Minnows and Banana Skins

A look back as West Ham battle it out with non-league opposition.

FA CupNever mind the largely predictable World Cup qualifiers, today also sees the arrival of the First Qualification Round of The (Emirates) Football Association Challenge Cup. Still packed with romance for the clubs at the lower end of the football pyramid, dreams of Wembley, or at least a Third Round meeting with a Premier League team, will be at the back of many a non-league player’s mind as they rub in the pre-match White Horse Oil this afternoon. The big question up and down the country is can the ‘minnows’ from Ashby Ivanhoe, Brimscombe & Thrupp or Sporting Bengal United find their way into the bag along with the big boys next January?

Littered in West Ham’s FA Cup history have been numerous ‘potential banana skins’ with sadly far too many of them turning out to be real. The litany of tame surrender to lower league teams includes defeats by Tranmere, Torquay, Newport. Plymouth, Hereford, Wrexham, Grimsby and Mansfield (if you were to include League Cup defeats then you have a list longer than a James Collins clearance!).

To date, however, we have yet to suffer the embarrassment of defeat to a non-league side and here we look back at our unconvincing yet ultimately successful encounters with clubs from outside the top 4 divisions.

FA Cup 1971/ 72 4th Round (Southern League Premier Division v First Division)
9 February 1972 Hereford United 0 v 0 West Ham United
14 February 1972 West Ham United 3 v 1 Hereford United

Hereford were fresh from dispatching First Division Newcastle United in the Third Round. Following a creditable 2-2 draw at St. James Park they won the replay 2-1 in the Herefordshire mud with a spectacular Ronnie Radford goal that still gets shown on FA Cup specials now. I can’t tell you much about the first game at Hereford’s Edgar Street ground other than it ended goalless. Jeff Powell in the Daily Mail wrote: “‘Hereford blew a rich, ripe, agricultural raspberry at West Ham and all the football they represent. Colin Addison’s part-timers reduced West Ham to a rabble, scrambling to prevent Hereford’s historic FA Cup run escalating into the sensation of our time.”

Five days later the teams met again at Upton Park. Due to an industrial dispute involving power workers (or it may have miners) the game kicked off at 2:15 on a Monday afternoon – Hereford’s players having to take a day off work to play. I can remember bunking off school to watch and many others had a similar idea with over 42,000 crammed into the Boleyn Ground that day. The opening exchanges were evenly contested with both sides going close but a Geoff Hurst goal just before half time served to settle the nerves. After the break, Hurst notched two more before Hereford scored a late consolation goal through Billy Meadows. Hereford winger Dudley Tyler later joined West Ham for a then non-league transfer record of £25,000.

West Ham who had played the same eleven in both 1972 games against Hereford went on to lose 4-2 away to Huddersfield Town in the 5th round.

Ferguson, McDowell, Lampard, Bonds, Taylor, Moore, Redknapp, Best, Hurst, Brooking, Robson

Hereford exacted their revenge two seasons later beating us 2-1 at their ground after a 1-1 draw at Upton Park; but by then had been elected to the Football League.

FA Cup 1991/ 92 3rd Round (Football Conference v First Division)
4 January 1992 Farnborough Town 1 v 1 West Ham United
14 January 1992 West Ham United 1 v 0 Farnborough Town

Farnborough Town beat Torquay United in a 2nd Round replay to set up a home tie against West Ham. As Farnborough’s stadium had a capacity of less than 2,500 they agreed to switch the game to Upton Park. West Ham were struggling at the bottom of the First Division (and would ultimately be relegated in last place) and so this was as slippery as banana skin’s came. Farnborough were able to match West Ham in an evenly contested affair with few chances at either end. Just after the hour though Mike Small laid the ball back to Julian Dicks who rifled home right footed from just inside the area. Cue the customary defensive panic as Farnborough strived for an equaliser which eventually came when a goal bound shot was handled on the line by Dicks. Miklosko almost saved the resultant penalty from Dean Coney but the ball squirmed across the line to force a replay.

Miklosko, Breacker, Dicks, Gale, Potts (Morley), Thomas, Bishop, McAvennie, Small, Keen, Slater

With home advantage (!) for the replay and Kenny Brown drafted into the midfield West Ham were far more dominant in the second game. Apart from some early Farnborough chances it was mainly West Ham pressure with corner after corner but with few clear cut goalscoring opportunities. With the game looking to drift into extra time the Farnborough keeper flapped at yet another cross only for the ball to cannon of a defender and set up a simple chance for Trevor Morley to net the winner; to the palpable relief of the Upton Park crowd.

Miklosko, Breacker, Dicks, Gale, Foster, Thomas, Bishop, McAvennie, Brown, Morley, Slater

After seeing off 4th Division Wrexham, following a replay in the next round, the Hammers went out as 5th round losers to 2nd Division Sunderland – the eventual losing finalists.