Classic Match | Scarborough 1990

Almost 29 years ago to the day (Saturday 28th April 1990), Exeter City secured the Barclays League Division Four title with a 3-2 victory against Scarborough at St James Park.

Having beaten Southend United in the week to become the first team in the whole of the football league to achieve automatic promotion, City now welcomed mid table strugglers Scarborough to St James Park, in a bid to complete the job and win the title.

It was the 61st fixture of a gargantuan campaign which saw City reach the third round of the FA Cup (taking each round to a replay), getting to the fourth round of the League Cup, and being knocked out in the regional quarter-final of the Leyland DAF Cup.

Of course, managing to get promoted for only the third time in the clubs then 86 year history had been the main objective, but a first championship win for the club seemed a perfectly reasonable reward for Terry Coopers sides unflinching commitment to entertain and excite.

After going to the summit on Boxing Day 1989 with a win in Aldershot, the Grecians – under Terry Cooper’s stewardship – rarely faltered and spent a majority of the rest of the season at the top of the pile.

The qualities of this team was once again evident at the park as for an hour City dominated much of the possession, taking the lead twice through Tom Kelly’s penalty and close range effort from Richard Young. To their credit, Scarborough showed a lot of character and resilience, and twice threatened to spoil the party by equalising through Paul Dobson.

In many, if not most seasons, being pegged back twice would possibly signify missing your chance to win, but as has been the case for much of the year, when City played at home the fans, the team, and the manager all felt there was another goal coming.

Then on the hour the opportunity arrived. The referee, Gerald Ashby, blew up for a handball by Mick Clarke in the box, and Tom Kelly stood up to take his second spot kick of the game.

Given the nature of the game, Kelly may have been unaware that he was about to make history, but with calm concentration the left back stepped up, sent the keeper the wrong way, whilst at the same time sending the City fans all around the stadium into delirium.

The Grecians were the Champions, and moreover had continued their incredible run of being undefeated on home soil for the whole of the season... a record they would complete the following week when they beat Burnley at the Park to begin the official celebration of lifting the league title for the first, and so far only, time in our history.


Final Score: ECFC 3 Scarborough 2

Exeter City: Miller, Hiley, Whitehead, Rogers, Taylor, Dryden, Kelly, Bailey, McDermott, Neville, Young

Scarborough: Richardson, Short, Kamara, Matthews, Hirst, Mayer, Oghani, Wilson, Saunders, Dobson, MacDonald

Attendance: 6,850

Man of the Match: Tom Kelly


Written by: Will Barrett




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