IT is not often that a beaten team is applauded off the pitch by all corners of the ground after exiting the FA Cup.
But that is exactly what happened to the brave Mansfield Town side who put up such a valiant fight against the mighty Leeds United as their superb cup run finally came to an end.
Third Division Stags had battled into the fifth round of the world’s most famous cup competition during the 1969/70 season, but were given next to no chance of progressing at the expense of the reigning First Division champions.
Against all the odds Mansfield gave their highly-fancied opponents a real fright and it could have been all so different had Jimmy Goodfellow’s 13th minute strike not been disallowed for pushing.
But referee W. Castle ruled that Dudley Roberts had pushed defender Paul Reaney before heading into the path of Goodfellow.
Leeds, who included Gary Sprake, Billy Bremner and Johnny Giles in their starting line-up, had started the game well and might have had a couple of goals themselves in the early stages.
But the disallowed goal seemed to serve as a warning to the Elland Road side that gutsy Mansfield were not in Yorkshire to just make up the numbers.
Leeds, who were eventually beaten 2-1 by Chelsea in the FA Cup final replay at Old Trafford, then turned on the attacking style during a seven minute first-half burst which was good enough to end the run of Stags, who had already knocked out Sheffield United and Blackpool.
A Gray corner was only partially cleared and was headed back into the danger area by Heaney. Johnny Giles then showed his quality as he turned on a sixpence to hammer home in the 27th minute.
Mick Jones showed why he was rated England’s best centre forward at the time seven minutes later.
Jones displayed a real hunger to keep a floating aimless ball across the box in play. And his efforts paid off as he managed to screw the ball back into the path of Alan Clarke, who made no mistake with his finish.
For Mansfield’s Scottish defender Sandy Pate it was a bitter blow to swallow.
“The disallowed goal was bad enough, but it was made even worse by Leeds scoring twice in quick succession,” he said.
“At that time Leeds were the top team in Britain and probably the world. They had some amazing players and that second goal was a killer for us. We knew it was going to be very hard to get back into the game from this point.”
Sandy, who was signed from Watford in October 1967 for a wage of £25 a week, added: “If we had taken the lead, or even gone in level at half-time then who knows what might have happened. We always felt we could give any team a game, but being 2-0 down at Elland Road was a big ask for us. It was really disappointing for us when they went 2-0 up.”
Spirited Stags refused to buckle under the weight of expections of the bumper crowd and, with better finishing, could well have cut the deficit.
Quigley played Jones into a dangerous position, before the Welsh attacker fired over. Then Goodfellow went inches wide with a cross-shot.
The gulf in class in attacking areas was obvious for all to see and it was thanks to a number of excellent saves by Graham Brown in the Mansfield goal that the score was kept to just two.
Perhaps the only consolation for Stags was that the huge gate, which included around 10,000 away fans, topped the attendances for Leeds’ league fixtures with mighty Manchester United, Liverpool and Everton.
Sandy, who still watches his beloves Stags from the Quarry Lane end, added the Leeds game still gives him some very fond memories.
“At that time people were saying the Leeds goalkeeper was their weak link, but he was a Welsh international so it shows you the strength of their side. They had a magnificent back four, a superb midfield and an excellent attack.
“At that time you did not get better than the likes of Charlton, Bremner and Gray. Those players were the equivalent of the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney in modern-day football. They had the toughness you needed in those days as well as fantastic skill.
“Playing against these players was a great honour. We wanted to win that game and gave it everything. In those days we had excellent cup games and played matches against some big sides.
“We took 12,000 fans up to Yorkshire and I had family down from Scotland. We gave a good account of ourselves that day and hopefully those people went away with some good memories.”
MANSFIELD TOWN: Brown, Pate, Walker, Quigley, Boam, Waller, Partridge, Stenson, Jones, Roberts, Goodfellow.
MATCH: Leeds United 2 Mansfield Town 0. FA Cup fifth round.
VENUE: Elland Road, 7th February 1970.