|Monday, March 17, 1969
by Clive King
IT'S OURS! . . . after three months of waiting for the Wembley appearance they earned with a semi-final victory over Burnley, Swindon Town delighted their supporters with a well-earned triumph over Arsenal, to bring the Football League Cup to Swindon.
The Town, wearing strange white strip instead of the customary red, gained a 1-0 lead in the 35th minute with a goal by Roger Smart, and held out until the 86th minute, when Bobby Gould equalised for Arsenal.
Then, the dream became reality when outside left Don Rogers eclipsed the Division One side with two goals in the extra-time period.
The real deciding factor in this final was, I felt, that although Arsenal did the bulk of the attacking, they could never match Swindon for determination, courage or fitness.
The Town first showed their determination when, after having slightly the worse of the opening stages, they fought back strongly to take the lead.
Although Noble looked to have no chance of gaining possession of a long ball from Harland, he stuck to his task and made a strong challenge.
His persistence forced Ure and goalkeeper Wilson into a bad misunderstanding, and he was able to turn the ball back towards the penalty spot, where Smart blocked a poor clearance attempt by Simpson, and ran the ball on into the net.
From this point on, Swindon were seen only in flashes as an attacking force. As Arsenal increased their efforts to equalise, the pressure on the Town defence was tremendous, but they refused to crack, and defended and covered as though their very lives were at stake.
On the occasions they did find gaps in the Town rearguard, their efforts were not good enough to beat goalkeeper Downsborough, who was in superb form.
Time and again he leapt out to punch away dangerous corner kicks, and two of his saves from direct shots were breathtaking.
As expected, in the extremely muddy conditions, both teams were forced to use substitutes. Graham took over from Simpson in the 71st minute for Arsenal, and Penman replaced centre-forward Smith in the Swindon attack six minutes later.
With just four minutes left until the end of normal time, it seemed as though Swindon were "home and dry", but it was then that Downsborough made his one mistake . . . the only blemish on an otherwise remarkable display.
As Gould chased a through pass, the Town goalkeeper hesitated for a split-second, before racing out to try to tackle the Arsenal forward in full-back fashion.
The ball screwed upwards and towards goal and, despite a desperate attempt by Burrows to clear, Gould was able to head the ball on into the net.
The goal meant that extra-time was necessary, and it was at this stage when I felt that the Town players gave another example of the tremendous courage which has been one of the highlights of their fine cup performances.
To have, what seemed then, victory snatched from their grasp would have been too much for most teams, but not the Town.
Instead, they and not Arsenal looked the more determined side as the extra-time period started. It was also at this stage of the match that the Town produced their trump card . . . their superb fitness. As they raised the tempo of their game even higher, it was most noticeable that it was an effort Arsenal never had the stamina to match.
Quite quickly, therefore, the game became relatively one-sided, and Swindon really began to dictate the exchanges.
Only a brilliant save by Wilson, in touching a snap header from Smart onto a post, prevented the Town from going ahead for the second time, but the goal which looked imminent came soon afterwards.
A strong challenge by Burrows for a high corner from Heath, led to the ball breaking loose in the Arsenal penalty area. It bounced about for several moments before rolling to Rogers. Quick as a flash, the outside left controlled it and blasted it into the net all in one movement.
Nothing could stop Swindon now, and they clinched the match completely with a further goal in the second extra-time period.
Butler checked a left-wing run by Ure and slid a quick pass to Smart. The inside-right waited for a moment, steadied himself, and then pushed the ball into the path of Rogers, who was just inside the Swindon half.
With the Arsenal defenders never looking like catching him, the outside-left raced completely clear and took the ball right up to the advancing Wilson.
As the goalkeeper dived, Rogers whipped it past him on the outside, and placed his shot accurately into the net.
All that was then left was for Harland to lead his men up the steps to the Royal Box, to receive the trophy and mementos from Princess Margaret. It was a fitting end to what can only be described as a wonderful team performance.
The memories of this remarkable match will undoubtedly remain in the minds of the Swindon supporters who saw it for an extremely long time.
So, too, will the names of those 12 men who brought so much glory to themselves, their club, and the town . . .Peter Downsborough, Rod Thomas, John Trollope, Joe Butler, Frank Burrows, Stan Harland, Don Heath, Roger Smart, John Smith, Peter Noble, Don Rogers and Willie Penman . . . these names will not easily be forgotten.