Let’s Go Round Again: A Brief History Of Norwich City F A Cup Replays


As the nation bids a sad farewell to fate’s surprise footballing bonus, Nick Hayhoe blows the dust off Norwich’s ancient parchments to celebrate our most notable go-overs.

Ipswich Town (fourth round – A – 1961-62)

January 27th, 1962. Officially 39,890 spectators (and likely more than 40,000, unofficially) quite literally squeeze into Carrow Road to watch Division Two Norwich City play Division One Ipswich Town in the fourth round of the FA Cup. 

Those who somehow manage to get a decent view of the pitch watch Norwich City take the lead through Terry Allcock – hero of the 59ers – just after half time. But then, five minutes later, Ipswich’s Leadbitter equalises. With the game ending 1-1 after extra time, that’ll be a replay, at Portman Road on Tuesday.

Once again, a great shift of human migration takes place in East Anglia as 30,000 turn out for the second part of the tie; many more back in Norwich listen live via BBC radio. At Portman Road, the terraces sway like waves coming in on a riptide. People are lifted off of their feet by the swell. The smell of tobacco smoke clings onto the drizzly cold winter air as some crawl on top of sponsorship hoardings, boards and roofs to get a better view.

The game is epic and scrappy. The goal machine Allcock scores midway through the first half, only for Ipswich to yet again equalise quickly. The second half continues as a stalemate until the 89th minute – when Allcock, of course, scores the winner in front of a disbelieving North Stand.

It remains a fact, unfortunately, that the Alf Ramsey-led, just-promoted Ipswich Town go on to win the league title in 1962. But at least Norwich City have directly prevented any notion of Double.

West Ham United (sixth round – H – 1988-89) 

It’s 1989, and Norwich City has a chance of winning the Double. Really. This ludicrous-looking sentence is actually, absolutely true. On the day of this FA Cup quarter-final replay, Norwich are two points behind first-division leaders Arsenal with a game in hand. 

With the first game at Upton Park having ended in an actually quite exciting 0-0, the Carrow Road replay delivers those missing goals in front of a canary-brandishing full house. Midway through the first half, Malcolm Allen’s quick double in two minutes takes the roof off the Barclay, ensuring an atmosphere that doesn’t let up for the rest of the game. 

Despite West Ham pulling a goal back, the match never looks in doubt and Norwich are comfortably into their first FA Cup semi-final since 1959. The impossible double is on…. Until, inevitably, they go on to win only two of their remaining 11 league matches – including a 5-0 pasting away at Highbury. Arsenal then win the league at Anfield with the whole Fever Pitch / “It’s up for grabs now” story that means no one outside Norfolk will ever remember the genuine fairytale chance Norwich had that season.

The FA Cup semi-final, of course, becomes ‘the other’ semi-final. Norwich’s 1-0 loss to Everton quickly fades into insignificance as news filters through that Liverpool and Nottingham Forest’s match at Hillsborough has been abandoned…

Birmingham City (third round – H, A, H – 1984-85)

In our club’s history, 1985 is a landmark year for the winning of a cup that isn’t the FA Cup. And for a very Norwich thing: getting relegated despite the Wembley triumph.

However, our run in that year’s FA Cup delivers a quirk of history that will never be repeated. 

Norwich draws second-division Birmingham City away at St Andrews in the third round of the FA Cup – to be played on 5 January. With Norwich perhaps still despondent from losing 2-0 to Ipswich on New Year’s Day, the game ends in a drab 0-0. 

No worries, replay at Carrow Road on Wednesday…except, well, chaos ensues. Snow blankets Norwich that Monday, causing the game to be called off. The fax machines are assembled to arrange for the game to be played two weeks later, on Monday 21 January.

However, this being the age where weather has yet to become ‘woke’ and we still have snow in winter, the game is yet again rearranged for Wednesday the 23rd. Iit finally gets underway with 11,724 hardy souls braving the cold and ends 1-1, including a penalty miss from John Deehan in extra time.

Right, so: because everyone at the time knows penalty shootouts are an awful way of deciding football matches, there is only one thing for it: another replay. Fortunately, the cold snap had eased slightly so the second replay at St Andrews needed no rearranging from the next Saturday (26 January for anyone still keeping up). Birmingham City misses a potentially winning penalty in normal time, and this game ends 0-0 after 90 minutes. Norwich scores in extra time, causing sighs of relief in both home and away ends. But then, what’s this? David Geddis popping up to equalise, much to the fury of his own players, and once again the game ends in a draw. Get that calendar out again, lads.

The third replay, back at Carrow Road just two days later (28 January), finally breaks the deadlock with an early Steve Bruce goal to which Birmingham, perhaps somewhat deliberately, can’t find an equaliser. Four matches, three replays and three postponements later, Norwich City finally beats Birmingham City in the FA Cup 

Naturally and rather brilliantly, after all that Norwich lose to West Ham at Upton Park the following Monday and exit the cup. In all, Norwich play eight matches in January 1985, including four in the FA Cup, one in the League Cup and three in the First Division. 

Still, poor Pep Guardiola with his £200k a week players having to play on a Wednesday and then a Saturday eh?

Luton Town (semi-final – neutral – 1958-59)

It is not hyperbole to suggest that Norwich City would probably today be a perpetually middling League One or Two club (à la Cambridge United or Rochdale) were it not for FA Cup replays. A mere two seasons after what would be their lowest-ever league finish (24th and last in Division Three South, surviving only through re-election), Norwich embark upon a run to an FA Cup Semi Final replay after 11 epic matches, including three home replay wins. 

The initial semi-final game is played against Luton Town in front of 64,000 at White Hart Lane. This brutal and epic clash sees the disallowal of a second-half goal from Norwich’s Errol Crossan when the referee, extremely questionably, declared that Terry Allcock had fouled the Luton goalkeeper Ron Baynham, who’d dropped the ball into Crossan’s path. It ended 1-1, and the replay was organised to be played at St Andrews, Birmingham, the following Wednesday. 

A mass of 18,000 Norfolkians made the journey over to Birmingham on special trains. A total of 49,500 turned up to see if, for the first time ever, a Division Three side would make it to Wembley. BBC Radio provided full commentary of the match on the Midlands Home Service, which could just about be picked up in East Anglia if one had “a suitably powered receiver” – so there was no doubt many youngest siblings had to stand holding the radio aerial aloft to hear the crackling commentary.

The replay continued in much the same fashion as the original only, this time, Norwich failed to find an equaliser despite having most of the play. As the Eastern Daily Press wrote: ”While the final whistle went there cannot have been many people, apart from the most partisan of the Luton supporters, in the 49,500 crowd, who really thought that justice had been done.” In subsequent years, it’s been widely considered that Norwich were once again on the wrong side of some marginal refereeing decisions. However, if we’re being at all honest, ultimately losing in a semi-final replay actually adds to the mystique of the 59ers’ story more than it detracts. 

Following the ‘59 Cup run, Norwich were promoted to the Second Division within five years, and have only been out of the top two divisions for a single season since.


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