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We've Met Before – Crystal Palace

In the lead up to our Semi-Final clash at Wembley on Sunday, Paul Waterhouse looks back at previous FA Cup encounters against Crystal Palace.

Chelsea and Crystal Palace both have an F.A. Cup link that stretches all the way back to the 1905-06 season when Chelsea were in their first campaign in league football. Crystal Palace were then in Division 2 of the Southern League but the draw brought the two teams together on 18th November 1905. The occasion was a 3rd Preliminary Round that took place at the Crystal Palace Stadium in front of 3,000 spectators. In the previous two rounds Chelsea had beaten the 1st Grenadiers and Southern United but at Crystal Palace they fell to a heavy 7-1 defeat. Two goals apiece from Wilfred Innerd and Walter Watkins gave the home team a huge 4-0 advantage at half-time and further goals by Archibald Needham, Richard Harker and Walter Watkins, thereby completing his hat trick rounded off an impressive victory despite Francis O’Hara snatching a consolation goal just before the end. If the scoreline at the end seems a little harsh on Chelsea there were extenuating circumstances. On the same day Chelsea were also fulfilling a Division 2 fixture at Stamford Bridge against Burnley. Chasing promotion at the time, the league game was the priority so a reserve side was sent to Crystal Palace for the cup game. Due to the circumstances that had arisen the Football Association changed the rules so that all sides would field their strongest possible team in the cup and not play two games on the same day.

The two teams next met in the F.A. Cup on 30th January 1926 at Selhurst Park for a 4th Round Tie. Following relegation two years earlier, Chelsea were once again in Division 2 but looking a good bet to return to Division 1 on the strength of their league form. Crystal Palace on the other hand occupied a mid-table spot in Division 3 (South) and were expected to be brushed aside by the visitors. However, the 41,000 gate witnessed Percy Cherrett give Palace the lead in the 32nd minute before Alfred Hawkins doubled the advantage ten minutes after the break. Albert Thain gave Chelsea hope when he scored in the 80th minute but Palace held on to record another victory.

The 1969-70 campaign saw Chelsea go on to win the F.A. Cup for the first time and one of the obstacles along the way just happened to be Crystal Palace. For the 5th Round Tie on 7th February 1970, Chelsea again travelled to Selhurst Park as did 48,479 spectators. Peter Osgood scored on 37 minutes and Chelsea led 1-0 at half-time. Out of the blue, Palace equalised in the 52nd minute to level the score but Chelsea stepped up a gear and regained the lead on 64 minutes through John Dempsey. Further goals from Peter Houseman and Ian Hutchinson put some gloss on the result and Chelsea were heading for Loftus Road in the Quarter-Finals.

Eleven months later the two teams met once again at Selhurst Park, the 3rd Round draw taking Chelsea, the cup holders to Crystal Palace on 2nd January 1971. The 42,123 spectators saw Chelsea get off to a flying start when Peter Osgood scored in the 4th minute, but two quickfire goals by

John McCormick and Chelsea old boy, Alan Birchenall just after the half hour mark turned the tie on its head. The visitors levelled through Tommy Baldwin in the 55th minute and with no further goals the two sides were destined for a replay which took place at Stamford Bridge four days later. A massive gate of 55,074 was in attendance as first half goals from Tommy Baldwin and Peter Houseman were enough to see off the Palace threat.

It wasn’t long before the two protagonists met again, five years in fact. After the 4th Round win at York City on 24th January 1976 the 5th Round draw paired Chelsea against Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge.

It was while I was standing outside York Station listening to the draw that I decided this would be my 'debut' at Stamford Bridge and I arrived at Kings Cross not having any idea where Chelsea's ground was. Help was at hand and I latched on to a group of Chelsea supporters. The sight that met me upon reaching the top of the steps at The Shed End will live in my memory forever. 54,407 spectators packed into Stamford Bridge on 14th February 1976 to witness a thrill a minute, dramatic encounter. Two goals in four minutes from Nicky Chatterton and Peter Taylor just before the break seemed to give Chelsea a mountain to climb. Amid serious crowd disorder on the North Terrace, Chelsea launched a stirring fightback and reduced the arrears just after the hour mark when Ray Wilkins scored. Nine minutes later Stamford Bridge erupted when Steve Wicks drew Chelsea level and it was anybody's game .The game was decided five minutes later when Palace were awarded a free kick 25yds from goal and a brilliant strike from Peter Taylor evaded the despairing dive from Peter Bonetti, the ball creeping just under the bar to give Palace a dramatic win. For a first home game for me it had been quite an introduction and heartbreaking as the result was, the experience of that day still makes it one of my top five games at Stamford Bridge.

Reproduced with permission from Paul Waterhouse, Bygone Chelsea 1905-99

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