Arsenal were in the midst of some patchy form when this replay in the 4th round of the FA Cup, finally got played.
The four league games and two FA Cup games running up to the match were…
26 December 1970: Arsenal 0 Southampton 0
- 6 January 1971: Yeovil 0 Arsenal 3 (FA Cup 3)
- 9 January 1971: Arsenal 2 West Ham 0
- 16 January 1971: Huddersfield 2 Arsenal 1
- 23 January 1971: Portsmouth 1 Arsenal 1 (FA Cup 4)
- 30 January 1971: Liverpool 2 Arsenal 0
Whether there were mumbles around the stadium after those two away defeats in the league I don’t know, but I suspect the fairest members of the crowd would have recognised this dip in form came on the back of 11 wins and 3 draws in the last 14 league games.
For this fourth round tie it was wet, very wet. Unnervingly Portsmouth took the lead after just six minutes, and for a while the notion that those two league defeats might have been more meaningful that we would have hoped, came to the fore.
But on 13 minutes Charlie George “one of the most exciting prospects in English football” (The Express) equalised in what was only his second start of the season (he having been injured in the opening day’s events). Other than that all he had done was played as a sub in the drawn tie with Portsmouth on 23 January 1971.
This was also Charlie’s first goal since scoring in the 1-2 away defeat to Ipswich on 31 March 1970 – and it was an amazing goal. He took the ball on the half way line, ran straight at the defence, by passed them all and shot from 25 yards. Breathtaking.
On 31 minutes Simpson scored from an Armstrong corner Portsmouth equalised, but Radford was then fouled in the area and up stepped Peter Storey.
Some called the game “pulsating” but the Daily Express went with “neurotic”, focussing on the last ten minutes which began to look like rugby in the mud more than flowing football on grass.
Portsmouth had adopted “rough ’em up a bit” tactics through the game, and in the second half, and Eoin Hand, having been finger wagged for his brutishness went too far even for this ref, on 48, and got a yellow.
It could have been a straight red for the foul on Radford. Indeed only Radford’s restraint caused him not to summons the police to ask for Hand to be detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure.
Bromley for Portsmouth was sent off on 88 minutes after Ley and Rice had started what, in those days, was called on the BBC “a spot of argy-bargy.” “Handbags at 50 paces” is the contemporary phrase. The Portsmouth manager of the day Ron Tindall called the decision “disgusting” and added that “This was a great night for Pompey.” Most neutrals might have thought that if this was a great night for Pompey then a bad night would be truly awful.
Arsenal already knew they would be playing Man City in the fifth round, so the City manager Joe Mercer was on hand saying, “There is no point in taking too much notice of what we saw here tonight.” It left those who read the comments wondering why on earth he had bothered to turn up.
Rice McLintock Simpson McNab
Storey Sammels Armstrong
Radford, Kennedy, George