Match 38
4th March 1931
FA Cup 6th Round Replay
Exeter City v Sunderland

F. A. Cup – Sixth Round Replay.

Wednesday, March 4th 1931.

Match Report #1 
Written in 1931.

City fail to reach Semi-Final.

Sunderland Win at St James’s Park After Gruelling Contest

From about nine o’clock yesterday morning onwards, rain fell steadily in the city of Exeter, and almost without intermission, all day and all last night, and again all this morning.

Optimists believed, somehow, that the conditions would improve in time for the match, but the playing pitch was waterlogged, of course, and still likely to be, and the wet weather was a big disappointment for the intending thousands of spectators, there being only a very scanty bit of covered accommodation at St James’s Park outside the grandstand.

Excursionists from Sunderland put in an appearance in force this morning, at nine o’clock or just after, the party numbering about two hundred. For the most part they sported the red and white colours common to both teams, but a few wore rosettes of white, the Wearsiders colours for today.

Sprinting Referee.

Mr A.E. Fogg, of Bolton, the referee, was among those who paid a visit to the Exeter City ground this morning. He inspected the playing pitch and took the opportunity of doing a spell of sprinting to loosen his limbs in readiness for the match.

There was a regular procession of telegraph messenger boys between the General Post Office and St James’s Park, dozens of telegrams of good wishes and good luck being received from all parts of the country and beyond, one coming from Devonians aboard a warship at Monte Video.

Exeter City players and officials had lunch together at Dellers’ before the match. The Sunderland team and officials, whose comments on the weather in Devon were unkind, to say the least, were at the Royal Clarence Hotel.

Exeter relied on the eleven which drew at Roker, and which has carried them so far in the Cup this season, but the visitors were without Morris, their right half, who is down with the flu. Hastings was moved from the left to the right flank, and Andrews, a former first-team player, stepped into the vacancy on the left.

Exeter City’s Appreciation.

Many Exeter business houses closed down for the afternoon to allow employees of these firms to see the Cup match, and other firms made special arrangements so that as many workers as could be spared could attend at the Park. And the elementary schools of the city were closed for the afternoon. The Exeter City club, in their official programme for today, expressed their appreciation of the sportsmanship shown by the Sunderland club both on the field and in the Board Room at Roker, last Saturday, and also of the very hearty reception to which the City players had been the recipients on their return from the North East coast.

By two o’clock there were fully 14,000 people inside St James’s Park, and the turnstiles were clicking at a great rate.

“Dido’s Day!” was the general comment when the spectators saw the waterlogged playing pitch, and pictured the old seagull mascot taking his bath in the puddles. As in the case of the Leeds United match the juveniles were allowed inside the railings, but this time they stood because of the water. All the time the drizzle descended, and the misty air was more like a November effect than a day in March. Every seagull passing overhead was cheered lustily by the spectators. By 2.45 o’clock the popular banks looked full to overflowing, but still more people squeezed in. The field lines were marked out with sawdust, and there were liberal patches of sawdust and sand directly in front of the goals. But the playing pitch became wetter and wetter, and so did most of the spectators.

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

Sunderland:-​ Middleton; Hall; Shaw; Hastings; McDougall; Andrews; Eden; Devine Gurney; Leonard, and Connor

Referee:- Mr A.E. Fogg, of Bolton.
Linesmen:- Messrs R.J. Kidby, of Gloucester, and C.A. Webb, of Somerset.

As the teams came out the Exeter City Military Band, under the conductorship of Mr George Newman, played “There’s a Good Time Coming,” just as they did at the Leeds United game. Sunderland, led by McDougall, were first out, then a mighty cheer and the ringing of countless handbells signalled the appearance on the field of Charlie Miller and the Exeter team. A record number of Press photographers picked their way through the water and mud to the centre of the field to “snap” the referee and the captains. McDougall won the toss, but it carried no advantage on such a day.

Fine Clearance by Angus.

The game opened at a great pace, and when Devine sent Eden away on the right wing with a lovely pass Angus cleared finally. Davies saved a shot from Gurney which was lacking in power, and at the other end the Sunderland backs were kept on the alert by the nippy work of Varco and Houghton.

Varco tested Middleton with a shot from long range, and then the visitors got through cleverly on their left wing, and from Connor’s pass Gurney tried to beat Angus with the ball. Exeter’s young centre half was equal to the move, and turned the ball aside for a corner. The flag kick was easily cleared, but Sunderland pressed again and forced another, the centre from Eden falling on top of the net. Keen midfield play followed, with Sunderland showing clever combination and Exeter any amount of energy. The Sunderland half backs were a big power in the game, and Exeter were kept busy defending. A beautiful bit of work by Purcell threatened the Sunderland goal, and a hectic passage in front of the posts followed, the ball eventually going behind for a goal kick.

After fifteen minutes Sunderland took the lead with a simple goal, a pass by Gurney to Conner finding the left winger unmarked. Connor tried an immediate cross-shot and it proved a very good one, finding the far corner of the net with Davies completely beaten.

Houghton and Doncaster showed up well after this, but Sunderland stood firm and again the splendid passing movements of the visitors compelled the City to remain on the defensive. Baugh’s heading and tackling were excellent, but the City half backs apart from Angus were not playing well.

Clever work by Hastings and Eden pulled the Exeter defence to pieces, and a fine pass was sent through to Gurney, who took full advantage, steadying the ball and shooting low just inside the far post. So in 22 minutes Sunderland led by two clear goals.

Exeter reduced their deficit after 37 minutes, Varco shooting into the net following a hectic scramble in front of the Sunderland posts, and right on the interval Purcell was tripped by Leonard when making his way through in excellent style. Baugh’s free kick directed at the goal was headed away by McDougall. Half-time score: Exeter city 1 Sunderland 2.

Second Half.

In 15 minutes Sunderland increased their lead, Connor shooting through with a quick and accurate cross shot. Exeter took up the cudgels again with their indomitable spirit, and Middleton saved a grand header by Houghton on the goal line.

Doncaster next raced up the wing and passed inwards to Varco, who was too slow to get to the ball, and McDougall booted it clear.

Middleton saved a long shot from Angus which was right on the target, and now with twenty minutes of the second half gone by Exeter needed to pull off a spectacular finish if they were to retain their interest in the Cup.

Sunderland were the more impressive side, however, their lead of two goals giving them every confidence, and on the run of play Exeter have no cause for complaint.

Twenty five minutes after the interval Exeter scored again, and the crowd rose to a tremendous demonstration. Clarke centred well from a free kick and Purcell headed the ball beautifully into the net at the far end of the field. There was now only one goal between the teams, and the game became faster and more exciting than ever. The players almost without exception were covered in mud from head to foot and soaked to the skin, for the rain had never ceased for an instant.

The Grecians all but scored an equalising goal as the result of one splendid attack, in which the ball ran unattended on the very goal line, but refused to go in. It was eventually kicked to safety by Hall. It was such a close shave that many of the spectators thought Exeter had scored.

Exeter stormed the Sunderland goal again and again, and a brilliant drive by Angus was tipped over the bar by Middleton. Then twelve minutes from the end Sunderland scored again, and the game was then as good as over. Gurney fed Eden a nice pass, Eden rounded Miller and returned the ball to the centre, where Gurney took it on coolly and lobbed it into the net over the head of Davies.

Even now the City refused to admit defeat, fighting doggedly to the end, and in the last minute Middleton made a sensational save from Barber.


Exeter City went out with their colours nailed to the mast. They fought a very gallant fight against one of the best teams in the country. Sunderland’s two early goals did the damage. The heavy ground suited their powerfully built players nicely, and with Connor the danger man on the left wing they forged ahead before Exeter had settled down to business.

Sunderland superiority was most marked at half-back, the visiting trio, and especially McDougall, being very strong both in defence and attack.

Exeter were splendidly served by Baugh and Miller, while everyone of the team was a trier. Purcell today was Exeter’s best forward, while “Happy” Houghton and Doncaster did many clever things on the left wing.

The vision of a semi final at Highbury has faded away, but the Grecians have written a glorious chapter in Exeter football history. The Exeter City “gate” today put up a double record, the attendance, 21,015, and the receipts, £2561, being in excess of any previous figures.

Sunderland’s Hardest Tie.

Exeter City’s Cup feats this season have staggered the football world. They kept up their magnificent fighting spirit till the very last kick of this afternoon’s match, and McDougal, the Sunderland captain, declared in an interview afterwards that Exeter were wonderful Cup fighters, and that the tie both at Roker Park and at St James’s Park was the hardest Sunderland had fought on their way to the semi-final.

Match Report #2

Written in 2019.

On March 4th 1931, City welcomed Sunderland to St James Park for an FA Cup quarter-final replay, knowing that victory would earn the club a place in the semi-final at Elland Road.

This is the only time that our club have ever been pulled out of the draw for this stage of the competition, and in the lead up to the match the whole City was determined to make the most of it.

News reports tell of school inspectors searching the streets for children bunking off school, but despite their best efforts to round up the skivers, 20,984 Grecians of all ages packed the park to create an attendance record that still stands to this day.

Confidence was high, not only due to the 1-1 draw at Roker Park just days before, but also because wins against Derby County and Leeds United In the previous rounds had seen City crowned the ‘Giant Slayers’ in the national press.

Days of heavy rain in the build up had made for tough conditions, and in the early stages of the match there were errors on both sides as the players came to terms with the ‘treacherous nature of the ground’

The visitors were the first team to get a proper hold of the ball, and they were rewarded in the 15th minute when Leonard fed the ball to Connor, who let loose a terrific shot from 20 yards that Davies never even saw.

In the 26th minute Sunderland doubled their lead, as Gurney picked up the nod down from Devine to steer the ball home. However, City were not going down without a fight, and pulled one back before half time when Varco took advantage of an error by the Sunderland keeper to slip the ball into the empty net.

The intensity of the game continued in the second half, and even as Connor made it 3-1 to the visitors, the crowd continued to make an incredible noise with shouts, cheers and the ringing of bells, while the song ‘there’s a good time coming’ could be heard on all sides of the Park.

Encouraged by the crowd, City continued to give their opponents a real contest, and the greatest roar of the afternoon came when Purcell rose highest in the box to head home a pin-point free-kick to reduce the deficit. Chances to level the tie came and went, but with minutes to go, Gurney bagged his second of the afternoon to settle the tie.

The semi-finals were not to be, but City had acquitted themselves well against a team of stars, whose captain, the Scottish international Jock McDougall, echoed the thoughts of everyone as he acknowledged how good his side hade to be to overcome Exeter’s team of ‘wonderful cup fighters’.

Final Score: ECFC 2 Sunderland 4

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

Sunderland: Middleton; Hall, Shaw; Hastings, McDougall, Andrews; Eden, Devine, Gurney, Leonard, Connor.

Attendance: 20,984

Written by: Will Barrett


Phil Ellis (report 1)& Will Barrett (report 2)


Paul Farley



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