FIFTY years ago this month, Minehead AFC made their first ever appearance in the first round proper of the FA Cup, when they hosted Shrewsbury Town from the Football League Third Division (now known as League One), writes Brian Walder.

The 1970/71 cup run nearly ended at the first hurdle, as Minehead were held 1-1 at The Rec by Bridgwater Town, but they won the replay 3-2 after extra time at Bridgwater’s Castle Field.

The second qualifying round saw the Blues play at their closest opponents geographically - Taunton Town.

Peacocks full-back Eddie Webster was reported to have dreamt on the Friday night that he would miss a penalty in Saturday’s match, even though he had scored his last six spot-kicks.

His premonition came true after a penalty was awarded early in the second half with the score at 1-1, and Minehead won the game courtesy of a second goal from Derek Bryant, 10 minutes from time.

These two victories were big achievements for the Blues, as Bridgwater were Western League Champions in 1968, and Taunton had won the title in 1969.

The draw for the third qualifying round saw reigning Western League champions Glastonbury visit The Rec, with former Manchester United and Northern Ireland international goalkeeper Ron Briggs in their ranks.

It was a dour match and a replay looked on the cards, but the game was brought to life with 10 minutes to go, as a thunderous 25-yard free-kick from Minehead centre-half and captain Bob Boyd flew into the top corner.

The goal earned Minehead a fourth qualifying round tie at Merthyr Tydfil - a strong Southern League side - knowing victory could earn them a tie against Football League opposition.

On November 7, 1970, around 400 supporters made the journey to South Wales.

I recall the final few miles of the coach trip and the harrowing scenes above the village of Aberfan where four years previously 144 people, including 116 children, lost their lives after the collapse of a huge colliery spoil tip.

As a 10-year-old I had no real concept of what I had just seen, but the adult supporters and players on the coach were shocked.

Thankfully the players were soon able to concentrate on the job at hand and a gritty performance saw them win 2-0.

This was a poignant victory for Minehead school teacher Tom Smith, who had racked up more than 500 appearances for the 1st XI.

Having experienced defeat in four other fourth qualifying round ties, three of which had been in the previous four years, Smith scored the second of two late goals to win a tense game witnessed by a crowd of 2,458. Bryant had netted the first, a few minutes earlier.

The first round proper brought Third Division side Shrewsbury Town to The Rec, where additional temporary stands were erected to augment the club’s recently opened 450-seater grandstand.

Shrewsbury were managed by another former Manchester United and Northern Ireland goalkeeper, Harry Gregg.

He had already seen Minehead play twice the season before, as the Blues had drawn their fourth qualifying round tie against Yeovil, and the draw for the first round proper pitted the eventual winners against Shrewsbury.

Gregg travelled to both replays - another 0-0 draw at Yeovil’s Huish Park, followed by a second replay at Exeter’s St James’ Park, where Yeovil side eventually powered through, 5-0.

The day of the big match - November 21, 1970 - finally came, bringing with it downpours of rain which reduced the club’s hoped for attendance of around 5,000 to what the club felt was a disappointing 2,214.

In the 25th minute Ricky Muir opened the scoring for the visitors after a long pass from John Moore, but Minehead deservedly got back on level terms when Bryant nodded home.

From then until half time Shrewsbury looked uncertain with Minehead taking the game to their opponents from four leagues higher.

Press reports stated that Gregg managed to steady the ship with his half-time talk, and a second goal came from a towering George Andrews header at the far post.

Minehead’s heroes were goalkeeper Ted Holehouse and captain Boyd, but fitness told in the remainder of the second half; no further goals were conceded but Shrewsbury came through 2-1.

Gregg’s post-match comments about Minehead’s performance were extremely complimentary, saying: “I was glad when it was all over, even though Minehead noticeably tired in the second half.

“They played as I expected them to - it was their moment of glory and they rose to it.”

Minehead also enjoyed a good FA Trophy run that season and finished as Western League runners-up.

But 1970/71 was merely the start of the club’s hugely successful period, which saw them make a further nine appearances in the proper rounds of the FA Cup - see next week for another look back.