|Sunday, March 16, 1969
SWINDON - THE NEW WEMBLEY WIZARDS
by Alan Hoby
SWINDON, THOSE little Third Division wonders from Wiltshire, yesterday won the League Cup before 100,000 bewitched spectators when they destroyed the lordly Arsenal from the First Division. Hero of this murky afternoon, the boy with the winning flair, was £100,000 Don Rogers, who after the Gunners had levelled through Bobby Gould, four minutes from the end, twice scored in extra time.
And so the Swindon slogan of "Attack Attack" paid off like a boxer's knock-out punch.
Arsenal, slaves of their own system, methodical but utterly predictable, were finally unhinged by the individual brilliance and flair of the Swindon stars - the small town Cinderellas whom cynics expected to lose to the North London favourites by a bucketful of goals.
But even though the Wembley pitch was drenched and heavy and sanded in parts like a bull ring, Swindon's spirit, stamina, and skill never faltered. Perhaps they remembered how they had come from behind against Burnley in the semi-finals. But I don't think so.
With stamina running out - Arsenal's Frank McLintock, whose fourth losing Final it was, twice broke down with cramp - it was Swindon who after Gould had headed against a post at the beginning of extra time, stormed irresistibly into the lead again.
First Roger Smart, who like Peter Noble, fully lived up to his name in this titanic struggle, headed with the goal roar rising from the crowd only for Bob Wilson to push the ball onto a post.
The muddy mark on the white paint was scarcely dry when in the last minute of the first half of extra time the Arsenal defence had another attack of jitters from a Swindon corner.
There was a shambles of gold-and-white shirts kicking wildly at the ball before man-of-the-match Rogers coolly cracked it in amid the most tremendous uproar.
This vast fall-out of emotion lit a bonfire in every Swindon man. They ran and ran and ran. They broke clear time and again from the tiring tentacles of the Arsenal rearguard: and, by their courage and refusal even to concede defeat, the Swindon Cinderellas brought a golden glow to this grey day.
Then, with the final seconds ebbing away and with the referee's watch racing round the last minute, Willie Penman, who had come on for John Smith 13 minutes from the end of normal time, fired a long ball down the right.
With the entire Arsenal defence transfixed - they all thought Rogers was offside - the spectacular Swindon flier steamed on, paused as the frenzied Gunners raced back, cut inside, drew out goalkeeper Wilson, and then coolly glided the ball into the Arsenal net.
With desperate Arsenal mounting attack after attack, only to wreck their midfield work with the wildest finishing, substitute George Graham, who came on in the 70th minute in place of limping Peter Simpson, struck.
From skipper Frank McLintock's quick throw-in Graham, fluent-footed in the porridge-like going, pushed the ball through the middle.
Swindon skipper Stan Harland, who had been magnificent at the heart of their overworked defence, scooped the ball high into the air. Goalkeeper Peter Downsborough, who used to captain his school Rugby team at Halifax and who had played a fantastic game, rushed out.
But it was a swirling, nasty 50-50 ball with the onrushing Bobby Gould who had earlier angered the Swindon supporters by twice fouling Downsborough as he crashed into him in frenzied attempts to score.
This time Gould became the Arsenal hero. Downsborough could not hold the ball and Gould, with brilliant timing, headed the ball home amid a triumphant bawl from the Highbury hordes.
Not once this season have I seen the famous padlocked Arsenal defence in such an infernal muck-up as in the 35th minute when Swindon, like burglars on the spree, impudently stole into the lead.
Typically, it was a hair-raising dribble at scalding speed by their £100,000 winger Don Rogers which split the Gunners' rearguard.
Working his way out of his own box on the right, the powerful Rogers beat one man, two men, and then three before being half-tackled just around the half-way line.
Fabulous is the only word I can use to describe this footballer in full flow. He goes as if a maniac with a hand grenade is chasing him.
Half-tackled this time, he still saw the ball fly off to Harland, who cleared it high and deep to the edge of the Arsenal box and here the awful blunder happened.
Ian Ure calmly collected the ball, held it, and went to pass back to goalkeeper Bob Wilson, but Wilson was not where Ure expected him to be.
He had come off his line so fast that he was just behind him, and the Arsenal defence was in a hopeless panic.
Up rushed Peter Noble, a splendid ball-playing inside-forward, who knocked the ball away into the middle.
Vainly trying to catch it, as he ploughed through the mud, was Peter Simpson, but Swindon's second striker, Roger Smart, beat him to the ball.
Smart ran on and as the anguished Wilson fell over, half getting a hand to it, the Swindon forward squeezed the ball into the net by the far post.
Swindon's Don Heath had his name taken for getting rid of the ball in a piece of time-wasting after a throw-in dispute with Peter Storey.