1971 Southampton 4-1 Stewarton Thistle

Sunday 9 May 1971, 3:30pm
Crystal Palace National Sports Centre, South East London
Attendance: UnknownSponsor: Mitre
Southampton4-1Stewarton Thistle (Scotland)
Pat Davies (x3), Dot CassellRose Reilly
1.Sue Buckett1.Gerry Chalmers
2.Pat Judd2.Isobel Howie
3.Karen Buchanan3.Sophia McDonald
4.Barbara Birkett4.Linda Kidd
5.Jill Long5.Elsie Cook (c)
6.Maureen Case6.Sandra Walker
7.Dot Cassell7.Rose Reilly
8.Lesley Lloyd (c)8.Jan Lightbody
9.Pat Davies9.Susie Ferries
10.Sue Lopez10.Moira Redmond
11.Lynda Hale11.Mary-Jane Lindsay (sub 60)
12.Jean Seymour 12.Yvonne Bolton (sub 60)
13.Louise Cross
Manager: Norman HollowayJoint-managers: Elsie Cook and
Tom Strawthorn
Referee: Mr Bryn Poyner (Worcester)
Linesmen: Mr Dulton (Hull) & Mr Read (Swindon)

With the FA having written to the WFA in December 1969 to confirm that the ban on women playing was to be overturned, 71 teams set out on the road to the first ever Women’s FA Cup final in the 1970-71 season.  

To avoid long distance travel in the early rounds, teams were split into eight geographical groups prior to the draw. Among those taking part were Welsh and Scottish clubs with one of them – Stewarton Thistle from near Kilmarnock in East Ayrshire – making it to the final. The club had been formed in 1961 at the request of their local authority to help raise funds for the Freedom from Hunger Campaign.

Despite the fact that the ban on women playing was about to be lifted, no Football League club was willing to provide their stadium to host the final, so the WFA secured the pitch at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre, the site where 20 men’s FA Cup finals had taken place, the most recent in 1914.

Surviving match footage of the final shows long grass on a pitch of poor quality by today’s standards. A sparse crowd is scattered around the barriers which separate the pitch from the running track. In the main grandstand though nearly every seat is filled by expectant spectators.

Southampton raced into a 2-0 lead inside the opening 20 minutes with 16-year-old Pat Davies – who would go on to complete a hat-trick – scoring both. One of the goals (which some newspapers wrongly reported as an own goal) came from a dreadful back pass which evaded Thistle keeper Gerry Chalmers who had already raced to the edge of her box to collect the ball. As it trundled towards the empty net Davies sprinted in to the six-yard box to apply the finishing touch.

Rose Reilly had a fine game for Thistle at outside-right. She pulled a goal back just before the break but the half-time whistle prevented her side gaining any momentum and within minutes of the restart Southampton’s talented left-half Dot Cassell put them 3-1 up with a rocket of a left-foot shot.

Sixteen-year-old Reilly would go on to become one of the finest players of her era. She had started playing at the age of seven with a Scottish League club scout having apparently tried to sign her when she was 14 mistakenly thinking she was a promising young male player.

She was banned for life by the Scottish FA after turning professional with French side Reims and Italian outfit AC Milan. Having seen her own country turn her back on her she went on to represent Italy and won the 1984 Mundialito with them – an unofficial precursor to the World Cup.

Thistle certainly had their chances, with Reilly and Susie Ferries hitting the bar three times between them. Jan Lightbody’s neat dribbling ability saw her put Southampton on the backfoot on several occasions but Thistle couldn’t force the goal that would have brought them right back into the game.

Just moments after Thistle had made their one permitted substitution, with Yvonne Bolton replacing Mary-Jane Lindsay, they lost Isobel Howie who had to be carried off with torn ligaments. They were therefore left a player short for the final 20 minutes.

Southampton put the result beyond doubt when Davies struck her third to secure herself the match ball.  Relaying her memories to us in early 2020, victorious captain Lesley Lloyd said: “Cup final day was fantastic. For me, it felt like being at Wembley. The feeling of lifting that cup is something I will never forget, thinking that we had actually won it, and the feeling that after all that time the FA had finally recognised that women could play football.”