BY far the most memorable FA Cup Quarter Final tie that I have personally attended saw the closing stages played out with a human touchline of several hundred supporters….
QUEENS PARK RANGERS 1, CRYSTAL PALACE 0
Saturday 6th March 1982
FA Cup Sixth Round
A LAST gasp strike by Clive Allen sent QPR through to the FA Cup Semi-Finals for the only time in their history.
This match on the controversial Omniturf plastic pitch attracted a raucous crowd of 24,653 plus the cameras of ITV’s Big Match show with the legendary Brian Moore as commentator. And tension was heightened by the fact that R’s boss Terry Venables had previously plied his trade at Selhurst Park along with Hoops stars Mike Flanagan and Clive Allen.
Rangers carved out the main goalscoring opportunities in a highly charged encounter. On the hour mark, Allen hit a thunderbolt from eight yards out but Paul Barron made an instinctive save in the Palace goal. Then midway through the second half, Barron had to scamper across his line to paw away an opportunist 40 yard volley from Simon Stainrod which zipped goal-wards off the rock hard surface.
Palace - under their manager Steve Kember - were content to play for a draw and rarely looked like scoring. Their best effort was a Jerry Murphy free kick that curled inches wide.
It appeared that the tie was heading for a replay. But Allen made the decisive breakthrough for Rangers in the 87th minute at the home Loft End.
QPR won a corner on the right hand side and a club steward called Mark retrieved the ball. He placed it in the quadrant and shouted at R’s midfield maestro Tony Currie to get a move on with taking the set-play as time was running out!
Currie didn’t even re-spot the ball. He just followed the spontaneous instructions and chipped it into the penalty area.
John Gregory won the aerial battle for Rangers and headed down into the goalmouth. Allen had his back to goal and hit a right footer on the half-turn. In what seemed to me like slow-motion, his shot squirmed through a crowd of players into the bottom right hand corner.
There then followed the most incredible goal celebration I have ever seen. Allen sprinted 100 yards down the pitch before dancing with delight right in front of the Crystal Palace fans who had been ferociously taunting him all afternoon with cries of “PALACE REJECT”.
Another melodramatic twist was to follow. With seconds to go in the 90 minutes, referee Mr John Hunting awarded Crystal Palace a free-kick. However, hundreds of Rangers fans thought that this was the end of the game and they ran on to the pitch to celebrate.
The playing area had to be cleared of supporters, who then formed a human touchline right on the edge of three sides of the pitch as the remainder of the match was completed. I’ll never forget how one over-keen QPR fan subsequently attempted to tackle Crystal Palace winger Neil Smillie as he dribbled down the flank.
Palace threw all their players forward but to no avail and the final whistle saw tumultuous jubilation that continued long through the night around Shepherd’s Bush.
I HAVE got to know Clive Allen very well since then as we both work in the media nowadays.
So I asked him about his recollections of the 1982 FA Cup Quarter-Final…
That was a huge occasion against Crystal Palace wasn’t it?
It was a massive game yeah. There were lots of connections between the two clubs with players who had appeared for both sides. It was just one of those FA Cup ties that – regardless what happened – we just had to win. We just wanted to get through. It certainly wasn’t a pretty match. It was ugly at times and Rangers never really got going. We didn’t play the football that we knew we could. I would say that Crystal Palace did a job on us in terms of stifling our style.
You shot home the only goal of the Quarter Final with just three minutes to go. What are your memories of that moment?
A corner kick that was flicked on and eventually the ball reached me. I was a few yards out at a slight angle. I actually controlled it with my back to goal. Then I remember that I managed to swivel and pivot. I just struck it really sweetly. It wasn’t the most fantastic goal. But from a goalscorer’s point of view, it was a really important strike for me. And as soon as I hit it, I knew it was going in. There were lots of bodies and lots of legs in the way. There was probably just a little window that I could strike it through and it went perfectly into the bottom corner of the net. Obviously the whole place went absolutely crazy. It was brilliant!
The goal flew in at the Loft End. Then you set off on a frantic 100 yard dash to wildly celebrate in front of the Crystal Palace fans at the far end of the stadium didn’t you?
When I scored the goal, it was just so much relief from the frustrating experience I’d had when I was previously playing for Crystal Palace. It all came out in my celebration! I ran towards the Palace supporters. My team mate Gary Waddock tried to rugby tackle me but I shrugged past him and kept going! Then I just started dancing! I didn’t know what I was doing to be honest. I was jigging and dancing and punching the air! The Palace fans weren’t happy but obviously the Rangers supporters were absolutely ecstatic.
Can you still visualise those dying embers with supporters surrounding the pitch?
Yes I remember the fans coming on. We were telling them: “You’ve got to get back. We’ve got to finish the game.” And I recall they were all standing around the touchline. Then obviously once the final whistle went, everyone was back on the field and there was a complete melee. It was great to celebrate with the fans and when we finally got off it was one of the most joyous dressing rooms I have ever been in.
*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to @TonyIncenzo*