This match fulfilled the dream of all small clubs that enter the FA Cup, that they will make it through to the third round proper and be drawn against a big club. In Boston's case it also brought back memories of the FA Cup clash between the two clubs back in 1955, when United had sensationally beaten Derby by a record score. In 1955 Derby had been a top club in the Third Division North, now they were in the First Division, having won it just eighteen months earlier. The earlier record score could be partly explained by the fact that Boston then had six former Derby players in their team. This time they only had one; Phil Waller, and he had never played First Division football for them. Another connection with the 1955 game was that the father of Derby's No.7 Steve Powell; Tommy Powell, had played for Derby in the earlier game.
Boston were well supported at the game, bringing over 4,000 with them. Seventy coaches and an additional football special train took Boston fans to Derby.
The Derby team contained five international players and would go on to finish in third place in the First Division, behind Leeds United and Liverpool. The Boston team were under the management of former Grimsby player Keith Jobling. They were trained by player coach Howard Wilkinson, who would later go on to manage Notts County, Sheffield Wednesday, Leeds United and England. Boston had won the Northern Premier League title, ahead of Scarborough and Wigan, the previous season. Just prior to the Derby game United's sequence of unbeaten home league games came to an end following a 1-0 defeat against local rivals Gainsborough Trinity. The last time they had lost a league game at home had been more than two and a half years and 64 games earlier. Boston's passage to the third round had been fairly straightforward. They had started in the fourth qualifying round and had so far managed to avoid League opposition. Their toughest test so far had been in the first round. A replay and a goal from top scorer John Froggatt in extra time had been needed to overcome Hayes. In goal for United was 20 year old Nigel Simpson. He had started the season on-loan at Holbeach United and had also had a few games with Peterborough reserves, but had returned for duty in Boston's first team following an injury to regular 'keeper Malcolm White.
Derby put Boston under pressure right from the start of the match. They won four corners in the first five minutes. The Boston defence held up well. Alan Hinton was finding it almost impossible to get behind John Lakin and most of his crosses were met by the head of Dick Bate or Billy Howells. Boston's first real chance came after ten minutes. Howard Wilkinson was fouled on the halfway line by Henry Newton. Phil Waller's free kick was headed back by John Froggatt to Alan Tewley whose shot ricocheted off Colin Todd for a corner. After half an hour Roy McFarland was injured and was replaced by Peter Daniel. Immediately afterwards Colin Boulton in the Derby goal failed to collect a centre from Tewley. The ball fell to Wilkinson who fired in a shot which was somehow deflected for a corner by Daniel.
In the second half Derby came close to scoring when Jeff Bourne headed a free kick from Hinton inches over the bar. Twenty minutes from the end Boston nearly took the lead in dramatic fashion. Wilkinson sent in a pinpoint cross to Tewley whose diving header beat the goalkeeper, hit the inside of the post, rolled towards the goal, but then got stuck in the mud on the goal-line before being hooked out by Rod Thomas. Towards the end of the game youngster Nigel Simpson had to make three tremendous reflex saves to keep Boston in the game.
In the replay at a packed York Street four days later, Derby got their revenge for the 1955 defeat by beating United by the same score of 6-1. Jim Conde scored the only Boston goal. Derby were knocked out of the FA Cup by Coventry City after a replay in the very next round. Boston went on to take their second successive Northern Premier League title after winning their last game of the season against Morecambe.
United team: 1. Nigel Simpson, 2. John Lakin, 3. Phil Waller, 4. John Moyes, 5. Dick Bate, 6. Billy Howells, 7. Cliff Wright, 8. Alan Tewley, 9. John Froggatt, 10. Jim Conde, 11. Howard Wilkinson, Sub. Matt Tees, Manager: Keith Jobling.
Derby team: 1. Colin Boulton, 2. Ron Webster, 3. Rod Thomas, 4. Henry Newton, 5. Roy McFarland, 6. Colin Todd, 7. Steve Powell, 8. Archie Gemmill, 9. Jeff Bourne, 10. Kevin Hector, 11. Alan Hinton, Sub. Peter Daniel, Manager: Dave Mackay.
Dave Mackay "The difference in class is so vast that anything other than a Derby win is impossible."
Howard Wilkinson "All the players did so well, but I must single out Nigel Simpson who for me was the man of the match. I think here is a player with a lot of ability."
Nigel Simpson "It was tremendous. It was the fastest game I ever played in. It seemed just like ten minutes. I did not feel too nervous at all, and was OK once I had my first touch of the ball."
John Froggatt "I think I can move a bit, but Colin Todd is the fastest player I have ever played against. If it had not been for his speed in covering we could have broken through the Derby defence."
Billy Howells "If they had scored, we should have gone and equalised anyway."
Alan Tewley "Howard sent over a great cross and I got my head to it just right. It was one of those occasions when the ball goes off your head like a bullet. It beat the goalkeeper, but hit the inside of the post and rolled along the line. If it had been a dry day it would have gone in."
Cliff Wright "If the ball had hit the post square on it would have come out to me and I should have had an open goal."
Sunday Express "Derby manager Dave Mackay should ask the groundsman to dig out the divot of mud which saved his side from humiliating defeat and have it mounted in a glass case in the boardroom."
Dave Mackay "I was very impressed with Boston, but they were out on their feet at the finish. The big centre half (Dick Bate) was superb."
Doug Moody in the Lincolnshire Standard "Here was an afternoon to remember; a grey, dark January day that was touched by magic. A match of superlatives in which football science was challenged by undying courage."
(Photo: Bob Whitaker)
Left to Right: Keith Jobling, Andrew Malkinson, Howard Wilkinson, Alan Tewley, Billy Howells, John Froggatt, John Lakin, Cliff Wright, Nigel Simpson, Dick Bate, Jim Conde, Owen Simpson, John Blackwell, John Moyes and Matt Tees.
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