Classic Match | Sunderland 1931

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.

Man of the match:

Attendance: 20,984


Written by: Will Barrett

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