15th December 1971
FA Cup 2nd Round Replay
Exeter City 0, Swansea 1
Report by Derek Lean
A FLAGRANT miscarriage of justice was perpetrated at St. James' Park last night. Exeter City lost this second round F.A. Cup replay to Swansea, and they should not have done so.
They were robbed of victory by some great goalkeeping from Welsh international Tony Millington. They were defeated by the cruellest stroke of luck.
That might sound like the sour-grapes view of some dedicated partisans. Instead it is a statement of fact. Swansea are the luckies side imaginable to be meeting Gillingham in the next round.
It all started to happen in the second half. Until then there had been little enough to choose between the sides. Exeter had just abou had the better of things after a shaky start.
But with the second half Exeter really took command. They surged forward time and again with the incessant certainty of a spring tide. Every time the wave of one attack broke upon the Swansea defence, so another built in the midfield, foamed with danger in front of goal and smashed around the Swansea goalmouth,
To enumerate the number of times Exeter were either inches short of scoring, or Millington made some fantastic last-minute saves, would be to become purely repetitive.
Millington saved three cracking shots that looked to have goal written all over them. Exeter hit post, hit the bar, grazed a post, and shot wide and over.
Swansea scrambled the ball away at the last minute. But somehow for poor Exeter that ball refused to go between the posts.
And the goal that put Exeter out of the Cup?
It came four minutes from the end when Swansea managed to shake off for a few all-important minutes minutes this storm of Exeter attacking.
Barry Hole managed to escape and crossed the ball, but it was cleared with a long, swinging kick. Geoff Thomas picked the ball up and tried a long, hard, low shot. But, thought everyone, there was little danger.
Bob Wilson was in the middle with the ball covered, but in nipped Philip Holme to deflect the ball with his heel, and it flew into the corner of the net, with Wilson unable about it. unable to do anything
So instead of going into extra time, that goal, about the only attack worth calling one by Swansea in the second half, won the game. It was totally against the run of play. It was never deserved.
That, of course, is what so often happens in soccer: but Exeter can take pride this morning, in that, although they are out of the Cup, they put up a terrific fight, ther produced some marvellously ex citing and invigorating football, and even in defeat they deserve the bouquets.
In the first-half both sides prodded and probed at each other's defence, suspiciously weighing each other up, and not producing much in the way of quality football.
Swansea did most of the attacking at the start and Wilson had to save smartly a shot from Alan Beer. On top of that Alan Wilson headed over from a corner. But Exeter's confidence gradually grew, and John Wingate and Alan Banks both went pretty close.
It was Steve Stacey who set the pace in the second-half. Twice the man with the No. 2 on his shirt raided on his own. Once his shot was saved by Millington, and then his long effort went over the top.
The tempo of Exeter's attacks increased. Millington produced a dynamic save from out of the hat to deal with a pile-driver from Wingate, and seconds later he did exactly the same thing to a rasping drive from John Giles.
Joe Gadston blistered one just wide of an upright and then Millington produced another of his extra special saves to stop a hammer drive from Jimmy Giles. And so it went on until the 86th minute, when Holme got the all- important goal.
Still Exeter's luck was out. They refused to give up and came forward once more. Steve Morris laid on a crisp and intelligent cross and Barry Rowan's header hit the bar. He fell to his knees in disappointment; and who can blame him?
The biggest crowd of the season, 6,858, saw the game. They certainly had their money's worth, even if they did not get justice.