From The FOX No 23 – February 1992…
ZDS Cup Northern Semi Final – Wednesday 8th January 1992.
The fact that this is one of those dodgy young competitions that changes its name with bewildering regularity, but gives medium sized clubs a crack at Wembley, got a bit lost on a thrilling night at Meadow Lane.
The grandly named Northern Semi-Final of the Zenith Data Systems Cup saw us pitched against Notts County, who were beginning to find their first division boots, and were just as eager to secure a two-legged area final with Forest as we were.
We joined a big queue for the open Kop end as the rain became heavier. After a long wait we took our place on a rapidly filling away end and got our first view of the pitch, which wasn’t looking good. The murky light from barely adequate floodlights was reflected in hte puddles gathering all over the pitch.
It became clear that not too many County fans had bothered to leave their firesides for this one and around 7,500 City fans formed a majority in the 11,599 crowd, giving their side non-stop backing throughout the night.
The opening spell was peppered with a series of scything sliding tackles from hyped-up players slithering around in midfield.
Ali Mauchlen became the victim of one of these and had to go off, replaced by Colin Gordon. The big striker soon had a chance presented to him courtesy of a careless Charlie Palmer backpass but he got bogged down in the mire and fired wide.
This was a rare chance for City, who had been soaking up County pressure, but Carl Muggleton looked sure-footed enough as he dealt with efforts from Turner, Agana and Rideout.
Ten minutes before the break City should have taken the lead when Paul Kitson ran clear of the County defence but wasted his opportunity. This was unfortunate because three minutes later Chris Short headed the Magpies into the lead from close in.
Tommy Johnson almost made it 2-0 before the break but Muggleton denied him with a fine save.
Seven minutes into the second half David Oldfield limped out of the action as wild tackles continued to fly, re[placed by Paul Fitzpatrick.
At this stage it was difficult to see a way back for City. 1-0 down to a First Division side, away from home with conditions steadily worsening… but after Agana had blazed wide a simple chance to seal the tie and Muggleton denied Johnson again, the tide (almost literally) began to turn.
City called upon some previously untapped reserves and began to silence the home crowds’ chants of ‘Bring on the Forest!’
Attacking the end occupied by Leicester’s thousands, City gained a corner and Richard Smith’s header was cleared off the line by Alan Paris. Paul Kitson struck the post soon afterwards and both players and fans were roused on to greater efforts.
It was all hands to the pump for County’s defence and dean Yates and keeper Steve Cherry made desperate clearances.
With seven minutes remaining City got the equaliser they richly deserved as Tommy Wright belted in a angled shot from the right, which deflected past Cherry much to the unbridled delight of the City fans on the Kop.
That meant another half hour of ‘singing in the rain’ but as everyone was already soaked through to the skin it didn’t really matter.
Joy turned to disbelief and even more manic celebrations only two minutes into extra time as a splendid diving header from the copper top of Paul Fitzpatrick beat Cherry and nestled in the net to give City the lead.
County looked beaten in the face of the superior strength of character of Brian Little’s side and City piled on the pressure in the closing stages.
It was the home side, however, who almost equalised in the last minute. A Johnson shot looked goalbound… grown men screamed, women and children cried, but then Muggleton’s hand appeared seemingly from beneath the muddy surface to halt the ball’s progress, and City had done it.
Happy scenes followed the final whistle with all th eplayers coming up to the City end dancing jigs of joy and wearing soggy hats and scarves that had been thrown down to them.
The fact that we were one tie away from Wembley took all night to sink in…
County: Cherry, Palmer, Paris, Craig Short, yates, Chris SHort, Rideout, Turner, Harding, Agana, Johnson. Subs: Draper, Slawson.
City: Muggleton, Mills, Reid, Smith, Walsh, Mauchlen, Oldfield, Thompson, Kitson, Willis, Wright. Subs: Gordon, Fitzpatrick.