IT WAS one of those days when the Manor Road football ground at Headington was packed to the rafters.

With 16,870 spectators squeezed into the tiny ground for the FA Cup fourth round tie between Headington United and mighty Bolton Wanderers, there was hardly space to breathe.

So many people wanted to see the match that some fans were allowed to climb the fence and sit just inches from the goal line.

Reader David Brown, of Jordan Hill, North Oxford, has fond memories of the game on January 30, 1954, which pitched a team of part-timers against a First Division side with several internationals.

He writes: “As an 11-year-old, I was there to witness a cracking game played on a snow-covered pitch with the lines visible only after they were swept before the game. Conditions like that would probably result in a postponement these days.

“I wonder if other Memory Lane readers remember the game and the excitement of queuing days before along Beech Road for tickets.

“My most vivid memory of the day (other than we lost the game 4-2) was when, for safety reasons, we were told to climb the fence to the left of the Cuckoo Lane end goal because of the crush of fans. I then watched the game just inches from the goal line, a practice that would be outlawed today.

“A black and white Pathe News film of the game can be seen on Youtube under the heading, ‘Headington v Bolton Long version 1954’. The quality is excellent and shows all six goals as Headington were defeated 4-2 by a team that included the famous Nat Lofthouse.

“As I can see the group I sat with beside the goal, it makes for very nostalgic viewing for me.”

Headington United (the forerunner of the present Oxford United) were then in the Southern League, but were beginning to earn a reputation as one of the country’s leading non-league clubs and as FA Cup giant killers.

Oxford Mail:

They had beaten Aylesbury, Maidenhead, Chesham and Wealdstone in the qualifying rounds, then went on to beat Harwich and Parkeston 3-2 in the first round proper..

In the second and third rounds, they defeated Millwall and Stockport 1-0 in replays to earn their tie with Bolton, the first time a First Division club had visited Headington. Bolton looked in command after taking a 3-0 lead through Lofthouse, Parry and Moir, but United fought back and Bobby Peart reduced the arrears. Stevens added a fourth for Bolton before Ken Smith replied for United.

The Oxford Mail was full of admiration for the battling home side.

Oxford Mail:

It said: “The cup run has ended after months of sweat, strain and victory. How fittingly, though, it finished with a fighting display against one of the best sides in the first division.

“Whatever is said about style, tactics and the other finer points of football, they put up a terrific battle against Bolton Wanderers and even when three goals down, didn’t give up hope. To lose 4-2 after being that much in arrears was a fine achievement.”

The paper singled out Johnny Crichton, Ronnie Steel, Ernie Hudson and Ted Croker as United’s star men, but said every player “deserved praise for his do-or-die performance”.

It also praised fans who,” with their rattles, bells and hooters, had produced a real cup-tie atmosphere”.

The match produced receipts of just over £3,000, giving an ambitious club like Headington a valuable windfall.

 The players in the picture are back row, left to right, Frank Ramshaw, Ernie Hudson, Jack Ansell, Ted Croker, Bobby Craig, Johnny Crichton, front row, Ronnie Steel, Bobby Peart, Ken Smith, Ben Duncan, Danny Maskell.

Memory Lane this week

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