Stevenage Remembered

Last updated : 07 January 2011 By Footy Mad - Editor

We met them in the 1998 fourth round when Stevenage were a non-league side and the fixtured caused much controversy.

The Hertfordshire outfit wanted to play the home tie at Broadhall Way but Kenny Dalglish (then Toon boss) told the FA the game should be played at St James' Park because of safety concerns.

However, Stevenage held their ground and the game took place at Broadhall Way when Alan Shearer scored early on, but the home side fought back for a draw and a replay.



STEVENAGE: Gallagher, Dillnutt, Love (March 42), Smith, Trott, Soloman, Perkins, Grazioli (Wordsworth 79), Crawshaw, Trebble, Stapleton (Inman 79).

Subs Not Used: Wilmot, Fenton.

NEWCASTLE: Hislop, Beresford (Albert 69), Batty, Howey, Lee, Shearer, Barnes (Ketsbaia 69), Pearce, Gillespie, Watson, Pistone.

Subs Not Used: Given, Rush, Tomasson.

Att: 8,040

So Stevenage will be playing at St James' Park after all - and this was the really satisfactory way of getting there.

It was not just the footballing romantics who wanted to see Newcastle taught a lesson for their arrogance, the whole country had tuned in hoping to see Kenny Dalglish humbled.

They so nearly got what they wanted as well, as Borough bounced back from an Alan Shearer hammer-blow to shock the Magpies to within an inch of their FA Cup lives as we all saw what Dalglish was so fussed about.

England skipper Shearer seemed to have written the real world into the script with a goal that told the world "I'm back" inside three minutes, a soaring, unanswerable header from Keith Gillespie's pin-point cross that should have seen Newcastle strolling down Broadhall Way.

Yet Stevenage, brave as lions, refused to accept the status quo, showed they had the right to be on the same pitch as the Tynesiders.

Giuliano Grazioli - the man who had downed Swindon - was denied by a flag, and Shaka Hislop pulled off stunning saves to deny Gary Crawshaw and Neil Trebble.

But three minutes from the interval it was Grazioli who wrote another glorious page in cup history by stealing into the smallest of spaces to nod home a Crawshaw corner.

It was what football is supposed to be all about - the mouse tweaking the elephant's tail - with the travelling Toon Army stunned into a silence the final whistle did not break.

Even Shearer's talismanic presence could not bring about a second for Newcastle, and, even if this was not a nightmare to sit alongside Bedford and Hereford, the pressure can only mount on Dalglish.

For Stevenage, the decision to fight their home corner was justified to stunning effect, a match that Hertfordshire will always remember. And what about Wednesday week?

It was the day the circus came to town, balloons and banners, page three girls shivering under the greyest of skies, reality and make-believe merging as one.

The nasty taste left by the build-up had gone, but there was no doubt about how much this meant for both sides, despite the incongruity of seeing Shearer taking on foundry worker Mark Smith and painter and decorator Robin Trott.

Newcastle did not want any reminders of that infamous day at Hereford, while Stevenage were dreaming of little else, of bridging the 99 places between the teams.

Borough had the strong wind at their backs, yet it was taken out of their sails as the difference in class looked set to be ruthlessly exposed inside 152 seconds.

That Shearer scored with his first touch was almost inevitable, the trademark goal celebrations - after he had got off the ground where he had been dumped - he has waited seven months to reproduce since netting against France in Montpellier.

Poor Michael Love, embarrassed by his first touch and Gillespie's explosive pace, would have wanted the ground to open up and swallow him, but even he had to admire the way the England skipper hung in the air before steering his header back into the top corner.

The touch of the master, and Dalglish's frenzied reaction, told its own story.

Teams of lesser resolve might have taken that as proof that class would tell - but hadn't Malcolm McDonald opened the scoring at Edgar Street in 1972?

Stevenage clearly knew that, and threw themselves at the Premiership aristocrats, who soon found that eight internationals - David Batty and Steve Howey returned - did not guarantee anything.

Under pressure - and what pressure - Newcastle started to make mistakes, Borough to make headway, although had Shearer's deflected free-kick been a foot the other way it might have been different.

The Toon Army perched in the temporary stand behind Hislop's goal began to worry, and rightly so.

Grazioli thought he had his moment of glory in the 33rd minute, creeping in to convert from Preston cast-off Neil Trebble, although the pitch invasion was premature, with the flag rightly up.

Yet that was the start. Hislop spread himself superbly to paw away when Crawshaw stole on to Grazioli's flick and after Shearer had been denied by Des Gallagher, the moment the ground went crazy.

Hislop seemed to have got the Magpies out of trouble with a flying leap to deny Trebble, but when Crawshaw swung in the corner, Grazioli's header sneaked through to set off a joyous party.

It was no more than Stevenage deserved, the part-timers who cost £16,000 more than matching the team worth £60million.

Shearer might have altered it again with his last touch of the half, a left footer rising over the bar after Gillespie had again flashed down the right, but the interval found Borough dreaming the impossible dream.

Newcastle, surely having reaped the dubious benefits of a gentle dressing room discussion at the break, came out with more purpose in the second half.

The wind meant Borough were struggling to get out of their own half, yet Newcastle created far too little for a side of international all-stars.

Gallagher was relieved to fall on a scuffed effort from John Barnes after an old-fashioned scramble, before Shearer's thunderbolt volley - again from Gillespie - cannoned against Smith.

Shearer's extra quality threatened to prove the difference, yet that lack of match fitness probably contributed to two efforts whistling just outside the frame.

Slowly Stevenage were beginning to come to terms with the conditions as well, Howey forced to head over his own bar before Crawshaw squeezed into space before firing at Hislop.

The danger was always that Premiership fitness would prove the difference, and Howey and substitute Philippe Albert might have made the most of weary legs and minds in the Stevenage box.

Gallagher was equal to the task from Albert and Smith, lungs bursting, got back to foil Gillespie after the Ulsterman had surged away into the box, his reward a man of the match billing.

They deserved to hold on, and did, not without a few frantic whistles from the home fans, before embarking on a lap of honour.



NEWCASTLE: Hislop, Watson (Barton 22), Pistone, Howey (Beresford 81), Albert, Pearce, Batty, Lee, Gillespie, Tomasson (Ketsbaia 78), Shearer.

Subs Not Used: Given, Rush.

STEVENAGE: Gallagher, Dillnutt, March, Smith, Trott, Beevor, Perkins (Fenton 70), Wordsworth (Thompson 72), Crawshaw, Trebble, Stapleton (Inman 34).

Subs Not Used: Cretton, Wilmot.

Att: 36,705

Alan Shearer ended the great FA Cup dream - but this was another glorious night as Stevenage took the nation's plaudits once more.

For huge periods Paul Fairclough's Hertfordshire heroes threatened to breach the great divide all over again, Geordie hearts left in Geordie mouths for far too long.

England skipper Shearer had marked his first St James' Park start of the season with a controversy-shrouded opener which television pictures suggested should not have been awarded.

Even after Shearer's second of the match - again with an element of doubt - seemed to have finished off the non-leaguers, they came again.

And 16 minutes from time delivery van driver Gary Crawshaw grabbed the limelight when substitute Niall Inman's cross deflected off Alessandro Pistone to scare the living daylights out of the Toon Army.

While there were 97 places between the sides on paper, the gap was nothing like as great on the field, Stevenage sensing they had the chance to make history.

They could not, but the side who had been booed onto the pitch - the legacy of the war of words of the past three weeks - deserved more than to be jeered off it by too many of the home fans.

At the end, it was the winners whose heads were bowed, the knowledge that it had needed Shearer to separate the £8,000 collection of shop workers, students, salesmen and handymen from the £60million superstars of the Premiership shown by that reaction.

They were well worth their moment receiving the tribute of the 2,000 who had travelled up the A1, after proving there is a place for the impossible dream.

And if Newcastle - now at home to Tranmere - do finish the season with a trip down Wembley Way they will surely never face a tougher tie than the one that took far more out of them than they ever imagined.

Borough had travelled north as the heroes of the game's romantics, a view evidently not shared on Tyneside as they were met with a chorus of disapproval from the Toon Army.

The absence of the injured Giuliano Grazioli, scorer of that momentous goal at Broadhall Way, lessened the chances of the Hertfordshire side creating the upset of the decade, but surviving an early scare helped.

In that first meeting Shearer had struck after 153 seconds and tonight Philippe Albert could have netted even sooner, unmarked at the far post from Keith Gillespie's corner only to hit the side-netting.

That miss served to increase the nervousness of the home fans, and when Neil Trebble escaped from Steve Howey soon afterwards, the collective sharp intake of Geordie breath told its own story.

Dalglish had opted to revert to three at the back, a tactical switch which gave Pistone and Steve Watson licence to roam forward and with Newcastle dominating possession, and Borough too hurried, they should have made far more of their opportunities.

Failure to do so might have been humiliatingly costly had Stuart Beevor hit the target from 20 yards after good work from Crawshaw and Grazioli's replacement Dean Wordsworth.

But within seconds, Lee's quick thinking after he had been fouled by Steve Perkins opened the way to goal, as Pistone sped down the left and linked with Jon Dahl Tomasson to provide Shearer's opportunity.

The England skipper does not miss chances like that, and for all Mark Smith's acrobatics, the officials were in no doubt - even if the video evidence was decidedly less conclusive.

Just as in the first meeting, the should have been the springboard for Dalglish's side to pull away.

Instead, history partially repeating itself, Borough refused to throw in the towel.

Their commitment was total - admittedly at times over-stepping the mark - and when they did get the ball down, the busy Crawshaw a handful and Trebble threatening, there were signs that they could create something.

At the other end, while Keith Gillespie had the freedom of St James' and David Batty was asserting himself, Smith and Robin Trott were as determined and resourceful as last time, confining the Premiership men to too many pot-shots from distance.

The one clear chance came when Gillespie found Pistone in acres again, Shearer again the target with Tomasson's overhead effort blocked onto the roof of the net by the brave Smith.

Otherwise - both sides forced into switches, Watson hobbling away with an ankle problem and Simon Stapleton's back playing him up again - they coped fairly easily, Wordsworth not too far wide from 25 yards after good play by Crawshaw.

Batty, fed by Lee when the England midfielder might have shot, Tomasson and Shearer could have put it beyond Fairclough's braves at the start of the second half.

But the longer it went on, the greater the glory, and now the non-leaguers had the temerity to start throwing numbers forward, Crawshaw so close to getting onto Trott's ball behind the back line.

It was the Stevenage fans who were in full voice, the disquiet growing around the ground as the inconceivable began to take shape in Geordie minds.

Des Gallagher kept them in it when he sprang to his left to turn aside Shearer's free-kick in the 57th minute before repeating the dose to deny Stuart Pearce.

Of course they were better - and so they should be - and one decent move ended with Lee firing in a shot well held by Gallagher yet there was no swagger, no arrogance, and the second was met by real relief.

It was a typical Shearer finish, throwing himself at the ball while Borough were still appealing for offside after Batty had found Lee in the box.

Yet Borough dug deeper, finding reserves of courage they had no right to find, Crawshaw's strike a wonderful moment.

Warren Barton, on for Watson, should have finished them off six yards out, but so great was Borough's effort that a single goal margin was what they were worth. This one will be long remembered.