1981 WFA Cup Final (lost footage of football match; 1981)

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Issue 11 of Women's Football reporting on the game.

Status: Lost

The 1981 WFA Cup Final culminated the 1980-81 WFA Cup season. Occurring on 10th May at Knowsley Road, it featured Southampton defeating St Helens 4-2 to claim its eighth Cup, in what would mark an end of a dominant era for the club.


Heading into the Final, St Helens were the defending champions.[1][2] In the First and Second Rounds respectively, St Helens overcame Thornton ICI and Broadoak.[3] Its Third and Fourth Round ties are unknown, but the club did defeat Crewe and Maidstone Mote United in the Quarter-Finals and Semi-Finals respectively to reach its second consecutive Final.[3][1] Meanwhile, Southampton's campaign saw it overcome Hassocks Beacon and Gillingham in the early rounds.[3] Its Third Round tie is unknown, but it did defeat Fodens, Percy Main, and Preston North End to reach the Final.[3] St Helens were seeking their second Cup, while Southampton aimed for its eighth, but sought revenge for its loss to St Helens in the previous Cup.[2][1]

With Football League stadiums remaining inaccessible, the WFA forged an unusual agreement to stage the Final at Knowsley Road, which was the home of St Helens Rugby League.[4][2] While there were concerns the ground would be unsuitable for a football match, WFA Chairman David Hunt believed the site had "excellent facilities", while Southampton goalkeeper Sue Buckett believed it was the first proper stadium to host the Final.[5][2] This was the first WFA Cup Final to be stage in the North of England, with St Helens also holding a home advantage heading into the match.[2][4] Around 1,350-1,500 fans attended the game.[2][4] Among those included the then-Mayor of Southampton.[5]

The Match

The Final itself occurred on 10th May. After 12 minutes, Southampton took the lead via a Pat Chapman low shot that beat St Helens goalkeeper Ann Harkins.[2][4] Alison Leatherbarrow nearly levelled the encounter, before proceeding to capitalise on Norah Critchley's free kick to make it 1-1.[2][4] According to A History of the Women's FA Cup Final, having also scored for Fodens at the 1974 Final, Leatherbarrow became the first to score for two different clubs in a WFA Cup Final.[2] St Helens then launched a barrage of attacks, but it was Southampton who scored next, via a corner kick from Jill England that landed into the net.[2][4]

In the second half, St Helens were awarded a penalty. However, a powerful shot from Anne Hayde was too central, allowing Buckett to easily save it.[2] Chapman punished the opposition by making it 3-1 through a half-volley, marking her record tenth and final WFA Cup Final goal.[2][4] After 75 minutes, Janet Turner pulled one backed for St Helens thanks to securing a header from a corner.[2][4] The defending champions nearly equalised, only for Linda Coffin to clear a shot off the line.[2] Ultimately, Southampton gave themselves the winner when St Helens failed to clear the ball enough to prevent Hilary Carter from slamming the ball from 30 yards into the goal.[2][4]

Southampton therefore won 4-2, securing its eighth and final WFA Cup in its original form.[2][4][1] The club would fold after 1986, but a new club with strong ties to the original would be formed within the 1990s.[2] Meanwhile, St Helens' Chris Slater believed the penalty miss cost her side the team, stating "The turning point was obviously the penalty miss. If we had scored that I think we would have won. The main difference between the two sides was that they took their chances and we didn't."[2]


In an interview with A History of the Women's FA Cup Final, Harkins stated that the BBC and Granada Reports had provided news coverage before and after the game.[2] The match was also filmed, with footage including Southampton's first goal.[2] The footage has yet to be made publicly available, however. Additionally, the fact A History of the Women's FA Cup Final states it only found "surviving footage" indicates much of the uncut tape of the match is also completely missing.[2]



See Also