Between 1989 and season 1995/96, one club on the Berkshire border were busy developing a seriously impressive FA Cup pedigree.
Currently in the Isthmian League South Central Division One alongside Bracknell Town, Marlow were, for seven seasons there or thereabouts at the business end of the latter Qualifying Rounds and competition proper.
In that period, the Buckinghamshire side featured seven times in the Fourth Qualifying Round, reaching the First Round Proper four times and twice going on to the Third Round with one of those games a famous afternoon in 92/93 against Tottenham Hotspur. Joshua Browne takes up the story.
The FA Cup’s Third Round. Where the Premier League’s titans go head to head with the lower-level dreamers. The tournament still holds a special place in the hearts of many English football fans that annually fantasise about their team going all the way in the competition. And perhaps none believed in their chances more so than the 3,000 fans (source: Bucks Free Press) who packed the away end at White Hart Lane for their clash against Tottenham Hotspur in 1993.
Guided by Dave Russell and Lawrie Craker, Marlow concluded the 1992/93 season in 15th place of the Isthmian League, skirting a place in the bottom three by a mere four points. While their league position may have left a lot to be desired, that year’s campaign will long live in the memory of Marlow fans for their short but sweet success in the FA Cup. By overcoming replays against Salisbury City and V.S. Rugby, the Blues navigated their way to a marquee home tie against Premier League opposition Tottenham on January 2.
Although the Alfred Davis Ground (capacity 3000) had areas capable of being segregated for both home and away support, the game was switched to White Hart Lane under police guidance. Still classed as a Marlow home fixture, thousands upon thousands of fans in blue bundled through the turnstiles (an attendance of 27,000 was recorded) and packed the away end to see their team face off against the likes of Neil Ruddock, Teddy Sheringham and Justin Edinburgh.
Marlow were already two rounds further than they had ever been in the competition when they were led onto the pitch in North London by captain David Lay. A win for the boys from Buckinghamshire would’ve certainly been one of the biggest FA Cup upsets in history against a high-flying Spurs outfit that were then managed by Terry Venables.
Tottenham won the competition two seasons before and would go on to reach the semi finals this time, but in between Spurs were knocked out at the first hurdle by Aston Villa and would have been eager to avoid the same outcome two seasons in a row. For Marlow, Gary Lester awkwardly kicked his first two goalkicks off the pitch and by the time the Blues’ nerves were calm enough to challenge the opposing end, it was too little too late.
Teddy Sheringham ought to have opened the scoring earlier than he did when the forward broke the deadlock inside 20 minutes and Nick Barmby doubled the hosts’ advantage just minutes before half time. Tottenham’s tempo did not falter in the second half and Vinny Samways got the goal five minutes after the break that would’ve certainly quashed any hopes Marlow had of recovering.
Spurs continued to flex their muscles over their non league opposition but perhaps displayed some over-confidence as glaring chances went awry. As for Marlow, they earned themselves a couple of shots on goal and were eventually rewarded with a moment to savour from their skipper. Following an impressive run from counterpart Ansil Bushay, David Lay made no mistake to fire his teammate’s cross beyond the bewildered Erik Thorstvedt and send the away end into raptures. It was merely a consolation in an aristocratic performance from their hosts but a goal the Blues’ support deserved to witness.
Samways restored the gap between the two sides almost immediately from kick off and Barmby concluded the scoring in the 90th minute as Spurs finished the game 5-1 victors. There were signs of promise for Marlow in-between with Bushay missing two golden chances in front of goal, certainly opportunities that could have changed the complexion of the game. But the series of chances that came their way once they had allowed Spurs to rack up a three-goal advantage went far higher over the bar than Marlow’s ambitions at 3 o’clock could ever have been.
Tottenham Hotspur: E Thorstvedt, D Austin, J Edinburgh, V Samways, G Mabbutt, N Ruddock, D Howells, N Barmby, Nayim, T Sheringham, P Allen (D Anderton, 71’).
Marlow: G Lester, J Franks (J Regan, 56’), C Ferguson, B Hubbick, K Stone, A Dell, D Lay, J Caesar (K Glasgow, 82’), M Watkins, A Bushay, A-J Hannigan.
Goals: Sheringham (0-1, 20’ min), Barmby (0-2 41’ min), Samways (0-3, 50’ min), Lay (1-3, 70’ min), Samways (1-4, 71’ min). Barmby (1-5, 90’ min).
Marlow’s seven season FA Cup record
1989-90: 1Q Pagham (A) 1-0, 2Q Andover (H) 3-2, 3Q Newport IoW (A) 1-0, 4Q Basingstoke Town (A) 1-1, 4Qr Basingstoke Town (H) 1-2
1990-91: 1Q Merstham (H) 3-0, 2Q Royston Town (H) 2-2, 2Qr Royston Town (A) 2-0, 3Q Andover (A) 1-0, 4Q Yeovil Town (A) 1-3
1991-92: 1Q Camberley Town (A) 3-1, 2Q Havant Town (H) 2-1, 3Q Romsey Town (H) 2-0, 4Q Worcester City (A) 2-1, 1 West Bromwich Albion (A) 0-6
1992-93: 4Q Sittingboure (A) 1-1, 4Qr Sittingboure (H) 2-1, 1 Salisbury (H) 3-3, 1r Salisbury (A) 2-2 (Marlow won 4-3 on penalties), 2 VS Rugby (A) 0-0, 2r VS Rugby (H) 2-0, 3 Tottenham Hotspur (H) 1-5 (Tottenham Hotspur)
1993-94: 4Q Aylesbury United (A) 2-1, 1 Plymouth Argyle (H) 0-2
1994-95: 4Q Sutton United (H) 1-0, 1 Oxford United (H) 2-0, 2 Woking (H) 2-1, 3 Swindon Town (A) 0-2
1995-96: 4Q Gravesend & Northfleet (A) 1-1, 4Qr Gravesend & Northfleet (H) 3-3, 4Qr2 Gravesend & Northfleet (A) 0-4