season, their away form was particularly impressive, having scored more goals on their travels than any other team in the division.
In the first half, Boston put on a magnificent display that will be long remembered by Boston fans. The Portsmouth attack was being neutralised by Billy Howells and Dick Bate in the middle and by John Lakin and Alan Pilgrim on the flanks. Goalkeeper Malcolm White had little to do. Boston's midfield trio of Jim Smith, Howard Wilkinson and Robbie Coats was winning where it mattered and supplying veteran winger Gordon Hughes with the ammunition he required to give full back John Collins the run around. Up front, the deadly duo of Bobby Svarc and John Froggatt were keeping the Portsmouth defence on their toes and working hard to force their way through.
It was fifteen minutes before Portsmouth managed to get their first shot at goal when a long range effort from Ray Hiron curled wide. A few minutes later a poor punched clearance by John Milkins came out to Robbie Coats, but Colin Blant blocked his shot. On 25 minutes a free kick by Jim Smith found John Froggatt, but his header sent the ball on to the top of the net. With half-an-hour gone, Boston felt they were robbed of a certain goal when Bobby Svarc nipped round the keeper but saw his oblique shot blocked on the line by Blant. All the Boston fans in the ground thought that Blant had used his hand to keep the ball out, but the referee thought otherwise. Another more dubious hand ball appeal also went Portsmouth's way when an 18 yard shot by Froggatt was deflected for a corner off the hand of Eion Hand. The half finished with a free kick from Jim Smith that was only inches too high. Portsmouth scored the only goal of the match seven minutes into the second half. A free kick from Norman Piper skidded off Jim Smith's head as he jumped high to intercept it. The ball landed at the feet of the unmarked Nick JENNINGS who picked his spot from 12 yards out. Portsmouth failed to capitalise on their goal and it was Boston who finished the more strongly. Near the end Svarc saw a snap shot beat Milkins but glance clear off a post.
The Boston United team
1972 was the centenary year of the FA Cup, and to celebrate this fact a documentary, called "Cup Glory", about the history of the competition was filmed. Action from the Boston match against Portsmouth, along with interviews with players and spectators was included. The film was shown at cinemas all around the UK during the summer of that year.
After the match Boston hosted an entirely different form of entertainment when rock stars Marc Bolan and T-Rex held a gig at a packed Gliderdrome next to United's York Street ground. The day finished with the ground echoing to the sounds of hits such as "Thunderwing", "Hot Love", "Jeepster" and "Get it On".
United team: 1. Malcolm White, 2. John Lakin, 3. Alan Pilgrim, 4. Jim Smith, 5. Dick Bate, 6. Billy Howells, 7. Gordon Hughes, 8. Bobby Svarc, 9. John Froggatt, 10. Robbie Coats, 11. Howard Wilkinson. Sub: Cliff Wright.
Portsmouth team: 1. John Milkins, 2. Fred Smith, 3. John Collins, 4. Norman Piper, 5. Eion Hand, 6. Colin Blant, 7. Nick Jennings, 8. Richard Reynolds, 9. Ray Hiron, 10. George Ley, 11. Albert McCann. Sub: Mike Trebilcock.
Jim Smith "I thought the lads did us proud, did Boston proud. I thought we were the better side. Perhaps we tired a bit in the second half, but I thought we did enough to go into the draw on Monday. Our defence did a magnificent job, and we had the better of the midfield. I thought we should have had a penalty when Bobby Svarc's shot was handled but, to be fair, I didn't think the referee was in a position to see."
Ron Tindall (Portsmouth manager) "It was hard wasn't it? Boston gave us as hard a fight as I had expected. Any side that kept us to one goal must have played well. At half time I told our team that they must get hold of the ball in midfield and use the flanks, which they had not been doing in the first half. This did the trick."
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