Classic Match | Derby County 1931

For this week’s classic match we take an excerpt from Exeter City A Complete Record 1904-1990. Produced by Maurice Golesworthy, Garth Dykes and Alex Wilson, this book is considered a detailed source of reference to those interested in the history of our football club, and is available to loan from the ECFC Museum on request – museum@ecfc.co.uk.

This was the day of days, when Derby County, one of the best teams in England, were beaten on their first visit to St James Park.

In mild but overcast weather and on a sift pitch, the third-round of the FA Cup tie between City and First Division Derby promised to be a fast and lively game.

When the gates opened at 12.30pm there was already a big crowd waiting outside and just before 2.30pm, a rousing cheer greeted England full-back Tom Cooper as he led out the Rams.

Seconds later, a massive roar of welcome heralded the appearance of Les Dennington and the Grecians. ‘Dido’, the famous seagull mascot of Exeter City, flew around the ground and the band thumped out the City signature tune, there’s a good time coming.

It was a really magnificent performance by Exeter, who, despite being without the services of Nobby Clarke throughout the second-half, and Dick Baugh for part of it, fought their way to victory with gritty determination and a lot of well-planned, clever football.

The Genius of Derby and England winger, Sammy Crooks, was there for all to see. His weaving runs along the touch-line in the second-half, ending with immaculately placed centres to the head of Jack Bowers, provided Derby with their two goals, but it was not enough.

Exeter were well served in all departments, particularly at half-back where Barber was as good as any man on the field. And the tough tackling and dogged determination of Dennington was more than a match for Bowers.

Clarke, who was involved in a violent collision with Malloch early in the second-half, was carried off on a stretcher and did not return. Then Baugh and Malloch came to blows, resulting in the Exeter man having to go off for attention to a facial injury.

Percy Varco opened the scoring for Exeter inside 12 minutes. Bowers equalized one minute after the interval and, midway through the second-half, Billy Armfield made the score 2-1 before Harold Houghton grabbed Exeter’s third. Derby snatched another copybook goal towards the close and, in mounting excitement, Barber hooked the ball from beneath the Exeter crossbar with the very last kick of the game.


Final Score: ECFC 3 Derby 2

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

Derby County: Kirby; Cooper, Collin, Nicholas, Jessop, Malloch, Crooks, Stephenson, Bowers, Ramage, Mee.

Attendance: 16,500

Man of the Match: Stan Barber


Written by: Will Barrett



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