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FA Cup 3rd Round, 5th January 1963

Thankfully, we have not really had a truly harsh winter in the country since the big freeze of 1963. For weeks England and Wales suffered blizzards and freezing temperatures to the extent that the sea froze for a mile out at Herne Bay, the river Thames froze too, and all around the country lakes were turned into skating rinks. Normal life grounded to a halt. Cross Pennine railways were frozen solid; cars were trapped in snow drifts, shops and schools closed. In such circumstances it was hardly surprising sport, and in particular Association football, was drastically curtailed. Rovers had four successive matches against Oldham, Oxford (home and away) and Mansfield postponed between 22nd December and 1st January, but on 5th January they managed to stage a virtually the only FA Cup tie outside London on a snow covered Prenton Park after local Referee Arthur edge declared the pitch fit enough to play on. Now two factors almost certainly influenced his thinking. Firstly, grounds man Stan Matthews and his team did a great job with a tractor to clear the pitch of all but a thin protective layer of light snow, and secondly the BBC came up with some much needed cash to televise highlights of the game for Sportsview – which proceeded Match of the Day as the Beeb’s flagship football programme. The decision to play the match was one that potently surprised Tommy Docherty, the then manager of Chelsea. Docherty’s team was considered ‘unknowens’ in the north. He had rebuilt his team around youth introducing the likes of Peter Bonetti in goal, Bobby Tambling, Terry Venables and Ken Shellito. Up front they had Barry bridges at centre-forward. Rovers would do well to contain them, but if ever they were to face such an array of talent, a snow covered pitch gave them the best opportunity of success. Clearly some did fancy the task. Nine of the Chelsea players emerged wearing gloves which were unheard of in these days. Tranmere took full advantage and stormed ahead on 18th minute. Johnny King, who was limping badly from a challenge (there was no substitutions), moved up field to get on the end of a corner by Jones and looped a fine glancing header over Bonetti and into the net. The second division leaders equalised though on the 38th minute with and excellent goal from Bobby Tambling. Venables and Moore worked the ball out to Blunstone and he fed the prowling Tambling. With a deft swivel of his hips he evaded Jackson’s challenge and hammered the ball past Harry Leyland from 12 yards, and that is how the score remained at half time. Sensationally, Rovers were ahead again within minutes of the re-start. The heroic King, who was bandaged and still limping, put over a teasing centre which Bonetti dropped. Les Jones put him under pressure as he tried to gather the ball and was able to turn and toe poke the loose ball over the line before Ken Shellito cleared. Chelsea were rattled. Once Chelsea had squared the match for a second time on 63 minutes via Barry Bridges they decided to settle for 2:2 as their forefathers did in and a replay at Stamford Bridge. Because of the weather, however the match did not take place for another 3 weeks, on the 30th January. Rovers lost 3:1, the great Dave Hichson scored the consolation goal.

Tranmere: Leyland, Wilson, Conray, J. King P. Jackson, Neill, Campbell, Jones, Hickson, Gubbins, Finney.

Chelsea: Benetti, Shellito, A. Harris, Venables, Mortimore, Upton, Murray, Tambling, Bridge, Moore, Blunstone.

Referee: H.Horner (Coventry).

Attendance: 17,162.

V Chelsea 1968



MOTTO: UBI FIDES IBI LUX ET ROBUR which means "Where there is faith, there is light and strength."

Designed by Ned O'Toole, Paul Harmon and Oisín Ronan.
Special thanks to Tranmere Rovers Football club for the information.