When giant-killers Hartlepool slew mighty Crystal Palace

Hartlepool v Plymouth Argyle - April 1993.
Hartlepool v Plymouth Argyle - April 1993.

Hartlepool United’s giant-killers wrote themselves into the history books on January 2, 1993 - with a magnificent win over Crystal Palace to reach the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Pools had never before beaten a top flight team, but Andy Saville’s 83rd minute penalty - against players who arrived at the Victoria Ground on the back of six straight wins - changed that.

Hartlepool v Shrewsbury - featuring Brian Honour.

Hartlepool v Shrewsbury - featuring Brian Honour.

“Now, as Pools bask in their deserved slice of glory, there is cast-iron proof that the club’s Cinderella image is dead and buried. This is a dream come true,” reported the Mail.

“Palace may not have been too happy about the penalty decision which cost them a place in the FA Cup but, if they are honest with themselves, they did not deserve to go any further.”

Unwilling to let Pools dwell on the ball for more than a moment, the London lads spent the first half happily keeping Alan Murray’s men at bay - without posing too much of a threat.

Chris Armstrong, a £1million buy from Millwall, looked like Palace’s biggest danger, but he failed to show any of the finishing touches which usually made him such a feared opponent.

Instead, it was Geoff Thomas who produced Pools’ most anxious moment of the day after just 11 minutes - when he connected with a right wing cross from Eddie McGoldrick.

But 18-year-old Pools goalkeeper Steven Jones was off his line quickly to block the ball with his chest, and it proved to be the biggest moment of danger he was to face all day.

Indeed, the second half saw Pools take Palace “by the scruff of the neck”, with midfielder Lenny Johnrose almost breaking the deadlock three times - each with his head.

The breakthrough finally came, however, at the 83rd minute - when Nicky Southall went down under pressure from Palace’s Richard Shaw as he glided into the penalty area.

Despite vehement protests from the Palace players, referee Dermot Gallagher awarded a penalty to Pools. Andy Saville’s shot “screamed into the back of the net” seconds later.

“Palace came to get a result, but we knew that if we acquitted ourselves right we could do the job. That’s what we did and we made it a great day for Hartlepool,” said Alan Murray.

“At half-time I told them they were good value for what they had done. We weren’t under that much pressure. We let Palace in a couple of times, and we had to be aware of that, but we were always capable of winning. It’s given us all a lift.”

The day Pools became gladiators

THE fourth round of the FA Cup had an international flavour to it in 1993 - with interest from all around the globe centred on The Vic.

Indeed, with a number of FA Cup matches across the country postponed due to bad weather, Sweden and other European countries carried live coverage of the game.

The Pools lads even stormed to victory on TV screens across South Africa, where interest in the English football league and competitions was said to be high.

“One African fan was so excited he phoned the ground during the match to wish his favourite team good luck,” reported the Mail.

The match was also watched by four supporters from Australia, who travelled from Adelaide to catch the game - as well as visit a few relatives in Hartlepool too.

“Keith Denholm, whose brother is a policeman, attended. The family emigrated six years ago, but managed to catch the match before flying home,” said the Mail.

Also celebrating Pools’ 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace was chairman Garry Gibson - who turned 38 on the day of the match and received his best present ever.

“Normally when we play big teams we falter and get soundly beaten, but this time we made no mistake,” he said.

“I know it is a cliché, but this is the best present I could have asked for. It is a great moment for the club and for the town.”