I'm still mystified by blunder in semi

EVEN now, 30 years on, Allan Hunter struggles to explain what possessed him to handle the ball and so concede the penalty that could have cost Ipswich their only-ever FA Cup final appearance.

Nick Garnham

EVEN now, 30 years on, Allan Hunter struggles to explain what possessed him to handle the ball and so concede the penalty that could have cost Ipswich their only-ever FA Cup final appearance.

Ipswich were leading 2-0 against West Bromwich Albion in the semi-final at Highbury with 76 minutes played when Hunter, who had been outstanding at the heart of the Town defence, rose to head clear a free kick but instead inexplicably fisted the ball away.

Tony Brown scored from the subsequent penalty and there followed an anxious finale as West Brom sensed an opportunity to at least force a replay, before John Wark headed home Town's third to seal the tie in the dying seconds.

Such was the aura that surrounded Hunter at the time, several of his colleagues have since confessed that they dared not ask him what he was doing!

Hunter said: “It was a good job they didn't ask me because I could not have told them why I did it.

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“Maybe it was the Irish in me. They always say the Irish are a bit mad! I guess I just had a brainstorm - I could do that occasionally.”

He confessed: “What a relief it was when Warky scored the third goal. He has been a friend ever since!”

While Hunter still finds it hard to explain his actions, the decision by manager Bobby Robson to drop Roger Osborne and include Colin Viljoen in the team that faced Aston Villa away in the final league game the week before the final, left him dumbfounded.

“In the 11 or 12 years I played under Bobby Robson that was something I could not believe he did. I think it was the one bad decision he made in all my time at the club.

“Everybody was shocked when it happened. I was sitting opposite Roger when the team was announced and you could see the air going out of him.”

Ipswich lost the match 6-1.

Hunter recalled: “Colin Viljoen said at the time we rebelled against him, but I don't agree with that. I was really struggling as my knee went.”

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