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Burton v Leicester - FA Cup 1985

3 January 2013

The Baseball Ground - FA Cup Round 3

Burton Albion will travel to The King Power Stadium on Saturday to face Championship side Leicester City in the Third Round of the FA Cup. The two clubs have bet before of course in this competition, in a match billed at the time as the biggest sporting occasion in the history of Burton.

Here, Nigel Powlson looks back on a game which made the headlines for the wrong reasons.

For fans who have been following the Brewers as long as I have, then the FA Cup Third Round draw brought back a lot of memories.

Because, nearly 30 years ago, Burton Albion and Leicester City were paired together at the same stage of the competition in a game that made the history books for all the wrong reasons.
It was the very cold winter of 1984/5 and, back then, Leicester were in the old First Division and were blessed with arguably the most feared strikers in football - Gary Lineker, who was joint leading scorer in the top flight that season, and Alan Smith,  soon to move to Arsenal.

By contrast, the Brewers were still part-timers from the Northern Premier League but did have Neil Warnock at the helm and a talented team at that level who were pushing for the title.
It was a David and Goliath mismatch that the Brewers knew they had little chance of winning - so making sure it was a big payday was all that mattered.

No-one at Albion wanted to concede home advantage to Leicester, so Derby County were approached and the Baseball Ground was borrowed for the occasion with the game set for January 5.

The deep freeze put the tie in jeopardy but, after an early inspection, the notorious Derby pitch was It was declared playable and more than 22,000 fans gathered for the game.

Albion looked nervous and received a major blow when striker Jim Kabia suffered a head injury early on in the match and had to go off.

It was no surprise when Leicester used their obvious superiority to craft out an opening for Lineker to put them into a 16th minute lead. The flood gates were expected to open but, instead, an air of complacency set in amongst the city players, who were stunned by a Burton equaliser seven minutes later, with David Vaughan slotting a shot under keeper Ian Andrews.

The Burton fans were ecstatic but their joy was cut short by the reaction of Leicester City supporters behind Albion’s goal. Derby’s rickety wooden seats were quite easily removed in those days and some fans decided that this was the moment to prise them loose. It was an era when such crowd trouble was still common but this time there was an extra unfortunate consequence of the destruction when one piece of wood struck Brewers keeper Paul Evans on the head.

The solicitor was dazed, needed attention for several minutes and was sick in the goal mouth before regaining his feet. Albion had no substitute left to use and Evans had no choice but to play on.
The game almost instantly swung back in Leicester’s favour with Smith restoring the lead and Lineker adding a third before the interval. Albion were down and out and eventually lost 6-1 with Lineker completing his hat-trick.

But, at the end of the game, the story was starting to come out and the headlines were made. Burton Albion were suddenly receiving national attention and the FA had to act.

Lots of solutions were suggested but in the end a replay was considered the best option.
Albion hoped for another home tie, perhaps this time at Eton Park, but the FA, perhaps fearing even worse crowd trouble, decided the game should be played behind closed doors on a neutral ground.
With the winter weather still biting hard, Coventry’s Highfield Road was chosen by virtue of its underfloor heating. The Brewers did themselves proud by all accounts but lost to the only goal of the match. Sadly, of course, no Brewers fans were there to see it.

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