This season marks the 50th anniversary of Cambridge United’s last season in the Southern League which concluded in being elected into the Football League. Week by week we will look back on events of that memorable season and also 30 years ago, a season which saw the U’s win the first ever play off final at Wembley
1969/70 Early February saw manager Bill Leivers continuing to rearrange his squad. Alan Doyle had been loaned to Stevenage but recalled after a week to be permanently transferred to Chelmsford City. A few days later, surpisingly, Tony Butcher followed him to New Writtle Street. Leivers stated at the time that he allowed Butcher to return home to be closer to home because of his wife’s illness. But back in 2013 Butcher recalled that Leivers had criticised him for lack of effort and told him that the Clarets were interested in having him back. He took that as he wasn’t wanted at the Abbey and agreed to re-join Chelmsford. Butcher also went on to say that he did regret missing his last chance to play in the Football League. Lincoln asked to keep Peter Leggett on loan for another month but the player preferred to return to the Abbey and fight for his place, which said a lot for the strength of United’s Southern league squad compared to that of forth division Lincoln. Meanwhile John Saunders turned down yet another move to Nuneaton, saying he wanted to live in London. His contract was cancelled by mutual consent and he sign for Cambridge City!
Robin Hardy was restored as sweeper for the goalless draw away to Dover on Wednesday 4th February. Three days later on a mud bath of a Abbey Stadium pitch United slaughtered Crawley Town 8-0 a Gilchrist hat-trick was added to by goals from Meldrum, Hardy, McKinven, Harris and Brian grant with his first ever goal for the club. It turned out to be Paul Gilchrist’s last game for the club as he had to return to Charlton after his months loan. He had scored six goals in five games for the U’s and went on to over 200 League games for six different clubs and a FA Cup winners medal with Southampton in 1976. This was the first time United played in the all white with amber and black collars and cuffs strip. Wonder what the kit man thought of that on the mud bath? The folloe Thursday evening United went out of the Southern League Cup in an exciting contest by 1-0 away to Wimbledon despite having six shot cleared of the goal line.
1989/90 Second placed Exeter City came to the Abbey on 10th February for a Division 4 match and were 2-0 up before half time. After half time inspiring team talk by manager John Beck the U’s took the game to the Grecians and scored through Michael Cheetham in the 52nd minute before Lee Phillpott equalised in the 72nd minute. Cheetham again scored in the 82nd minute to give United all 3 points. Liam Daish dedicated the win to previous manager Chris Turner who had just been sacked as general manager.
The next week United were in FA Cup 5th Round action away at Bristol City. The kick-off is delayed because the chartered train carrying U’s fans was late. United gave a gutsy display and were only denied victory when Bristol’s John Bailey pulled Chris Leadbitter back when he was clean through on goal. The replay at the Abbey the following Wednesday also ends 0-0 after 90 minutes. Extra time also fails to separate the teams after Dion Dublin gave United the lead on 91 minutes Bob Taylor equalised 3 minutes later. John Beck won the toss of a coin to decide the venue for the second replay a week later.
Photograph courtesy of Cambridge News
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