ROD BELFITT got the crucial touch as Huddersfield Town edged a highly entertaining FA Cup first-round clash at Walsall.
Bobby Collins’ side, braving the club’s first-ever season in the Football League’s basement division, produced what the manager described as the best performance since his appointment in the summer of 1974 to get the better of their Third Division hosts in front of 5,506 at Fellows Park.
It was the bravery of Belfitt, a former Leeds teammate of canny Scotsman Collins, which made the difference, the seasoned striker beating two defenders to head home Terry Gray’s teasing cross from the right.
“This tie did not produce as many goals as most in the round, but the one it did must rank with the best,” wrote the Examiner’s Martin Hardy.
“This was a memorable affair between two teams determined to find and provide the magic sparkle which decorates this competition.
“Town’s triumph was Walsall’s heartache and the manager’s eulogy was a fitting comment on a day when everything came right.
“The team lost their old inhibitions and found a new sense of purpose and understanding. Luck played no part in this win. It was down to a disciplined display.”
While home man Mick Kearns was the one to pick the ball from the back of the net – and Town claimed a close-range Gray shot had crossed the line before it was scooped away – Dick Taylor was the busier of the two keepers.
With Alan Buckley showing speed, balance and poise and Bernie Wright strong, determined and menacing, Walsall did plenty of attacking.
But Taylor was given top protection by the defensive quartet of Alan Sweeney, Chris Simpkin, Steve Baines and Geoff Hutt.
In midfield, Brian O’Neil provided the grit while Jimmy Lawson, who had rejected a loan move to Walsall’s Third Division rivals Sheffield Wednesday, and Steve Smith took play forward.
Winger Gray provided pace and trickery with Belfitt and Colin Garwood a menacing pair up front.
“This was an excellent team display. There were simply no slackers,” continued Hardy. “The standard has been set and now it is up to the team to reproduce this kind of showing in the league.”
The second-round draw gave Town a home tie against Port Vale or non-league Grantham, who drew 2-2 (Vale were to win the repay 4-1).
Shock wins were pulled off by Marine, who defeated Barnsley 3-1, Gateshead, 3-1 victors at Grimsby, Hendon, who saw off Reading 1-0, Leatherhead, 2-0 winners against Cambridge and Coventry Sporting, who defeated Tranmere 2-0.