SIR Alex Ferguson did not invent “squeeky bum time”. Young schoolboys like myself were particularly susceptible to it in the 1950s, especially in the later stages of the FA Amateur Cup competition if a trip to Kingsway, Bishop Auckland, to face the “old enemy” was involved.
This happened on Saturday, March 2, 1957, after Crook Town and Bishop Auckland had drawn 2-2 in their quarter-final clash at Crook the week before.
The reason for the nervous excitement was that from 1949 the prize at stake was a trip to Wembley Stadium, the Mecca of English football, to play for the Holy Grail of non-league football, the FA Amateur Cup.
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Most of the country, especially south-west Durham, knew the importance of this replay, as Bishop Auckland fan Keith Belton recalled: “The official attendance for the game was 12,000 but I can tell you now there were closer to 16,000 in the ground.
LINE UP: The teamsheet from the programme for the FA Amateur Cup quarter-final replay between Bishop Auckland and Crook town at Kingsway Bishop Auckland on Saturday, March 2, 1957, showing that Hardisty replaced the injured Oliver at number 9 for Bishop Auckland, but Boyle, not J May, was at number 6 for Crook town
“Thousands of people, some of them Crook fans, broke into the grammar school grounds, clambered over a 6 foot wall and entered into the cricket ground where they assembled by the temporary standing that had been erected at the Dellwood end and near the cricket square, others broke in at other parts of the ground. Everyone wanted to see this game, the ground was absolutely heaving with people, you couldn’t move.”
It’s a long time ago but the atmosphere inside Kingsway that afternoon was the most intimidating I have ever known, Bishop Auckland fans were definitely up for the game and rightly so with the team that they had. Sharratt, Hardisty and Lewin were England Amateur internationals as well as Great Britain Olympic players.
Warren Bradley was only two seasons away from being in the Manchester United first team, and then the full England team. The story of how Seamus O’Connell ran through a Busby Babes defence which included Bill Foulkes, Roger Byrne and Duncan Edwards to score a hat-trick for Chelsea in October 1954 has been told before.
Hardisty and Edwards were also back for Bishop Auckland, Hardisty at number 9 and Benny Edwards back at number 11. Crook were unchanged from the game at the Millfield, but could they really cope with Auckland’s galaxy of Amateur stars?
You felt that Crook were going to struggle, but all you could do was watch and hope for the best.
One man who did not have to do that was Crook fan Laurie Ford. “I was married at St Cuthberts RC Church, in Crook, when the first game was played and then on my honeymoon in Cheltenham for the replay at Bishop” said Laurie. “We left Crook in a blizzard but there wasn’t a snowflake in sight in Cheltenham.”
Bishop kicked towards the Dellwood end in the first half but it was Crook who had the first real chance in the fourth minute, when a May shot looked destined for the corner of the net only for Sharratt to fling himself across his goal to save at the foot of the post. The Crook attack was the more threatening and Coatsworth burst through but could only hit the side netting. Lewin burst through for Bishop but ‘Feerless Fred’ was quickly off his line and thwarted the England man.
In the 42nd minute Bishop took the lead when a Nimmins cross found Hardisty on the bye line and his header across the goal was headed into the net by O’Connell. The second half was only three minutes old when Bishop went 2-0 ahead with a move involving the two Bobbies. Bobby Thursby floated a perfect cross into the Crook box and Bobby Hardisty placed a header just under the bar.
Bishop were now on top and a piledriver from Thursby made Jarrie dive to make a save. Coatsworth received the ball on the left for Crook and his shot had ‘Goal’ written all over it only for Sharratt to make a great save which even Crook’s Ray Wilkie applauded. That was Crook’s last real shot at goal.
Our Wembley dream was over for another year and for the first time a defeat really hurt, that would happen again though in the years ahead. Just to end the proceedings in a dignified way, five minutes from time, a bugler in the crowd sounded the Last Post.
Thanks to Keith Belton for his help with this article