The following article is reproduced from "The Robins' Review" of 31 October 2015.
DOWN MEMORY LANE - GREAT HARWOOD
On Halloween 48 years ago, Alty were confronted with the prospect of an FA Cup tie which ominously represented more of a trick than a treat.
After recording victories over Netherfield, Lancaster City and Chorley respectively, Lancashire Combination club Great Harwood had reached the FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round for the first time in their history, whereupon they had been drawn at home to face the Robins.
Using the bait of increased gate receipts, Alty suggested switching the tie to Moss Lane, an offer which was understandably rebuffed by the committee who ran Great Harwood even though they anticipated being £200 worse off as a result of opting to retain home advantage and stage the match at The Showground.
The tie was originally scheduled to take place on Saturday, 28th October 1967. However, this match was postponed owing to a waterlogged pitch and the fact that this decision was only reached as late as 1.00pm meant that many Alty supporters undertook an ultimately fruitless expedition to the outskirts of Blackburn.
Concerned by the hosts' quagmire of a pitch, the Robins then submitted an offer of £400 to relocate the fixture to Moss Lane but this proposal was also rejected and, consequently, the tie was duly rearranged for a 2.30pm kick-off on Tuesday, 31st October 1967.
Deprived of the services of defender Neil Dewar, who had suffered an ankle injury, and with forwards Johnny Worth and Roy Wilford both serving suspensions, Alty manager Freddie Pye selected the following line-up: (1) George Smith (2) Reg Holland (3) David Jackson (4) Frankie Peters (5) Norman Sykes (6) Derek Halliwell (7) Frank Twist (8) Les Campbell (9) Dennis Crompton (10) Jackie Swindells (11) Ron Smith. Sub: (12) Freddie Stewart.
Wearing an all-white away kit, the reigning Cheshire County League champions soon found themselves embroiled in an enervating war of attrition on a woeful surface which consisted almost entirely of cloying mud.
These taxing conditions subsequently elicited the ensuing observation from the ever-colourful Freddie Pye: “On a pitch that had so much mud and potholes that it looked like a reconstruction of Flanders, Manchester United could have been beaten at Great Harwood.”
The solitary goal of the encounter transpired in the 25th minute courtesy of an opportunist strike by the Robins' wing half Frankie Peters. Following a free kick out on the left flank, the Great Harwood defenders failed to clear the ball and the ex-Sankeys man reacted promptly to squeeze home a powerful drive from just inside the penalty area.
It was a sweet moment for the Shrewsbury-based garage mechanic, who was just beginning to rediscover his best form. He had endured a severe ankle injury during the previous season which had eventually necessitated undergoing surgery in the summer that had both left him with a seven-inch scar and delayed his pre-season preparations.
With the attacking threat of Jackie Swindells being largely snuffed out by the Great Harwood rearguard, the Robins just about contrived to withstand a grim and exacting struggle in the mud. Indeed, George Smith was the busier goalkeeper and he produced fine saves from shots by Walter McDonald and John Willis before exhibiting tremendous agility in the second half to palm out a twisting lob from Geoff Shaw.
The FA Cup First Round would see Alty triumph 3-0 at Grantham, overcoming both the prolific striker Terry Bly and an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in England and Wales in the process.
The Robins eventually bowed out of the competition via a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the then Football League Division Three club Barrow in a Second Round tie enacted at Moss Lane on Saturday, 6th January 1968 which attracted an impressive attendance of 8,462.
BARRY PIKESLEY (with thanks to Mike Garnett and Terry Surridge)