Peter Kitchen caused stir in 1978, but it took ‘team display’ for Leyton Orient to make FA Cup semi-finals!

Some members of the Leyton Orient 1977/78 squad face the camera during last month's reunion dinner t

Some members of the Leyton Orient 1977/78 squad face the camera during last month's reunion dinner to make 40 years since the O's played in the FA Cup semi-finals (pic: Elliot Byrne/Leyton Orient). - Credit: Archant

The 66-year-old was back at Orient last month for a reunion dinner ahead of the 40th anniversary of the time O’s made the last four of the FA Cup

Middlesbrough's John Mahoney (left) and Leyton Orient's Tony Grealish fight for the ball during the

Middlesbrough's John Mahoney (left) and Leyton Orient's Tony Grealish fight for the ball during the FA Cup quarter-final at Ayresome Park in March 1978 (pic PA) - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Peter Kitchen may have scored seven of Leyton Orient’s nine goals during their memorable journey in the 1978 FA Cup, but he insists the run to the semi-finals was down to an excellent team, not his goalscoring efforts.

Sunday will mark the 40th anniversary of the time the O’s played Arsenal in the last four of the FA Cup at Stamford Bridge.

Orient were in the Second Division at the time and had stunned the likes of Norwich City, Chelsea and Middlesbrough to make the semi-finals.

Kitchen scored in every round, including stunning goals against Chelsea and Middlesbrough, and yet he lauded the quality of the whole side when we discussed the famous run this week.

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He said: “The sad thing about playing in that era is not all of your goals are on the TV and I scored 200 goals in my career, but only a handful were shown on TV and they were in our FA Cup run.

“The goals were exceptionally good too and most were of a very high calibre and so for me personally they are great memories and some of my favourite goals, but even though my goals won the games, it was the team who got the results.

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“It was very much a team performance throughout and we had a really good group of players who worked for each other and we never gave up.”

As Kitchen pointed out during our conversation, it was no fluke for a then-Second Division side to beat First Division opposition in the form of Norwich, Chelsea and Middlesbrough.

Orient took all three to replays and yet when it came to the last hurdle of all, First Division giants Arsenal proved too strong.

Two early goals from Malcolm McDonald, both via deflections, put the Gunners in control and they never looked back with Graham Rix adding a third.

Nevertheless, it was an astonishing run for the Brisbane Road club and one that will live long in the memory of everyone associated to the O’s.

“It was a shame when we played Arsenal we found ourselves 2-0 down very early to two deflected shots,” said Kitchen.

“It was very difficult to come back from that and we couldn’t get any rhythm because we were chasing the game.”

Kitchen continued: “It was incredible to be a part of it and we had a good side, and when I look back now, we were two or three players short of a team good enough to challenge for promotion and maybe be in the First Division.

“I guess that was proven to be the case after the FA Cup run because the club sold five or six of us who all went on to do very well in their careers in what is now known as the Championship and Premier League, so we had a very good team.

“The cup seemed to galvanise us and it wasn’t a fluke because three of the games were against First Division opposition and we drew the first game and won the second, so it wasn’t like we were winning luckily.”

Strangely enough when Kitchen reflected on Orient’s toughest game in the lead up to the semi-final, it was in the fourth round against Second Division Blackburn Rovers.

The O’s eventually got past their league rivals 3-1 at Brisbane Road, but not without a real fight.

“If anything the hardest game up until the semi-final was when we played Blackburn Rovers, who were a Championship side and for 60 to 70 minutes we were chasing shadows,” said Kitchen.

“We couldn’t get hold of the ball, but in the final 15 minutes we got three goals and it all turned around.”

It certainly did and although Orient couldn’t make it past Arsenal to reach a Wembley final, the boys of 78 will always hold a special place in the hearts of O’s fans for their astonishing run.

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