On this day 31 years ago, Coventry City lifted the FA Cup following a thrilling 3-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley.
The Sky Blues, with John Sillett and George Curtis at the helm, entered their first Final labelled as underdogs against a Spurs team who were regulars at the national stadium in the 80s and had never lost an FA Cup Final.
In front of 98,000 at Wembley, City fell behind almost immediately as Spurs striker Clive Allen headed his 49th goal of the season with just two minutes played.
However, the Sky Blues were a team full of spirit and determination, and levelled quickly with 8 minutes on the clock. Greg Downs’ cross was flicked on by Keith Houchen and David Bennett pounced, rounding Tottenham keeper Ray Clemence and finishing from just inside the six yard box.
As the first half continued, both sides played the attacking football which became synonymous with the Final. City had a Cyrille Regis goal disallowed and a good chance for Micky Gynn – while Steve Ogrizovic got Sky Blues hearts pumping a little quicker when an adventurous dribble outside his box created two Spurs chances in quick succession.
With half-time approaching, Spurs took the lead. A Glenn Hoddle free-kick fell at the feet of City’s Brian Kilcline and Gary Mabbutt, and it was Spurs’ Mabbutt who diverted the ball fortuitously into the net.
On 62 minutes, the goal that would go into Coventry City and FA Cup folklore was scored. Striker Keith Houchen picked up the ball just outside the Spurs penalty area, laying the ball wide right to David Bennett. The winger put in a delightful cross into the box, which was met by a diving header from Houchen which flew past Clemence and into the bottom corner.
Chances continued for both sides. Later in the second half City skipper Kilcline was injured making a challenge on Mabbutt, with Graham Rodger replacing him as the Final entered extra time.
It was Rodger’s through ball which released Lloyd McGrath, who had found space on the right wing having done a brilliant marking job on Hoddle for most of the game. Advancing to just inside the box, his low cross hit the knee of a retreating Mabbutt. The ball deflected off Mabbutt’s knee and nestled into top corner of the Tottenham net.
The Sky Blues had taken a much deserved lead for the first time in the Final in the 95th minute of an energy sapping game. Chances followed for both teams, with the Sky Blues standing strong in defence in the face of a Tottenham onslaught, while creating chances too as the game became stretched as the clock counted down.
Referee Neil Midgley blew the final whistle and Coventry City had won the FA Cup, to unleash huge celebrations at Wembley and back home in Coventry. Brian Kilcline recovered from injury to lead the Sky Blues up the steps of the Royal Box to receive the Cup and, in the words of the BBC Commentator that day John Motson, the Sky Blues were sky high!
Sky Blues: Steve Ogrizovic; David Phillips, Brian Kilcline © (Graham Rodger, 89), Trevor Peake, Greg Downs; David Bennett, Micky Gynn, Lloyd McGrath, Nick Pickering; Keith Houchen, Cyrille Regis.
Sub not used: Steve Sedgley
Goals: David Bennett 8, Keith Houchen 62, Gary Mabbutt (OG) 95.
Spurs: Ray Clemence; Chris Hughton (Nico Clausen, 97), Richard Gough ©, Gary Mabbutt, Mitchell Thomas; Chris Waddle, Steve Hodge, Paul Allen, Ossie Ardilles (Gary Stevens, 91), Glenn Hoddle; Clive Allen.
Goals: Clive Allen 2, Gary Mabbutt 40.
Referee: Neil Midgley