Leyton Orient legend Peter Kitchen has ‘great memories’ of 1978 FA Cup run to semi-finals
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The former favourite discussed the recent reunion dinner at Brisbane Road and what made the semi-final against Arsenal so tough
Former Leyton Orient forward Peter Kitchen was delighted to renew acquaintances with the O’s team from the 1977/78 season last month for a reunion dinner to mark the 40th anniversary of their famous FA Cup run.
Several members of the squad got together at Brisbane Road on March 25 to watch old clips of the east Londoners’ remarkable journey where they stunned First Division clubs Norwich City, Chelsea and Middlesbrough to reach the semi-finals.
Arsenal earned an emphatic 3-0 win at Stamford Bridge in the last-four of the FA Cup, but the memories created will live on for everyone associated with Orient and Kitchen enjoyed the night back at O’s.
He said: “Obviously I don’t see everyone very often, so when you can get the majority of the team to come together it is always a nostalgic evening.
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“We all got on so well and it really was great to see everyone and it brought back some great memories.”
Kitchen scored seven of Orient’s nine goals during the run as they played eight times in the competition – one more than the eventual winners Ipswich Town.
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O’s held First Division club Norwich City to a 1-1 draw in the third round and then stunned the Canaries 1-0 in the replay at Carrow Road.
A tough encounter with Second Division rivals Blackburn Rovers followed in the fourth road, but Orient made it through with a hard-fought 3-1 victory.
Jimmy Bloomfield’s team needed another replay to progress from round five and it was an impressive achievement, as they played out a goalless draw with Chelsea at Brisbane Road before winning 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.
The win over the Blues set up a quarter-final tie at Middlesbrough and O’s managed to earn a replay, following a stalemate in the North East, before triumphing 2-1 in E10.
It set up a last-four clash with Arsenal at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge on April 8 and Kitchen conceded luck deserted Orient in the tie.
He added: “I think on the day we were all a little bit nervous because I don’t think we had ever really had the belief before the semi-final.
“Each round we didn’t start as favourites and after getting to the semi-finals we started to believe in ourselves.
“We were nervous because it was an important match and people say we were overawed, but I don’t think it was down to that - I think it was the fact we started out cautiously.
“We wanted to keep it tight from the start and within 20 minutes we were 2-0 down because of the two deflected shots from Malcolm Macdonald and neither of them were going to hit the target.
“Once you are two down to a side like Arsenal it is virtually impossible to come back and we tried to go at them, but we just couldn’t get any real rhythm.
“We have to accept on the day we weren’t good enough, but I do think we had bad luck in the game.”
Despite O’s cup exploits in the 1977/78 season, they could only finish 14th in the Second Division and 11th the following campaign.
Kitchen departed Orient and signed for London rivals Fulham in 1979, but he looks back on his time at Brisbane Road fondly.
He had another spell at O’s in 1982 and is set to be back at the club on April 21 for the last home game of the current National League season against Wrexham.
“When Orient came in for me in 1977 and I didn’t know anything about Orient because I was living up in Yorkshire and I had never played there before in my career,” said Kitch.
“But I came to the club and they were an established then-Championship side and had been in the division since 1970.
“They were playing against the likes of Crystal Palace, Millwall, Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur, so from my point of view it was a great move to give myself the chance to play in a higher league and I had a very successful time there.”
It may have been 40 years ago, but Kitchen’s goals during Orient’s FA Cup run will be talked about forever.