THEY think it’s all over – but it isn’t just yet!
Town may be 4-0 down to Carlisle after the first leg of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy northern final and being written off for Wembley in many quarters.
But if Lee Clark’s side need any extra inspiration for the second leg at the Galpharm on Tuesday, February 8, they need look back no further than the Town class of 1991 and the exploits of Iwan Roberts, Phil Starbuck and a following of 2,000 fans.
After 31 minutes of their Third Division clash with Bury at Gigg Lane on September 14 that year, Town were 4-0 down to goals by Liam Robinson, Colin Greenall, Ian Stevens and Nigel Smith.
What followed was one of the greatest comebacks in Town history.
Just one hour later, an irresistible charge by Eoin Hand’s inspired side had not only produced an equalising blitz of stunning quality, but maintained an unbeaten league record to keep the side right in among the leaders.
In my match report of the time, I wrote: “Man of the match? There were nearly 2,000 of them standing behind the goal, bedecked in red and black and blue and white and singing until their throats would take no more.
“Never, in my experience, have a Town crowd had so much to do with influencing a result.
“And the team, full of belief and overflowing with the purpose which had been so sadly lacking at the start, could not have responded in any better way.”
Town had the lift of a goal just before half time from Roberts and excitement began to mount when Starbuck, flitting around three defenders on 62 minutes, rattled in a brilliant second.
My report continued: “Hand’s men streamed into attack with a fury not seen in many a day, but Bury obviously thought they had done enough as they clung to a two-goal lead with only five minutes to go.
“Not this time. Not with Town playing out of their skins and Starbuck and Roberts primed to provide a final, breathtaking, heart-stopping salvo.”
Starbuck reduced the deficit to one, turning to crack home an angled drive after Mark Wright and Roberts had headed on a hastily-taken throw-in from Chris Marsden.
Then, a minute into stoppage time, substitute Simon Ireland outpaced full-back Roger Stanislaus and clipped a perfect back-post cross from the goalline for Roberts to nod home.
“All hell broke loose,” I wrote in conclusion. “Delirious fans lifted the roof, Marsden, Starbuck and Kieran O’Regan landed on top of the joyous Roberts while the whole of the bench – including Iffy Onuora in a splint! – were leaping around on the edge of the pitch.
“Unbelievable stuff. And the excitement was almost too much to bear.”
So it can be done. Town can turn around the four-goal margin with belief, hunger and the backing of the fans.
And here are some more reasons to believe all is not lost:
Champions League final 2005 – Liverpool recovered from 3-0 down at half time to draw 3-3 with AC Milan and went on to win 3-2 on penalties.
FA Cup fifth round replay 2001 – Tranmere recovered from 3-0 down at half time against Southampton at Prenton Park to win 4-3.
FA Cup fourth round replay 2004 – 10-man Manchester City were 3-0 down to Tottenham at White Hart Lane at half time but fought back to win 4-3.
European Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-final 1985-86 – Bayer Uerdingen were 5-1 down on aggregate to Dynamo Dresden – 3-1 down after a 2-0 first leg defeat – but fought back to go through 7-5.
Bundesliga 1976 – Bayern Munich were 4-0 down after 53 minutes against home side Bochum but fought back to win 6-5.
Olympic Games 1952 – USSR were 5-1 down against Yugoslavia (and 5-2 with 15mins to play) but fought back to draw 5-5.
English Second Division 1957 – Charlton Athletic were 5-1 down against Town at The Valley but fought back to win 7-6. Town remain the only team in league history to score six goals away from home and lose.
Champions League quarter-finals 2004 – European champions AC Milan led 4-1 going to Deportivo La Coruna, who had previously lost 8-3 to Monaco. Amazingly, Deportivo won 4-0 to go through 5-4 on aggregate.