North Wales football’s greatest stories No20 – 1960’s heroes Borough United FC

Borough United’s invincibles of 1962-63. Picture: Soccer Scrapbook

While only in existence for 15 years, what Borough United achieved in Welsh football will never be forgotten.

United formed in 1954 as a merger of two one-time thriving but now struggling neighbouring clubs, Llandudno Junction and Conwy Borough.

The new club represented something of a continuation for Junction as they continued to play at their Nant-y-Coed ground and wear their maroon and white strip.

After a few seasons of finding their feet in the Welsh League North, Borough brought the championship back to Nant-y-Coed in 1958-59, exactly 10 years after the Junction’s previous title.

Much better was to follow in 1962-63, as with an avalanche of goals, led by prolific brothers Keith and Mike Pritchard and former Oldham striker Gerry Duffy, United swept to another league title ahead of Holyhead Town and Colwyn Bay, picking up a trio of cups along the way.

In addition to the local Cookson Cup, they scooped the North Wales Coast Challenge Cup, defeating Porthmadog 2-1 in the final, but it was the Welsh Cup run that propelled the club into the spotlight.

Victories over Rhyl (4-1), Denbigh (4-2) and cup-holders Bangor City (4-1) were followed by a 1-0 win over Hereford United in the semi-final, thanks to a Mike Pritchard goal.

The two-legged final pitted United against Football League opposition in the shape of Newport County and, in front of 3,500 fans at Nant-y-Coed, Borough came back from 1-0 down to win 2-1, courtesy of a Billy Russell penalty and Joe Bebb header.

Three days later at Somerton Park, it was keeper Dave Walker who was the Borough hero in a 0-0 draw which secured the national trophy on aggregate and a place in the European Cup-Winners’ Cup.

An admirable local fundraising effort enabled United to compete in Europe and the preliminary round pairing with fellow minnows Sliema Wanderers of Malta was a kind one, but the logistics of the journey were much less straightforward 56 years ago than they are today.

The United party took 31 hours to reach the Med – their plane diverting to Marseilles because of engine trouble – and they took to the pitch just four hours after arriving, a request for postponement having been refused.

The match took place at the National Stadium in Gzira before 15,000 spectators and, in the circumstances, Borough did well to hold out for a 0-0 draw on an unfamiliar sandy surface.

Back home, the second leg was played at Wrexham on 3rd October 1963, with 17,613 fans in attendance.

The Maltese visitors found playing on grass as alien as sand had been to the Borough party and a goal in each half, from Gerry Duffy and 19-year-old Mike Pritchard, sent United through, making them the first-ever Welsh club to win a European tie.

Next up were Czech cup-winners Slovan Bratislava, who had reached the previous season’s quarter-final and fielded five internationals.

Strangely, only 10,196 turned out on 11 December 1963 for the first leg at Wrexham, but they saw a close and fiercely contested game, Peter Molnar’s goal early in the second half giving the visitors a 1-0 lead to take into the return, played only four days later.

This time the Borough part-timers had to contend with an icy, snow-covered pitch and despite a brave attempt to contain the home side, the Welsh visitors conceded three goals to Molnar (2) and Anton Moravcik and went out 4-0 on aggregate.

Though the Cup-Winners’ Cup adventure was the highlight of Borough United’s short history, they continued to perform well in the Welsh League North, finishing a close third in 1963-64 behind Colwyn Bay and champions Holyhead Town.

They relinquished the Welsh Cup in a 5-1 fifth round defeat at Chester, but retained the North Wales Challenge Cup, beating Holywell 2-0 in the final, Gerry Duffy and Reg Hunter the scorers.

The following season of 1964/5 brought runners-up spot in the league, behind Colwyn Bay, followed by fifth and fourth places in the ensuing two campaigns, which also delivered moderate fortunes in the FA Cup and Welsh Cup.

1967 was to be a momentous year for Borough United for other reasons. Nant-y-Coed’s owners, an Irish Catholic order, evicted the club, leaving them without a ground of Welsh League standard.

Relocating to Conwy Morfa was ruled out as unfeasible, mergers with Llandudno or Colwyn Bay mooted but ultimately scuppered by the FAW’s refusal to sanction an application to the Cheshire League.

In July 1967 the club resigned from the Welsh League (North) and though they soldiered on for two seasons in the Vale of Conwy League, they folded in 1969.

It was a sad end for a team which had achieved so much in such a short existence, but their tremendous feats will always be remembered.

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