Sunday, March 16, 1969

Swindon genius rubs Arsenal in the mud

Maurice Smith reports

THE MUDSTAINS on the Arsenal shirts told the tale of the day when 11 players from the humble Third Division became giants. For Arsenal were not merely beaten by these men of Swindon - they were demoralised, run into the ground, made so often to look second-class.

This was a triumph of adventure. Arsenal set out to play it defensively with a stolid, unambitious 4-3-3 formation. That against a side two grades below them - on paper!

Swindon, on the other hand, went for 4-2-4. And made it pay by dominating the midfield.

I say by doing that Swindon have done not only themselves but the whole of football the good turn for the season - perhaps for many seasons to come. For this surely was the death knell of mere rugged defence.

All heroes

Salute them all, these heroes from the West. But I demand an extra-special ovation for the man who took Wembley by storm... who made this Cup final in the mud his own triumph.

The name:  DON ROGERS.

Rogers was the genius who had international defenders like Ure, McNab and McLintock looking over their shoulders every time he had the ball.

Rogers never wasted a ball, looked always before he made his move - and always had the Arsenal wondering where and how he was going to strike next.

It was Rogers who scored the two extra-time goals, both deliberate, immaculate one-man strikes, that saw Swindon home after Arsenal had managed to pull the game out of the fire with an equaliser six minutes from the end.

His second goal came from a great weaving run that ended in his sidestepping the goalkeeper and bulging the net with a Bobby Charlton-style drive. That seemed to sum it all up.

It was Rogers the master and Arsenal the mastered.

Arsenal's Jon Sammels summed it up too, when after firing in a tremendous shot in the dying moments of the original 90 minutes, he saw 'keeper Downsborough respond with an even greater save.

Sammels sank to the ground and beat the Wembley mud with his fists in sheer frustration. And sheer frustration represented the end of so much of this Arsenal effort.

Swindon wouldn't get a look in, they'd told us. But it was Swindon right from the start, fighting for every ball, calling every tune.

Well earned

When Smart put them ahead it was no more than they deserved. And this goal highlighted Arsenal's early attitude.

Ure was so casual in turning the ball back to his advancing goalkeeper, Wilson. All they managed to do was to set up the easiest of chances for Smart.

And all the credit for making the goal in the first place belonged also to that man Rogers. Calmly, he had run 50 yards with the ball, cutting through the Arsenal defence as though it had ceased to exist.

But if Arsenal were casual early on, any sign of casualness left them then. They realised just what they had to beat in these men of the West. And hard though they fought, they were never equal to the task.

When they were on target, goalkeeper Downsborough was there to send them back.

Ironically, it was Downsborough's mistake that led to Gould giving Arsenal their extended chance six minutes from the end. He came out too late, fumbled as Gould shot, and gave the Arsenal man a second chance to nod that ill-deserved equaliser.

Arsenal - again a sign of desperation - had replaced successful defender Simpson with extra striker Graham. And Swindon's midfield director Smith came off for Penman.

The question as they went into extra time was whether Swindon could last on this stamina-sapping pitch, on which all of them were appearing for the first time.

Last? They hardly let Arsenal have a single kick in that 30 minutes of extra time.

And there could have been a fourth to add to their goal total. A drive from Trollope was sailing into the Arsenal net when it struck the referee, and all Swindon got was a corner.

In a match in which police several times had to remove turbulent Arsenal fans, only one player got into any trouble. Swindon's Heath had his name taken for kicking the ball away in disgust when he thought a throw-in was awarded the wrong way.

SWINDON:  Downsborough 8; Thomas 8; Burrows 8; Harland 8; Trollope 7; Butler 8; Smith (withdrawn) 8; Heath 6; Smart 7; Noble 7; *ROGERS 9.  Sub: Penman 7.

ARSENAL:  Wilson 7; Storey 7; Ure 7; Simpson (withdrawn) 7; McNab 7; Court 7; *SAMMELS 8; McLintock 6; Radford 7; Gould 7; Armstrong 7.  Sub: Graham 6.

Referee:  W. Handley (Cannock) 9.

  • This was the first time Arsenal had conceded more than two goals in a game this season. Previously they had conceded only 23 in 40 matches in the League, F.A. Cup and League Cup.