Football historian, author and renowned memorabilia collector Mark Jones of Prestatyn is Grassroots North Wales’ very own Santa this Christmas and New Year period.
Nostalgia enthusiast Mark is providing a series of articles on programmes for some of North Wales’ more interesting Welsh Cup ties over the years, all ones that will never ever happen again.
No 10 Cardiff City v Caernarfon Town (April 1988)
Almost 35 years ago Caernarfon Town followed their historic 1986/7 English FA Cup run to the third round with one of their best ever showings in the ‘old style’ Welsh Cup when they made it to the last four in April of the following season.
The Canaries were flying high in the Northern Premier League at the time with a top six placing and were playing some entertaining football under player/coach Phil Wilson who had taken over the reins at The Oval from former Liverpool and England star Tommy Smith, who had left as manager before Christmas.
Smith had not enjoyed the best of results and Town were struggling in the lower reaches of the table before Wilson took charge and remodelled the side – led by long-serving stalwart and club captain Huw Williams – and set them off on a run of 10 wins from their next 13 matches.
Their Welsh Cup run began with a relatively lo-fi 2-1 home win over Bethesda Athletic in the second round and the third round draw provided home advantage again, Mold Alexandra being easily dispatched by 4-1.
Town were out of the hat first again in the next round and Football League opposition in the shape of Second Division Shrewsbury Town were heading for the Oval.
The Shrews were struggling near the bottom of the league table and faced a fired up Cofi side spurred on by a large and partisan home crowd which played its part in a 3-1 win for the Canaries.
In the last eight Town were held 0-0 at home by Colwyn Bay, then of the North West Counties League and a similar scoreline in the replay meant it came down to a penalty shootout and the Canaries held their nerve to triumph 5-4 and set up a semi-final showdown with Cardiff City.
The Bluebirds were then languishing in Division Four but heading for promotion in second place behind leaders Wolves, so Caernarfon travelled south confident of their ability to spring a surprise should City decide to have one eye on what they would surely consider the bigger prize.
And they so nearly did, trailing 2-1 at half time to goals from Mark Kelly and a Paul Wimbleton penalty in front of a crowd of around 3,000 at Ninian Park.
Damian Looker’s strike had kept them firmly in the game and Town matched their opponents man for man in the second half to ensure the margin of defeat was no bigger for the return at the Oval a week later.
Another tight game ensued and the only goal from Cardiff’s Brian McDermott via the penalty spot separated the two teams. McDermott later managed Leeds United and Reading.
So the Cofis bowed out by a very respectable 3-1 aggregate to a side who eventually gained promotion from Division Four as runners up and did the double with a Welsh Cup win by 2-0 over Swansea City in the final which sent them into Europe via the Cup Winners Cup.