Fog, Food Poisoning and Snow

Although Exeter City have only met Barnet on a handful of occasions at Football League level, the teams that have crossed paths on two occasions in the FA Cup. The first occasion saw the Grecians defeat the then Barnet 3-0 in the sixth qualifying round at St James' Park, but the second meeting was almost 50 years ago, when the City traveled to Hertfordshire for a first round tie.

The game was not without it's problems though. Originally it was scheduled to be played at Underhill on 27th November 1948 but was called off just 15 minutes before kick-off as one of the Home Counties infamous 'pea-soup' fog banks enveloped the ground. The referee had little option to call a halt as visibility was down to just ten yards.

Unfortunately spectators had already been let into the ground and were eagerly awaiting the Cup-tie. It was estimated that around 2,000 fans were left feeling disappointed, particularly the two coach loads of City supporters who had traveled to the game and a further 300 others who had made their way to London by train in a specially arranged football excursion from Exeter.

This had not been the first time that Exeter City had been involved in a fog bound Cup-tie though, for there was a similar experience on their visit to another London side, Walthamstow Avenue, in December 1936. At least the game did get underway that time, but it had to be abandoned at 1-1 as the fog descended. City won the rearranged the games 3-2 five days later and went on a run in the FA Cup that ended in the fifth round at Deepdale as Preston North End ended their Cup dreams by wining a classic tie, 5-3!

Earlier still, back in 1924, City were put out of their misery in the 77th minute at Southampton as they were heading for a heavy defeat and already trailing 5-0. The first round tie was abandoned due to fog, and although the Grecians lost the rearranged game four days later, at least they gave a better performance to go down 1-3. But back to the Barnet tie of 1948. It was reported that the traveling and hotel expenses for the City team had totaled £170 (if only that was the case for a similar journey today!). A spokesman explained that this cost, plus a further £170 bill for the rearranged game, would be deducted from the overall gate receipts when the game was played, and therefore both clubs would suffer as a results, earning far less than anticipated.

One coach load of City fans had left Exeter on the Friday night at midnight, arrived at Victoria at 7am, they then went fr a walk around the West End of London before boarding their coach again at 12 noon for the short journey to Barnet.

Once the tie was called off, it was decided to return to Victoria and spend some more time in London. But with the fog now bringing visibility down to just a few yards, the coach driver had to wait for conditions to improve before he could continue the homeward bound trip back to Exeter. Unfortunately those conditions did not improve sufficiently until 7am Sunday morning, the weary fans arriving in Exeter on Sunday afternoon, have not even seen a game of football.

Both the teams and the City fans had to make exactly the same journey a week later for the quickly rearranged Cup tie at Underhill. This time the tie did go ahead and City comfortably won 6-2. City scored their quickest ever FA Cup goal, after just ten seconds of play, to stun the Barnet supporters among the 5,224 crowd. Archie Smith kicked off down the slope and Harry Bartholomew moving up in support of his forwards shot low into the corner of his net. Not one Barnet player had touched the ball!

The home team quickly gathered themselves together and fought very hard to get back on terms, which eventually they did through Kelleher.

Smith then restored City's advantage, only for Barnet to again level the scores with a goal from Phipps. Bill Dymon added the Grecians third before the break and that goal proved to be an important one as Barnet's resistance was finally broken.In the second half City added three further goals, all scored by Smart to take his personally tally to four for the game, the record still standing today as being the most goals scored by a City player in a Cup-tie since the Second World War.

Smart had something of an unusual season with the City, for although he was the hero at Barnet, he only managed five goals in 20 league starts.

The Bishop Auckland born player had been signed from Stanley United, a junior club in the North East. He went on to score a total of 34 league goals in 103 appearances for the Grecians before his release in 1952, when he linked up with Bideford.

The teams on the day lined up as follows:-

Barnet: Stevens, Wheller, F.Hawkins, Gerrans, D.Hawkins, Hawkes, Haskow, Keheller, Phipps, Hurst, Westley.

Exeter: Bert Hoyle, Derek Warren, Stan Rowe, Harry Bartholomew, Steve Walker, Henry Evans, Bill Dymond, Richard Smart, Archie Smith, Angus Mackay, Doug Regan.

For the record, City went on to beat Hereford United 2-1 at St James' Park in the second round, before losing 2-1 at Grimsby Town in round three. Exeter had taken the game at Grimsby very seriously indeed, so much so that they spent over a week away from St. James' Park preparing for the tie. After playing at Norwich City in a Third Division South fixture a week before the Grimsby game, where City lost 3-0, the management and players moved on to Cleethorpes which was to be their base for the following seven days.

Unfortunately, not all had gone to plan for the visit to Norwich as the team were struck down with food poisoning! With Harry Bartholomew having developed sciatica and no fewer than eight players all suffering from the effects of the food poisoning, several were forced to play even though they were far from well and trainer Jimmy Gallagher had to come out of retirement at the age of 38 to make the numbers up by lining at centre-half.

Gallagher had played first team football since in the 1945-46 season, when he appeared on just two occassions in the Football League South for the City, when teams were made up of guest players as football began to get back on it's feet after the ravages of the War.

Exeter, incidentally, played in what was an unusual playing kit then, which consisted of all red jersey and black shorts.

Fortunately the heath of the city players improved significantly over the weekend and it was reported that the squad of players enjoyed a visit to the Wonderland summer amusement centre in Cleethorpes. The centre also included 20,000 square feet of covered accommodation, which they City took full advantage of and used as a training base, where they also played basketball and netball.

The players also had "relaxing strolls among the promenade in Cleethorpes' but this activity was curtailed as snow began to fall!

Despite the intense preparation, and the unusually long stay away from Exeter, the team still lost 2-1 to Grimsby, although reports indicated that the Grecians surprised their hosts with the standard of play. Meanwhile, on the same afternoon, back at St. James' Park, there was another record set by a City player. The reserves were entertaining Worcester City in a Southern League fixture and won 4-3. But the start of the game was half-back Stan Cutting who scored a hat-trick - all from the penalty spot! Even allowing for this unusual feat, before netting the winner, a goal from winger Dennis Hutchings.

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Mike Blackstone

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