AT the start of the 1954-55 football season, Bishop Auckland set off on an FA Cup run that made every football supporter in the country sit up and take notice.

Exempt until the first round proper, the Bishops drew Kettering Town at home and made short work of their Southern League opponents, as two goals by Les Dixon, two from Ray Oliver and one from Jack Major gave them a comfortable 5-1 win.

The draw for the second round was not kind, however, with a trip to Crystal Palace, then in the Third Division South, scant reward for their first round heroics.

Loading article content

A crowd of 20,155 turned up at Selhurst Park to watch Thomas put the home side ahead after only 12 minutes.

Edwards equalised for Auckland, but Choules restored the Crystal Palace lead, which they held until the interval. In the second half, Auckland overran their more illustrious opponents and came away with a 2-4 win, with Jack Major hitting a hat-trick.

The third round draw was similarly unkind to the Bishops, as they were sent on their travels again, this time to second division Ipswich Town.

Derek Lewin, who had joined Bishop Auckland from Oldham, recalls the occasion.

“Initially, I joined Bishop Auckland for the Amateur Cup competition, but I didn’t think I would stay long as my own play was much below the standard I expected.

“However, ‘chance’ changed the whole course of my future.

Bishops had been drawn away to Ipswich in the FA Cup and, if I was selected, I became Cuptied and therefore not much use to Oldham.

“I had a lengthy meeting with Oldham manager George Hardwick and it was agreed that I would stay with Bishop, but have the understanding that I would retain my position as a registered player with Oldham in the Football League.

“The game at Ipswich was a lot different to the average Northern League game and, for some unknown reason, our whole game stepped up a few gears and we became equal in all aspects to the professional side.

“It was an amazing game, very open, end-to-end, with both sides attacking whenever possible.

“There were two outstanding performances for me.

First, Harry Sharratt made some incredible saves, and secondly, Ray Oliver at centre forward caused havoc among their central defenders.

“One goal he scored with a header I will always remember.

Their goalkeeper committed himself to a cross, but he was beaten in the air by Ray, who powered the ball into the net between two defenders standing on the line.”

The tie finished 2-2, forcing an unlikely replay back in County Durham – a fixture the Suffolk side clearly had little appetite for.

“The replay was probably a very difficult game for Ipswich because the weather was very cold, the spectators were close to the pitch, which had a slope to it. We ran out easy 3-0 winners,”

recalls Derek.

What Derek forgot to say was that for the game at Ipswich, local bookie Bobby Simpson had priced Bishop Auckland at 25-1 to win. Some of the players put £5 on themselves to clinch such an unlikely victory. With six minutes to go, Bishops led 1-2 with goals from Oliver and McKenna, when centre-half Corbett Cresswell put through his own goal. Corbett was probably not the most popular man in the dressing room after the game.

BISHOP Auckland supporter Keith Belton remembers the replay at Kingsway for a different reason – he wasn’t allowed to go.

“I was at Bishop Auckland Grammar School at the time and our headmaster said on the Monday morning, ‘Any boy who goes to the football match on Wednesday afternoon will suffer a fate worse than death’. Luckily, the deputy head was a bloke called Jimmy Fairs, who had once played for Bishop Auckland.

He ran around the school all afternoon telling everyone the score.”

VICTORY over Ipswich win meant that Bishop Auckland became the first Northern League side to beat a second division club and the first Northern League side to play in the fourth round of the FA Cup. The second club to achieve those feats would be Blyth Spartans, who beat second division Stoke City on the their record-breaking FA Cup run to the fifth round in 1977-78.

Bishop Auckland did not become the first non-league side from the North-East to beat a second division club, as that honour belongs to Darlington, who beat Bradford Park Avenue 2-1 at home in the 1910- 11 season. Darlington were a professional club then, but played in the North-Eastern League.