The 1970/71 FA Trophy was one of the most interesting in the history of the competition.
For once, the inclusion of Second Division clubs was a success.
Ħamrun Spartans, in fact, were in a festive mood on December 2, 1970 as they knocked out Floriana.
The Spartans twice came back from behind to snatch a dramatic victory.
Another giant-killing act was produced by Birkirkara. They beat First Division team Qormi 1-0.
Ħamrun failed to progress further, however. They were bundled out by neighbours Marsa in the quarter-finals but Birkirkara still had more to offer.
Against Gżira, they led 1-0 up to the last minute before conceding an equaliser. In the replay, however, the Second Division champions upset the record books with a 1-0 victory.
The semi-finals ended in victories for the favourite teams.
Sliema beat Marsa in a dramatic match which saw the Blues turn a 1-2 deficit into a 3-2 victory.
In the other match, a well-placed header by wing-half Freddie Delia handed Hibs victory against Birkirkara.
The final was played on May 23, 1971.
Sliema were confident of winning the title but Hibs were determined to break the jinx which haunted them each time they faced the Blues in a final.
They came out strong and deservedly forged ahead with another Delia goal. Hibs controlled Sliema’s efforts and with only 11 minutes left, the trophy seemed destined for Paola.
Then, the hoodoo struck again.
Edward Darmanin released Ronnie Cocks to make it one-all.
With his equaliser, Cocks broke goalkeeper Freddie Mizzi’s proud record of 10 consecutive matches without conceding a goal.
Mizzi had last been beaten in the first round league match against Floriana.
He went through the following matches without conceding a goal:
League: vs Sliema Wanderers (0-0); vs Qormi (2-0); vs Gżira United (1-0); vs Valletta (0-0); vs Marsa (0-0); vs Floriana (0-0).
Mizzi missed the second round match against Sliema and then continued in the FA Trophy.
FA Trophy: vs Rabat (1-0); vs Valletta (0-0) aet; vs Valletta (2-0); vs Birkirkara (1-0).
In all, Mizzi went through 1,055 minutes without conceding a goal. A truly fine record indeed which had to come to an end one day or another.
To continue our story, extra-time was played but none of the two teams took any risks and the FA Trophy final ended 1-1.
The replay was a fairytale affair for Joe Cini.
Discarded by Sliema after years of sterling service, he dished out revenge on his ex-club as he scored two goals in the replay to ensure that Hibs retained the Trophy for a second year running.
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