16 January 1946: when extra time meant playing on until someone scored

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by Tony Attwood

A series of FA Cup replays were played on this day in 1946, with 30 minutes of extra time and then if scores were still equal the game continued until someone scored. The Middlesbrough and Blackpool match played 31 minutes after extra time and slightly shorter games were played out with Nottingham Forest v Watford and QPR v Crystal Palace. The Middlesbrough game was thus the longest official football match ever played in England at 151 minutes.

Indeed 1945/6 was a strange season.  It had been agreed by the Football League that there was not enough infrastructure operating in the country after the end of the second world war to set up a new League programme, and so the regional wartime leagues continued as before.  Besides too many players were still away from their clubs and clubs had not had enough time to arrange for transfers to plug the gaps in their squads.

But the FA Cup came back after its wartime suspension, and for one season only, it was played on a home and away basis after the six preliminary rounds involving non-league teams.

The home/away system for this one season meant that draws were less likely over the two legs, and of course this reduced the chances of giant-killing considerably, as the smaller clubs can often pull off a shock once, but rarely twice against the same team.

However, there were inevitably some drawn games.   And this was a problem as there was also a partial ban on mid-week games being played as the government attempted to get the rebuilding programme underway. The lack of power also meant no floodlighting was allowed and thus a midweek replay kicking off at 2.15pm might have tempted supporters to take an afternoon off work and very few were allowed.

In the FA Cup replays that did happen, it was agreed that in the event of a draw the game would continue until someone scored.

In the 4th round games on 26 and 30 January 1946, Blackpool beat Middlesbrough 3-2 and Middlesbrough then beat Blackpool 3-2.  The replay on 4 February 1946 is recorded as resulting in Blackpool 0 Middlesbrough 1.

In his memoires, Arsenal manager, Tom Whittaker reported on this match.

“I remember the third game between Middlesbrough and Blackpool, on the Leeds United ground, lasting 30 minutes of extra time, and then, played to a finish, going another 31 minutes before the Middlesbrough captain, George Hardwick, brought merciful relief with a penalty.”

From what I can make out, Nottingham Forest v Watford, 3rd round replay on 16 January 1946 was finished in the same way, as was QPR v Crystal Palace on the same day.

Apparently, the FA then ordered the practice to be stopped, and presumably reached a compromise with the government about additional replays if required.

None of this affected Arsenal as they fared poorly in the Cup this season losing 0-6 to West Ham away on 5 January and winning 1-0 in the second leg on 9 January 1946.

Indeed the whole season was something of a disaster for Arsenal as we finished 13th. Allison had only continued running the club at White Hart Lane through the war out of loyalty to the club and the board, and was very reluctant to manage this first season back. But the board wanted Tom Whittaker as manager, and he was not yet available being still with the army, and so Allison stayed on.

He then wrote his autobiography, “Allison Calling” and finally was able to retire. That autobiography totally contradicts the work of fiction produced by previous Arsenal manager Leslie Knighton, but as is the way of things it was the false story of Knighton that hit the headlines. I imagine Allison was outraged by Knighton’s book but was probably told by the board to stay quiet “for the sake of the club”.

Just another of those little quirky things that has slipped out of most history books.


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