You have to almost admire Malcolm McDonald’s supreme pettiness on witnessing one of the most sensational, famous and celebrated strikes in British footballing history.

“The ball sat up on a divot,” the Newcastle forward later claimed, when reluctantly revisiting Ronnie Radford’s cup rocket that stunned an entire nation on February 5th, 1972.

“I was four yards behind him. He didn't know that was going to happen. Without that, it would've been a mishit and a throw-in to us.”

Was Radford’s iconic thunderbolt pitch-assisted? On rewatching it for the millionth time there is no evidence of any elevation before boot connected with ball but certainly the turf was in an appalling state that afternoon, that much is true.

Staging a fixture that has gone down in folklore, Hereford’s Edgar Street was a quagmire of mud necessitating straw to be put down in the days leading up to kick-off. 

Bad weather had resulted in this FA Cup third round replay being put back several times until it could finally commence of the same day of the fourth round elsewhere.

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It also meant that Newcastle players had to remain based in the South-West for a whole week beforehand, each top-flight star having to make regular trips into town to purchase fresh underwear and socks.

Not that such complications dented McDonald’s confidence. This after all was a forward who revelled in the nickname of ‘Supermac and was known for making outlandish comments.

Indeed, on the morning of the game a local newspaper quoted him as saying that he planned to break Ted McDougall’s record for scoring the most goals in a competitive game.

Ten were supposedly up for grabs against a lower-league side who had performed a minor miracle in drawing with the Magpies in the first game, but who none of the FA Cup predictions backed to finish the job off on home soil. 

In the event, Supermac bagged just the one, a late-ish goal that everybody assumed would be the winner. That was until Radford’s moment of pure brilliance and Ricky George’s extra-time low drive ensured this game got top-billing on that night’s Match of the Day.

Moreover, it will forever be shorthand for any potential cup upset, any giant-killing that distorts logic and upends the betting. It was the magic of the cup writ large.

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Before we get to the goal itself though, some credit is deserving of McDonald who reappraised his verdict of the goal on Ronnie Radford’s sad passing in 2022. “It was a fabulous strike,” he said last year. “It went in like an Exocet missile, right in the top corner.”

And it really did. After playing a one-two thirty yards out, Hereford’s number 11 unleashed a spectacular effort that at great speed slightly arced in its trajectory but for all of its 2.7 seconds in flight stayed true. 

It was the kind of goal that would have lit up a dead-rubber as a consolation. Only here, it brought unfancied Hereford back level against a behemoth of an opponent. Here it set the scene for a cup shock that had the country talking for weeks, and reminiscing for decades after. 

We’ve all seen crazily good goals, just as we have all marvelled at unforgettable sporting achievements. But for one to marry the other, and live happily ever after, is rare in the extreme. 

And then came the celebrations, in their own way as memorable, as hundreds of kids ran on in parka coats, their broad grins failing to hide their incredulity. 

Those kids probably naively believed they would experience similar moments again. They were too young to realise that history had just been made, and they were a part of it. A history that will likely never be repeated.

*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to Alamy*

Stephen Tudor is a freelance football writer and sports enthusiast who only knows slightly less about the beautiful game than you do.

A contributor to FourFourTwo and Forbes, he is a Manchester City fan who was taken to Maine Road as a child because his grandad predicted they would one day be good.