Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Football can be a cruel mistress. That's one of the many reasons we all love to watch it.

There can be many heartbreaking things in the game and one of them is certainly losing to a last gasp goal.

Late goals and especially injury time winners are always hard to take. It's bad enough when it's a league game, as East Fife can testify to many times so far this season. When it's a Cup game though, and especially one when you're playing higher league opposition, is especially devastating.

Whether it be a late goal that knocks you out of the Cup, or prevents you going to a replay or extra time, or one of the cruelest of all, the goal that stops you pulling off a huge Cup shock and you then go on to lose the replay, they're all heartbreaking moments that stick with you for the rest of your footballing memories.

Tonight's FA Cup Third Round replay between Championship side Coventry City and cash woe Premiership club Portsmouth will be one of those games that will have Sky Blues fans talking about the what might have been possibilities for many a year. It also brought a lot of my own horrible memories flooding back!

On paper, and in the current climate, Coventry beating a struggling Pompey side isn't the biggest FA Cup shock you're likely to see these days, but it still merits mention of a bona fide shock.

Coventry came so close and suffered the late goal heartbreak mentioned above not once, but twice in the match. Looking a sure bet to pull of that shock 1-0 win, a bizarre "what on earth did you do that for" own goal moment saw Pompey equalise in the 90th minute of normal time to force an extra half hour. Then with the game seemingly going to penalties to decide the tie, some horrendous marking saw Portsmouth claw victory from the jaws of defeat with the winning goal in injury time of extra time. Unbelievable Jeff I could almost here Kammy saying.

A terrible moment for Coventry and a terrible moment for me as well, as all those horrible memories of Saturday 26th January 1991 came flooding back.

The East Fife fans reading this will know right away what I'm talking about but for the others amongst you, it was the Scottish Cup Third Round tie between Second Division East Fife and Premier side Dundee United.

In front of a packed Bayview Park, East Fife had unexpectedly taken the lead against their bigger name opposition. Another famous Fife giantkilling shock seemed on the cards as East Fife never looked in trouble after going ahead. Referee Don McVicar had a different method of timekeeping from everyone else that day and added on SEVEN minutes of injury time, in a game in which there had hardly been any stoppages (I will admit to a little Fife timewasting near the end but nowhere near that much!).

The East Fife defence finally cracked a full six minutes into injury time, allowing United to equalise. I don't want to overuse the description but this was truly heartbreaking. I can still remember whistling for full time, with all those around me, and the stunned silence that fell across the ground after the goal went in. I've never been in a ground that's gone so quiet, so quickly and all at once (bar the jubilant United fans of course).

It had been a brave and battling performance and East Fife, wearing a change strip of Brazil kits as a confidence booster, went on to lose the replay after extra time, after again taking the lead with a wonder volley from Stuart Wilson that I can still replay in my head today.

So Coventry fans, I can feel your pain tonight and it's not something you'll forget but you just have to move onwards and upwards.

The horrible twist of the injury time goal that can cause both despair and scenes of jubilation in equal measure at opposite ends of the stadium. If you have your own memories of such occasions then please share them with us.

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