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The Giant Killers

Every F A cup slaying since 1888

All time greatest F A cup giant killings

Number 15

Newcastle United 0-1 Crystal Palace

First round

Saturday 12th January 1907

St James' Park, Newcastle

Attendance: 28,000

Scorer: Horace Astley {41}

Sensational defeat of United

Crystal Palace is a name that will always carry a prominent place in the history of the F A Cup. A team representing the huge London pleasure park in Sydenham entered the first ever competition in 1871 while the natural bowled arena became home of the showpiece final in 1895. In fact had it not been for the first world war Crystal Palace may well have remained the cup final venue to this day, being dropped only when it was requisitioned by the army after the 1915 final.

In 1905 the ground staff at the exhibition palace and park felt that it was all very well hosting the cup final every year but the stadium should have a team of their own. As a result the new Crystal Palace were born, though their adoption of the same claret and blue colours as the former club had more to do with the influence of former Aston Villa amateur Edmund Goodman, sent south at the recommendation of the then Villa chairman to help the fledgling southerners.

The club had initially applied to join the Football League second division, which at the time was eagerly expanding its empire towards London. Chelsea and Clapton Orient were greedily snapped up by the League for the 1905/06 season but Palace were left out in the cold. To make matters worse their rejection as a League club also came too late for them to fall back on a place in the Southern League’s first division. Instead Palace had to settle for a second division place, largely playing the reserve sides of other teams.

It came as no surprise when Palace romped to the title, losing a solitary game along the way. Their side had been coached by Durham born Jack Robson who had previously guided Middlesbrough into the Football League. Robson had brought many north eastern based players with him to Sydenham and there was certainly a distinct Geordie twang to the vocals in the dressing room as they embarked on the first season in the Southern League First Division in the Autumn of 1906.

Despite winning their opening game, Palace were finding life tough in the new division, picking up just seventeen points from their first twenty games to sit second bottom of the table, although a hint of improved form did come in a 5-1 mauling of Queen’s Park Rangers on the first weekend of the new year. Some wags {terrace jokers by the by, not wives and girlfriends} noted with interest that Palace’s next game was the first round cup tie at Newcastle, suggesting that many players upped their game to ensure selection.

To say this game was a formality was a fair assessment of the task in hand for Palace. Opposing them was a Newcastle side who were lying second in the First Division and boasted a proud record of not having lost at St James’ Park in fourteen months, having just completed the calendar year of 1906 undefeated in front of their own fans.

Despite this the Newcastle selectors took no chances and named a side containing ten internationals, the only uncapped player curiously being the team captain Alec Gardner. He however was one of ten men in the side who remained from Newcastle’s title winning side of 1905, the only exception here being Gardner’s Scottish compatriot, centre forward Finlay Speedie, who at that time had instead been busy winning his third Scottish title at Rangers. Speedie was one of a seven strong Scottish contingent, who, with the aforementioned exception of Gardner, made up the backbone of the Scottish National side. Jimmy Lawrence was the custodian behind the back, Alex McCombie, half back Peter McWilliam and forwards Jimmy Howie and Ronald Orr playing either side of Speedie. Add to that the English International trio of half back Colin Veitch and wingers Jock Rutherford and Bert Gosnell and the Irish international full back Billy McCracken and United fielded a side without a weak link.

Palace’s links geographically with Tyne, Wear and Teeside were as strong as their opponent’s with Scotland but consisted almost entirely of players unable to break into the football scene of their home Counties. Only Wilf Innerd had been a first teamer at St James’ Park and had actually made one appearance alongside his former team mates in the celebrated 1905 title winning team. That was the last of just three appearances in the league in total and Innerd naturally took Robson’s call south. Only two others in the eleven, Archie Needham and Bill Forster had First Division experience as both chalked up a meagre twenty appearances between them at Sheffield United while seven of the Palace side had no league experience at all.

If nothing else at least the trip north gave many of the Palace side a chance to catch up with family and friends, which was a good thing for the club who were able to travel up the day before the game and arrange accommodation for free as the local players boarded the few non locals in the side with family and friends.

Saturday January 12th dawned cold, wet and a little gusty , adding to the pre match fears of the directors that the quality, or lack of it, in the opposition would lead to a poor gate. By the time the two teams took to the field there were 20,000 in the ground and another 8,000 outside waiting to get in as the magic of the cup showed that it was still a bigger attraction then the League, as it would remain until the final quarter of the Century.

Newcastle took the field in their now familiar black and white striped shirts, although blue shorts were the norm in those days while Palace followed, looking for all the world like Aston Villa in identical claret and blue kit to the first division club. With only a tiny handful of Palace fans dotted around the ground the visitors might have expected an intimidating atmosphere but actually got quite the opposite as the Geordies gave the visitors a good reception, no doubt buoyed by their own self assurance that Palace were attempting to bridge a gulf in class never before achieved in the cup.

That same over confidence had also made its way onto the field as Newcastle started with the kind of swagger expected of a side already leading comfortably as they played in a very pedestrian manner. The only problem was they weren’t leading comfortably and their nonchalance led to stray passes which gave Palace much more of the ball in the early stages than anyone had expected.

Palace, having settled into the game quicker, now exploited their possession with fast raids down the wings, especially through Dickie Roberts who began giving Andy McCombie a horrible afternoon. The Scottish International back was repeatedly outpaced as Roberts began raining crosses into the Newcastle penalty area, mostly without troubling Lawrence in goal but with enough regularity to start getting the home fans on edge as they began to show their frustration at the lack of motivation in their team.

Despite Palace’s raids chances at both ends remained few and far between in a lacklustre first half until the midway point when Roberts cut inside McCombie yet again before smashing a low hard shot underneath Lawrence. The gasps of shock from the home fans were quickly switched to a collective sigh of relief to see that Mr Hines’ assistant had signalled that Roberts was offside by at least a yard.

That scare served to wake Newcastle from their over confidence for the next five minutes or so and for the first time in the game Hewitson, in the Palace goal was properly called on to do his first work of the afternoon as first Orr came close to getting on the end of a dangerous Veitch free kick before Howie beat Hewitson only to find Mr Hines’ other assistant had also correctly advised the referee that he had scored from an offside position.

Oddly as much as the Palace offside had woken Newcastle up so now their own chalked off goal put them back in a slumber, almost as if it served to ease the home players that they could break through at will if needs be.

Within a minute however Horace Astley picked up a clearance and left both McCombie and McCracken flat footed as he found himself one on one with Jimmy Lawrence before sliding a calm finish under the keeper to put the visitors in front. A collective groan from the stands was followed for a few moments by an eerie silence as the fans took in the scene before them as the Palace players congratulated their scorer while a tiny section of no more than a dozen Londoners went wild with delight.

Worse still was that within a minute of the restart Palace could and perhaps should have doubled their lead as Wallace laid a brilliant ball through to Woodger who, after leaving McCombie on his backside now also found himself one on one with Lawrence. This time the Scottish International came roaring out of his goal to make himself as big as possible as Woodger ‘s shot came off the keeper’s leg and went wide of the goal for a corner.

The final three minutes of the first half again saw Newcastle raise their game a little but the half time whistle brought their attempts at an equaliser to a close as they left the field to cat calls and hoots from the home faithful, clearly annoyed with the lack of spark from their favourites.

If Frank Watt gave his star studded side a team talk at half time it looked as if it had done the trick in the early minutes of the second half as the Magpies surged forward in the opening exchanges in search of a quick equaliser, much to the delight of the home fans who began to look a little more comfortable in the knowledge that Palace had had their fun and Newcastle would now put the upstarts in their place. Yet again though Newcastle began to drift back into their lacklustre ways as they pegged Palace deeper into their own half, as if they again began to feel that the goal would come as a natural thing and that they didn’t need to work as hard as they would in a league game.

Yet again it took a scare to act as a wake up call with a brilliant counter attack from the Glaziers, which began when Hewitson punched clear from a good chance of an equaliser form Rutherford. As in the first half Wallace made a dash down the wing and laced a good through ball into the path of Woodger who this time turned McCombie, who by now had realised that this game was going down as his own personal nightmare, before lashing a quick shot towards goal. Again the quick witted Lawrence, perhaps the only Newcastle player doing himself any justice, had raced from goal to make the target smaller and made an excellent one handed save to push the ball wide and prevent a killer second goal.

The resulting corner was easily cleared in what proved to be pretty much the last action Palace’s forwards saw as an attacking force even though there was still half an hour to go.

Newcastle now decided to shuffle their pack as centre forward Speedie, who had hardly touched the ball clashed with Ryan with both men left writing in agony and clearly injured. The home side pushed Speedie out to the wing, where he remained equally ineffective while Veitch now moved forward to lead the line. Ryan by contrast stayed at his post at centre half, though Astley, Harker and Woodger had now been virtually forced back into emergency centre half positions themselves as all hope of attack faded as the game moved into its dying minutes.

The classic desperate scenes so often played out in the last throws of a cup upset now started appearing as Newcastle threw caution to the wind and finally set out in all out attack. Their cause was aided six minutes from the end when Ryan again crumpled onto the well sanded turf in agony after another brave challenge. This time, after a few minutes treatment it was clear that he would be unable to continue and he was carried from the field to leave the visitors down to ten men and still with the last few minutes plus stoppages to play.

Three minutes from time Newcastle forced yet another corner and this time looked sure to score as the kick landed amid a series of flailing boots right in front of the goal before Hewitson bravely and calmly flung himself into the scramble to gather as Newcastle forwards gathered ready to end the fairytale.

Moments later when Hewitson cleared, Mr Hines blew for time in front of a sea of incredulous Newcastle fans. The tiny group of Londoners, almost all of whom were locally based workers, danced with delight in the stands while the bewildered home players made a hasty exit from the scene. The visitng players too began to make their exit quickly, perhaps in fear of the wrath of a 28,000 strong disappointed crowd but their reception was a standing ovation from the home fans in appreciation of the bravest and gutsiest performance any team had ever made in cup history.

Within minutes the offices of regional newspapers all over the country were getting the news that Palace had pulled off a near miracle, leading many editors of the ‘pink uns’ to take the unusual step of adding a tag lines such as ‘United beaten’, ‘A great surprise’ and ‘Great Southern victory’ before their usual short two paragraph synopsis of the action for their readers. They were needed too as most readers would have thought they were looking at a misprint otherwise.

Some of the Palace players made straight for the train after the game for their six hour journey home but there was to be no quiet arrival as the Upper Norwood temperance prize band had assembled along with a gathering of 2,000 well wishers to greet their heroes return, even at midnight.

That was nothing to the scenes on the Monday evening when the remainder of the players, who had spent the weekend with friends and family back in the north east returned. The band were again waiting at the station with twice as many well wishers in attendance who gathered captain Wilf Innerd up to be carried shoulder high in a torchlight procession to Averley and back.

The second round saw Palace presented with a local derby at Southern League champions elect Fulham where, in front of a healthy contingent of visiting fans Palace somehow survived a battering to earn a replay at Sydenham. 20,000 people turned up for the midweek replay in which Fulham were made to pay for their profligacy in the first game as George Woodger sealed Palace’s ticket into the third round. Curiously Palace’s opposition continued to get weaker on paper as this time they faced a mid table Southern League Brentford side who themselves had carved their name into the giant killers list with a second round victory over Middlesbrough. The crowds got bigger as over 30,000 saw Richard Harker give Palace a first half lead only for Brentford to level within five minutes before having a late stonewall penalty waved away. Yet again Palace rode their luck and profited in the replay with Dickie Roberts scoring the only goal of the game to send the Glaziers into the quarter finals.

Having sensationally knocked out last year’s cup runners up Palace were now drawn at home to the cup holders Everton. The Toffees had been top of the table on the day Newcastle went out of the cup but United’s humiliation had galvanised them for a run of league form which saw them overhaul the Toffees and eventually be crowned league champions. Everton were now themselves sitting second when they headed south to take on Palace and despite being under the cosh for long periods Palace yet again threatened to shock English football with Horace Astley giving them a half time lead. This time the Glaziers couldn’t hold out in the second half and were left to rue a golden chance for Harker early on when Everton keeper Billy Scott made an error but the dalliance of the Palace man gave the keeper time to prevent the goal. Minutes later Taylor had levelled for the visitors and a further half an hour of huff and puff failed to produce a winner.

Palace travelled up to Merseyside for a Wednesday afternoon replay knowing that a semi final against West Bromwich Albion awaited but sadly the game at Goodison was never in doubt as Everton played to their strengths and swept Palace aside 4-0. It would be fifty-eight years before Palace fans would witness their team in a quarter final again.

The Glaziers continued to struggle in the Southern League that season and ended up second bottom, though thankfully they would not be subjected to relegation back to the second division. The Glaziers remained a regular fixture in the Southern League and though they occasionally pushed for the title it was trophy which would elude them. Perhaps it was the name which caused some sort of hoodoo because when the Southern league first division was elected almost en bloc to form the Football league third division in 1920 Palace won the title.

Of the players who represented Palace in January 1907 two stand out, George Woodger went on to be selected for England later in the season but he wasn’t picked to play and later took the step up to League football in 1910 with Oldham. George, who had the curious nickname of ‘lady’ would go on to make over a hundred top flight appearances for the Latics, as well as finally getting his England cap.

Charlie Wallace would go on to an even more impressive career, being snapped up by Aston Villa at the end of the season where he went on to become a Villa legend with over three hundred league appearances for the club either side of world war one. During that time Wallace, who gained three caps for England, was an ever present in Villa’s 1910 title winning side and also picked up a cup winner’s medal in 1913, providing the corner from which Tommy Barber scored the only goal of the game. Charlie, who also made history during the same final when he became the first player to miss a cup final penalty, was the last survivor of Palace’s 1907 cup team when he passed away in Southwick, County Durham in 1970.

CRYSTAL PALACE: Bob Hewitson, Matthew Edwards, Archie Needham, Bill Forster, Charles Ryan, Wilf Innerd {c}, Dickie Roberts, George 'lady' Woodger, Horace Astley, Dick Harker, Charlie Wallace {Manager-Jack Robson}

Newcastle United: Jimmy Lawrence, Andy McCombie, Billy McCracken, Alec Gardner, Colin Veitch {c}, Peter McWilliam, Jock Rutherford, Jimmy Howie, Finlay Speedie, Ronald Orr, Bert Gosnell {Coach-Frank Watt, team selected by committee}

Referee- Mr A G Hines {Nottingham}

Background image: Cigarette card of Palace captain Wilf Innerd