Match 37
28th February 1931
FA Cup Round 6.
Sunderland v Exeter City
Western League
Plymouth Argyle Res. v Exeter City Res.

Sunderland v ECFC (D 1-1)
FA Cup R6.

Shock draw for shock team.

Eexter City's roundabout trip to Wembley.

The Now or Never Chance

“To Wembley via Sunderland.” That is the Exeter City slogan of the moment. Next Saturday will find the Grecians challenging Sunderland at Roker Park in the presence of somewhere about sixty thousand spectators for the right to enter the F.A .Cup Semi-Final.

Barring the City’s trips abroad, to the Argentine and Holland, in the days of long ago, this journey to Sunderland represents the longest bit of football travel undertaken by the Grecians, and so the season continues to furnish its new records week by week with striking variety.

It is quaint that with eight clubs in the hat the draw should pan out in the fashion of two local Derbies, a nice comfortable little jaunt for Chelsea to Birmingham, and the pairing of the clubs at the extreme ends of the country. If Sunderland had been called upon to come to St James’s Park all at Exeter would have smiled their satisfaction, and now that the boot is on the other foot there is no occasion for crying out at this freak effect of the drawer.


Exeter City’s chance of success has not appealed to the critics in general, and it will be surprisingly if any of the London or Northern Press tips Exeter to win, or even draw. When have they done so in such circumstances? And how could they do so in such circumstances? But it should be remembered that the same sort of thing prevailed when Exeter City had to go to Bury. The City, almost without exception, were tipped to lose.

Why should the Grecians fear Sunderland? They are better than Leeds United, no doubt, but not such an impressive side as Derby County, who were beaten at Saint James’s Park, but no more formidable than Bury at Gigg Lane.


Sunderland have done some good things this season, their most notable being a victory by three goals to one over the Arsenal at Highbury, but at Roker Park they have been beaten four times in the League and on three occasions have been compelled to divide the points. They have scored a good many goals but have had even more scored against them. The City forwards should manage to do some good business and the City defence has already proved its great steadiness in time of trial.

Therefore it is not so much Sunderland that the City following are fearing, as the long and tiring journey, and what may be called the strangeness of the sixty thousand atmosphere.

The journey is a bit of a bother, admittedly, but the other matter is not so likely to worry the City players as some writers seem to think. Varco, Baugh, Davies, Doncaster, Armfield, and Houghton have all had experience of First Division grounds and “gates,” and whether these players were or were not more generally in the second teams of these clubs than in the first team matters little. They can keep their heads on these big occasions. Miller is the sort of man who will revel in his work and forget the spectators, and Purcell is another of the same calibre in that respect. The City half backs are the sort to want to get down to business straight away, multitude or not.


The Grecians are not likely, therefore, to be stampeded by the size of the crowd. And the club will see to it that the journey is no more irksome than it need be. The climate conditions at Sunderland are likely to suit Exeter to a nicety. Breezy and brisk they will make them step out vigorously. Just as it is said that the Devon air is so relaxing so the Durham coastline is so bracing!

It seems an extraordinary course for a club to steer to get to Wembley, but the Roker Park playing pitch is as good to win on as any other from the City stand-point, and perhaps better than most. At Sunderland perhaps Exeter will have another grand opportunity of winning fame, and if they should manage to beat the Wearsiders the day will come at last when a Third Division club will start on level terms with any opposition in the semi-final for the coveted trophy.

Sunderland may be compelled to replay at Exeter, but if such a position does not arise St James’s Park has staged its last F.A. Cup match of this season. The Grecians’ further games (if any, of course) must be played on a neutral ground. How happy then must be the feeling of the great crowd which assembled at the Exeter City ground last Saturday and saw the Grecians so handsomely defeat Leeds United.

The play of Leeds in that match was a poor sample of First Division football, and the fighting Grecians will be prepared for something sterner in the north of England next week.

At the same time it is worthy of note that more goals have been registered against Sunderland in the League than have been conceded by the Leeds men, so there must be loopholes in the Sunderland defence, and Exeter have the players in their forward line to search out any weak spots. The City club was never so well served in attack as now, and the line is in fact playing First Division football nearly all the time.


The notes written by “Broadcaster`’ in the Daily Express are worth putting down. Speaking of Exeter City, he wrote, after the Leeds match:- “They play a game of thoughtful football at a fast pace. There is no excess of cleverness but just a touch to beat the man and then away with the ball. They have two fine inside-forwards, each of whom is a goal-getter. Houghton and Purcell are two men who are always up near goal if there is anything doing.”

Eighteen years have passed since Sunderland got so far in the Cup. Exeter City have never been so far before, and it may be that it will be a score of years before they repeat their phenomenal performance of this campaign. They are within sight, almost, of Wembley. The Grecians are battling, not only for themselves, but for the South-west of England and for the cause of the Third Division clubs as a whole. The chances are that the City have won exemption from the first two rounds of the Cup competition by their doughty deeds of the past couple of months, but there is the larger issue at stake. It seems to be a case of now or never, so far as Exeter City and a Wembley appearance in the Cup Final is concerned. The Grecians have a fighting chance of getting there and the question now on everybody’s lips is “Will they take it?”

There is locally every confidence in the team putting forth another great and gallant effort, and if they have an equal share of such luck as may be about during the ninety minutes of the game at Roker Park next Saturday it may well be that the Grecians will yet once more stagger the football world by great and glorious victory against long odds.

It would be an instance of the shock team of the competition rising superior to what might with equal truth be described as the shock draw of the F.A. Cup competition.


And speaking of shocks, Leeds United had one, and no mistake, last Saturday when George Purcell took charge of the ball and began to do things with it. They say that open confession is good for the soul. Leeds confessed frankly and freely after the Cup game at St James’s Park that they had been taken very completely by surprise. Purcell, they said, had beaten them.

They had expected something brilliant from Houghton, and this they got, of course. Everybody had told them what to anticipate from the brilliant Exeter inside-left. But they had not expected anything particularly formidable from the home right wing.

Purcell’s cool confidence, canny ball-control and craftiness was something altogether outside their reckoning. Never did a single player make a bigger impression all unexpectedly on an opposing defence.


Despite the length of the journey, Exeter City will not lack solid support in their match at Sunderland. It is estimated that anything up to one thousand excursionists from sunny Devon will travel north on the Friday night.

There are 4000 reserved grandstand seats at Roker Park, and when the news of the draw flashed across the wires Exeter City were asked how many of these they required for their following. The reply was two hundred, and at the time it was thought that this was quite a high estimate. The excursion train will leave Exeter at 9:50 p.m. on Friday and reach Sunderland at 8:35 in the morning so that the City supporters will have plenty of time to spare there. The Sunderland team will be chosen from the following twelve players: Robert Middleton of Brechin, formerly of Cowdenbeath, in goal; William Murray, also from Cowdenbeath, and another Scot, from far off Aberdeen-shire, right back; Harold Victor Shaw of Hednesford, formerly of the “Wolves,” at left back; Samuel Morris, of Prescot, right half; John McDougall of Glasgow, formerly of the Airdrieonians and the brother of James McDougal of Liverpool, at centre half; either Alexander Hastings, ex Stenhousemuir, or Arthur Andrews, late of Durham City, at left half; William Eden, of Stockton, and a £1,500 transfer from Darlington, outside right; Joseph Devine, of Kirkintilloch, and signed by Sunderland from Newcastle United for £3,000 only three weeks ago, inside right; Robert Gurney of Hetton, formerly of Bishop Auckland, centre forward; James Leonard of Cowdenbeath, inside left; and James Connor, of Paisley, and late of St Mirren, and the “star” of the side, at outside left.

G r e a t D a y F o r C i t y


Replay at Exeter on Wednesday

Saturday, February 28, 1931.

The F.A. Cup Sixth Round Results.

Sunderland (Connor) 1-1 Exeter City (Houghton)
Birmingham 2​-2 Chelsea
Everton 9​-1 Southport 
West Bromwich Albion 1​-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers

Exeter City are not out of the Cup yet by a long chalk. They held a good First Division side to a draw on their own ground in this afternoon’s tie and tonight are the talk of the football world. Sunderland will now have to play at St James’s Park, and there is the distinct possibility of Exeter figuring in the F.A. Cup Semi Final. It would be the first time that a side from the Third Division of the League has reached this stage of the Cup competition.

Exeter City‘s visit to Sunderland in the sixth round of the Cup aroused the most tremendous interest throughout the North-east of England. Sunderland were expected to win, but at Newcastle and other centres there was a great wave of enthusiasm and support for the gallant Grecians. A record “gate” of seventy thousand was freely spoken of as a probability at Roker Park today, and although Newcastle were playing at home excursion trains at the rate of six an hour were arranged from Newcastle to Sunderland. Amongst many other special Cup-tie arrangements there was no there was an excursion from Leeds.


The Exeter City party of directors and players, under the charge of Mr M.J. McGahey, the Chairman, travelled to the north-east on Thursday, and put up at the Central Station Hotel, Sunderland. Players were reported to be fighting fit and in very happy spirits.

On Friday night they had accepted an invitation visit to the Newcastle Empire Theatre to see the “Maid of the Mountains.” Mr McGahey told reporters that he and his party had been very kindly received by everybody. On Friday morning, after a good night’s rest, the party went by electric train to Tynemouth, and walked along the seafront of Whitley Bay, where they had lunch, returning from Monkseaton Station to their hotel. Photographers and journalists have showered attentions on the Grecians almost from the moment they left Exeter. Flashlight photographs were taken on their arrival at Newcastle, and on the Friday morning they were photographed and interviewed in the hotel, where the stuffed seagull was given due prominence, and at Whitley Bay.

While at the seaside the Grecians were cheered by several groups of workmen engaged on a building estate, who shouted their good wishes.

London newspapers have telephoned for last-minute news of the club at the hotel, and the Newcastle United club extended hearty congratulations to the Grecians on their big Cup achievements.

On Friday night two old City players turned up. They were “Tiger” Smith, the pre-war centre forward and Jimmy Lagan, centre half, who helped Exeter City to win sensationally the Cup match at Portsmouth in 1914, just before Aston Villa played at Exeter in that season. Lagan lives a few miles outside of Newcastle, and he imparted his best advice as to how the Grecians might beat Sunderland.


The players had a very good night’s rest, and this morning reported themselves fighting fit. They journeyed to Sunderland by special omnibus about a quarter to one, so as to have plenty of time to view the playing pitch and to get the atmosphere of the place. The weather was beautifully fine and crisp without being too cold.

Five hundred excursionists from Exeter and district had a longer journey than anticipated, the train been delayed considerably at York, and arriving at Newcastle at half past ten o’clock.

At Roker Park

Sheaves of Telegrams Arrive for the City.

The Grecians reached Roker Park at twenty minutes past one this afternoon, and found that there were already close on forty thousand people present. Telegrams by the score were received and read in the City’s dressing room. Included among them were congratulatory messages from a great variety of Exeter organisations, and from Exonians all over the country, from football clubs in all four divisions of the League, and from old City players. Arnold Allison sent one from the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, and there was another from the City Reserves, who were at Home Park, Plymouth. Also, there was one from Devonians aboard the H.M.S. Renown at Gibraltar.

Rattles and other noisy instruments sounded from all parts of the popular bank, which appeared to be full up at least an hour and a half before the time of the kick off.

Locally it was felt that in view of what they had already done in the cup, Exeter City would put up a great fight, but it was felt that the Wearsiders, playing on their own ground, and by virtue of their superior League status, and greater experience of big matches, would be strong enough to win the day. Among the wires received by Exeter City was one from Leeds, which read “Good luck to the Grecians.”

Exeter supporters warmed up to their work wonderfully. Seagull feathers in great variety, and relieved with the Grecians colours, were held aloft for all to see. The cheering from the vast crowd was deafening.

Sunderland made a last-minute change, Hall coming into the side in the place of Murray. Otherwise the eleven was at full strength. The City relied on the team which beat Bury and Leeds United.

Middleton; Hall and Shaw; Morris, McDougall, and Hastings; Eden, Devine, Gurney, Leonard, and Connor.

Exeter City.
Davies; Baugh and Miller; Clarke, Angus, and Barber; Armfield, Purcell, Varco, Houghton, and Doncaster.

Referee: – Mr A.E. Fogg, of Bolton.

As both Sunderland and Exeter wear the same colours, both teams had to change in accordance with F.A. Cup rules. Sunderland therefore turned out in white shirts with black knickers, and Exeter in royal blue shirts with red collars and shoulders, and white knickers. Sunderland took the field first and they were greeted with tremendous cheering. The demonstration was renewed in the next moment, when Miller led out the Grecians. McDougall won the toss, giving the Wearsiders the first advantage of a light breeze.

Sunderland immediately pressed on their right, and a centre from Eden forced Angus to concede a corner. This was well cleared by Davies, but Sunderland came again and Devine drove the ball over the bar.

Powerful kicking by McDougall and Hastings kept the ball at Exeter’s end, and Leonard from 25 yards drove over the bar precisely as Devine had done. Exeter kept the ball closer than their opponents, who pressed again and again, but so well did Angus and his backs cover up that Davies was not troubled. The Sunderland trainer came on to attend to Devine, who had fallen heavily. The City left wing showed enterprise, and Purcell placed the Grecians on the attack with a nice pass to Doncaster. Houghton received the ball and passed to Purcell, whose “pile-driver” was blocked by McDougall in the penalty area. Davies cleared a corner taken by Connor, then play was quickly transferred, Armfield getting the better of Hastings but failing against Shaw. Then Gurney and Connor with a series of rapid ground passes got through, and it looked odds on a goal, but Miller blocked Connor’s eventual shot. Gurney in the next Sunderland attack was given offside.

City in Arrears for the First Time.

McDougall sent in a dangerous rising shot from a free kick, 35 yards out from the Exeter goal, Davies leaping up and fisting the ball over the bar.

Sunderland continued the more aggressive side, and the Exeter halves had a lively time trying to hold Gurney and his colleagues. The City were getting into their stride, however and from Houghton’s well judged pass Armfield raced Shaw for possession and beat him, but was checked by Hall.

Middleton saved a long shot from Clarke, and at the Exeter end Davies saved twice from Connor, and once from Leonard. The passing of the home forwards was swift, crisp, and clean, and so far the best feature of the game.

Miller came across to check Connor with a strong tackle, but Sunderland were soon on the offensive once more, Connor being the danger man. A corner was won, and after Davies had been drawn out of goal Clark headed away a hefty drive from Gurney. The ball unfortunately went straight to Connor, who netted with an oblique shot into the empty goal, after 23 minutes’ play.

Conceding this goal, Exeter were in arrears for the first time in all the Cup matches of this season. Far from being discouraged, the City retaliated immediately from the kick off, Varco shooting wide.

Exeter’s Good Football.

Although Sunderland had derived the advantage of that important first goal, which means so much in any cup-tie, Exeter City‘s football was quite good. The wind have now increased in strength, and the ball being light, Sunderland were helped considerably. Davies made a great save from Devine, who received from Connor. At the other end Houghton, put through by Purcell, fired over the bar, then for a long time play remained mostly in midfield, with neither side being able to claim any substantial advantage. Five minutes from the interval Davies made another great save from Connor. Houghton gave the Sunderland backs a sample of his dribbling skills, but he tried to beat one man too many and in the end was crowded out. Half-time: Sunderland 1 Exeter City 0.

Second Half.

In the second half the Grecians had the wind in their favour. Would this help them to make up the leeway? The general comment was that Exeter had for the most part showed good football up to the interval, and it had taken the home side all their time to get in front. But for Davies’s bad luck in leaving his goal it would have been level pegging still. At the same time it could not be disregarded that Sunderland’s forward line was the stronger of the two. The City commenced the second half with a sweeping attack, Doncaster beating the defence and passing inside to Houghton, but Varco was slow on the ball, and McDougall cleared.

The Sunderland right wing was then prominent, and again Davies caused Exeter some anxiety by leaving his goal and missing the ball. This time, however, Baugh was on hand to clear with a long kick. In further Sunderland pressure first Devine and then Connor shot over the bar from good positions.

Houghton fed Doncaster with a splendid pass, but the centre went behind the other forwards. A hurricane drive from Barber, forty yards out, just missed the angle of the Sunderland goal.

Then Exeter attacked again, with determination this time, and with a home defence for once nonplussed by the quick transfer of the ball Armfield met a centre from Doncaster and tested Middleton with a rasping shot. Middleton saved this one, and stopped another from Varco a minute later.

Exeter Top Dogs Now.

It was a wonderful duel and the City were by no means out of the hunt. Their play had improved considerably since the change of ends, and for the first time in the match Exeter were the “top dogs.”

McDougall probably saved a goal when he headed away from Armfield, and Davies at the other end cleared an awkward shot from Gurney.

Three quarter time had come and gone, and still only the one goal separated the teams. Gurney profited from a mistake by Miller, his only one, and bore down on the Exeter goal, but with a magnificent save Davies thwarted the centre forward.

The Grecians made tremendous efforts now to save the game, and twelve minutes from the finish they were rewarded.

Armfield had won a corner, and placed the ball nicely into the goal-mouth from the flag kick. It was nodded from one City player to another. The Sunderland defence was hesitant, and Houghton gained possession almost on the goal-line, tapping the ball into the net for the equalising goal.

Sunderland were stunned, but Exeter quite deserved to be on level terms, for although having to defend for long periods they had not resorted to kick and rush, and had played good steady football all along. Sunderland were now a disillusioned side. They had learned that these “giant-killers” from the West of England possessed football skills in abundance, and combined thrust with cool and clever play.

Nevertheless, the great Wearside team did not rest on their oars, and went all out for another goal. It was a grim business now, and Exeter, with the tumult of the vast crowd ringing in their ears, were fighting to the bitter end for the chance of a replay. Miller and Baugh were the City’s heroes in these last few hectic minutes, providing such a strong barrier to the Sunderland forwards that Davies had no serious shot to save. The closing stages were simply packed with thrilling incidents, and when the long whistle blew the gallant Grecians were attacking strongly at the Sunderland end.


Sunderland were lucky in their goal, practically given to them by the absence at the time of Davies from the Exeter net. The equaliser by Houghton, on the other hand, was a measure of justice to a team which made a great impression on the football pundits of the North-east by its sound constructive football throughout the game. The First Division-ites were very strong in quick and accurate forward movements, especially in the first half, and that they did not score more than one goal in that period was in itself a glowing tribute to the City defence.

As at Bury, the City took a little time to get settled, and very little was seen of their attack in the first half an hour.

After that it was a different tale to tell. The closing stages saw the City at their very best. Once on level terms they never looked like losing.

The replay will take place at Exeter on Wednesday.

City Players Mobbed.

This drawn match, many miles from their corner of the West country, against one of the best teams in the land, was a very great achievement by Exeter City, Perhaps the greatest of all the Grecians’ wonderful Cup fights of the season. As the City players left the field they were mobbed by the delighted excursionists from Devon, and their backs must have been sore through the constant hand-thumping of admirers. The attendance was 51,642 with receipts of £3,582.

The Exeter City Military Band, under Mr G. Newman, will parade in force at the St Daviss Station tomorrow morning at 8:15 to welcome the Grecians home.

The Draw for the F.A. Cup Semi Final.

Monday, March 2nd, 1931.



To be played on Saturday, March 14th, kick off 3 p.m.

The visit of Sunderland to Exeter on Wednesday in the replay of the F.A. Cup sixth round tie has been hailed with great delight by the whole of the South West.

The epic story of The Grecians’ gallant fight at Roker Park last Saturday, when they forced a draw of one goal each, aroused tremendous enthusiasm in all parts of Devon, and this was further enhanced when it became known that if the Grecians won at St James’s Park on Wednesday they would play against the winners of Birmingham v Chelsea at Highbury, the ground of the Arsenal club, in the semi-final, on the Saturday of next week.

If Sunderland beat Exeter City on Wednesday the semi final will be played at the ground of the Leeds United club, Elland Road.

The Grecians Confident.

Exeter City, realising that they would never have a better chance of making an appearance in the penultimate round of the Cup, and the leaders of the club appreciating that they have never been so splendidly served in the first team personnel as now, there was every promise of a great attempt on the part of the City to repeat, at the expense of Sunderland, their wonderful F.A. Cup performances against Derby County, Bury, and Leeds United.

So confident were the Grecians of their ability to win that Charlie Miller, their captain, laughingly declared when the draw was made known, that Exeter City would beat Chelsea in the semi final.

Sunderland, for their part, believed that they would accomplish on Wednesday the feat they failed to perform on Saturday. They took the view that because their forwards had not taken their chances properly at Roker Park they had been held to a drawn game which they ought to have one, and by now they would have been well on their way to the semi-final.

Exeter is “Football Crazy.”

The progress of Exeter City in this season’s Cup competition is nothing short of miraculous for a team which is moderately placed in the Southern Section of the Third Division. The normally quiet and peaceful Devon capital has gone football crazy, and red and white streamers and favours are to be seen almost everywhere. All elementary schools in the city will close because of the Cup tie on Wednesday afternoon, and this is an event without a precedent.

Western League
Blinding snow and sleet showers and a treacherous ground made conditions far from favourable for this afternoon's Western League match at Home Park. The teams were:

Argyle: Stanbury; Thompson, Turner; Fellowes, McKenzie, Voden; Healy, Sloan, Channon, Prentice, and Leitch.
City: Jones; Gray, Bright; Inglis, Ditchburn, Hill; Gumm, McCosh, Parsons, Halliday, and Lister.

Ditchburn won the toss and Exeter defended the Devonport end. In two minutes, after an attack by the Argyle had been repulsed, Parsons secured the ball from Inglis and turned round to beat Stanbury all ends up with a fierce shot. But in the matter of another minute the City conceded a corner, and from Healy's kick the ball went to McKenzie, who scored with a fast ground shot through a forest of players' legs. For some time the play was of an even character, then Plymouth took the lead. A free kick was awarded them, and Sloan, who received the ball, screwed it well into the net out of Jones's reach. Plymouth were now playing with great confidence, and they scored a third goal from a penalty taken by Sloan after Leitch had been brought down in the area. Half time Argyle 3 City 1. Little was seen of Exeter's attack in the second half, and Leitch scored the fourth and fifth Argyle goals.

Argyle Reserves 5 City Reserves 1.



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