IT MAY be against 127 years of tradition, but the chairman of the Football Supporters' Association agrees with the decision to dispense with an FA Cup final replay from this season onwards.
While ruling out any immediate prospect of other rounds having to be decided in the first match, the Football Association have decided that the final will go to extra time and penalties if necessary.
The FA want to ease fixture congestion at the end of the season as an FA Cup final replay could clash with the Champions' Cup Final, with Arsenal or Manchester United potentially involved in both games. They also believe that supporters prefer to see a match decided on the day, especially with the travelling and ticketing costs involved.
In 117 previous finals, a replay has been needed on 14 occasions, the most recent having been in 1993 when Arsenal beat Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 after a 1-1 draw.
All other domestic, European and international finals, even the World Cup Final, have no provision for a replay.
The FA's spokesman, Steve Double, said: "It has become clear over recent years that fans going to Wembley would prefer to have a decision, for better or worse, on the day. There is also the issue of fixture congestion."
In February last season United were still involved in both the FA Cup and Champions' Cup, with any FA Cup Final replay scheduled to take place the day after the final of the European competition.
Graham Bean, chairman of the Football Supporters' Association, said: "I welcome this move as it seems that common sense has prevailed."
ACTION REPLAYS: THE POST-WAR FA CUP FINALS THAT NEEDED A SECOND MATCH
Chelsea 2 Leeds 1 (aet)
After ploughing up Wembley, the two sides regrouped at Old Trafford. The first match was an exercise in tedium, the replay one of the most exciting finals ever. "Here in one match were the extremes of exaltation and despair which are suffered each season," wrote Ken Jones in the Daily Mirror. Mick Jones' goal was cancelled out by Peter Osgood's header, setting the scene for David Webb's climactic injury-time winner off his knee.
Tottenham 3 Manchester City 2
Ricky Villa ended the first game in tears after being substituted: "It was the worst moment of my life." Five days later came what was surely the best. The Argentinian had put Spurs ahead in a pulsating match before Steve Mackenzie equalised with one of the best goals seen at Wembley. It was eclipsed, though, when, with the score at 2-2, Villa picked up the ball and went past defender after defender before sliding the ball into the net.
Tottenham 1 QPR 0
The 1-1 draw in the first game was one of the most uneventful finals in memory. QPR, then in the old Second Division, won neutrals' hearts in the more absorbing replay as they chased the game after going behind to Glenn Hoddle's sixth-minute penalty. They had two unsuccessful penalty appeals, while Hoddle cleared one shot off the line and John Gregory, now the Aston Villa manager, clipped the top of the bar.
Manchester Utd 4 Brighton 0
You won't find a Brighton fan to argue with the end of Cup final replays. In the first game they stretched United to the limit, and but for Gordon Smith's notorious miss near the end, would not have suffered the humiliation the following Thursday. Two goals from Bryan Robson and one each from Norman Whiteside and Arnold Muhren did the damage. To add to the pain they were relegated and have been heading in the same direction ever since.
Manchester Utd 1 Crystal Palace 0
The theory that Cup final replays improve on the first game came a cropper this time round. The 3-3 draw the previous Saturday had everything; the replay, in which Palace all but kicked United off the park, was a dreadful spectacle. At least the winning goal was a decent effort, from defender Lee Martin, who now plays for Glossop North End in the North-Western Trains League. United had won, and Alex Ferguson's job was safe.
Arsenal 2 Sheffield Wed 1 (aet)
For the first time, the Cup final was nearly decided by penalties, but Andy Linighan saved the day. The Independent dubbed the first game "the Mogadon final", but the replay, on a wintry evening, was a magnificent affair settled in the dying moments of extra time by a towering header from Linighan. "A real slow burner improved the longer it went on," said the Independent, "and by the end it was compelling edge-of-the-seat stuff."
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