OUR second look back at Minehead’s FA Cup exploits in the 1970s takes us to the 1976/77 season, when the Blues progressed to a meeting with Swansea City in the first round proper. Brian Walder has the story...

Following on from the euphoria of reaching the FA Cup first round proper 50 years ago, Minehead AFC’s league fortunes continued an upward rise, but there were a few mixed seasons in the Cup.

The 1971/72 preliminary round pitted them against strong Southern League team Poole Town, and although Derek Bryant put the Blues in front, goals from Keeley and Thornhill saw the visitors go through.

Minehead joined Southern League Division 1 South in 1972/73, and with long term manager Ron Gingell stepping down, centre-half and club captain Bob Boyd took over the reins - making him the clubs’ youngest ever manager.

FA Cup success continued to elude the Blues, as they were knocked out in the first qualifying round at Merthyr Tydfil, as the Welsh side avenged a 2-0 defeat two years earlier.

The only goal of the game came five minutes from time, from one of the most famous ever Welsh players, John Charles.

Another early exit followed in 1973/74, as Western League side Barnstaple Town beat them 2-1, but the next season saw some cup form starting to return.

Cornish sides St Blazey and Falmouth Town were dispatched, then Bideford, to set up a mouth-watering fourth qualifying round tie at home to Southern League Premier outfit Weymouth.

Though the Blues were top of Division 1 South at the time, their opponents from the league above went through by three goals, thanks largely to a master class from their midfielder Bobby Brown, who was soon to become a Minehead player.

The excitement continued in 1975/76, with a 2-1 win a Bridgwater in a particularly feisty match, before four second-half goals at Glastonbury earned the Blues a tie at Yeovil’s Huish ground, where a rare mistake from goalkeeper John Clarke resulted in the hosts going through.

Somerset County Gazette:

TEAM: Back row - Derek Bryant, Alan Impey, Steve Risdale, Peter Druce, Micky Burns, Bob Boyd, Andy Leitch, Roger Ford, Jimmy Jenkins; front - Brian Hurford (trainer), Bobby Brown, Steve Carter, Christopher Hurford (mascot)

It was, however, the 1976/77 season which saw the Blues surpass the heady heights of the “Shrewsbury” cup run in 1970/71.

The road to Wembley started at Western League Bridport, with Minehead fighting back to eventually win 4-2, before two goals in the last 15 minutes took them past Barnstaple.

Former Minehead manager Ron Gingell’s Taunton Town were the next opponents, this time on Minehead’s Irnham Road pitch.

Taunton were without their normal goalkeeper and their top scorer, and were soon 2-0 down.

A second-half reply set up a climax finish but Minehead held on to send the 650-plus home crowd away happy.

Next up was an away match at Falmouth Town, who had knocked out Yeovil in the previous round, and a 1-1 draw in Cornwall meant a replay at The Rec on the Monday night.

The match, witnessed by 850 supporters was evenly matched until Jimmy Jenkins put Minehead ahead with 15 minutes to play.

Further goals from his strike partners Andy Leitch and Bryant saw Minehead romp home 3-0.

Ahead of their first round clash with Swansea City, Bristol-based striker Jenkins was now being heralded in the press as the hottest property outside the football league, with Queens Park Rangers, Bristol Rovers, Cardiff City and Plymouth Argyle all reportedly showing interest.

Boyd himself stated in the Bristol press that Jenkins was better than any of the strikers at City or Rovers.

There was a return to Swansea’s Vetch Field for Leitch, who had signed professional terms for the Swans the previous season, forcing his way into the team and scoring 14 times in 27 matches before becoming disillusioned with league football and joining Minehead.

The day of the match finally came and Minehead matched their league opponents, albeit riding their luck at times, particularly in the second minute when Pat Lally hit the post, and in the second half when Swansea’s star striker Robbie James’ effort came back off the bar.

Welsh international Alan Curtis had been kept quiet by the robust Minehead defence, expertly marshalled by Boyd.

The game sprang into a frenzy in the final quarter when Jenkins, who was carrying an injury, characteristically broke through the home defence only to be brought down by a rugby tackle by Swansea captain George Smith, who received just a booking.

With 87 minutes on the clock Minehead were awarded a free-kick in the centre circle; Boyd fed the ball to Brian Durbin on the right flank, who got passed two defenders and crossed towards Bryant at the far post.

After his header had cannoned off the back of a defender he drove the rebound towards the far corner. Swansea keeper Brown managed to get a strong hand to it but could only parry the ball down towards the goal-line.

Amongst a flurry of legs it was ex-Swansea player Leitch whose toe reached it first to poke it home.

Their reward for this amazing victory? A second round tie with Portsmouth - read about it next week.