Tottenham Hotspur An FA Cup Marathon
1938/39 Fourth Round Tie
For most football supporters the magic of the FA Cup is regarded as the greatest cup competition in world football. Over the years West Ham United have had their fair share of disappointment in those David versus Goliath moments, but we won’t dwell on any of those.
Instead, let me turn the clock back to the 1938/39 season and a thrilling fourth-round tie between West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur. The tie took five-and-a-half hours to complete, throw into the mix a demonstration at the Boleyn Ground, a weather postponement and Spurs going against FA convention by numbering their players shirts as the two sides finally settled the contest at neutral Highbury Stadium for a place in the Fifth Round.
The previous round saw Spurs thump Watford 7-1 at White Hart Lane, with the Hammers dispatching Third Division (South) side Queens Park Rangers 2-1 at Loftus Road.
The tie with our Second Division and north London neighbours was scheduled for the Boleyn Ground on 21 January 1939. The omens were not looking good for the home side, having already succumbed to a 2-1 defeat in their away league fixture back in October.
In the days before the contest, Spurs were leading a campaign for the numbering of players’ shirts in all matches and stated they would number their players, even if their opponents did not. At the time it was customary for only FA Cup semi-finals, final and international match shirts to have numbers. Although no numbers were worn, the line-up page in match programmes would usually indicate the home side as being numbered 1 to 11, with the away team 12 to 22.
Boleyn Ground : 21 January 1939
West Ham United 3:
Goals: Foxall 2, Macaulay [pen]
Medhurst, Bicknell, Walker C., Fenton E., Walker R., Corbett, Foxall, Macaulay, Small, Goulden, Morton
Tottenham Hotspur 3:
Goals: Duncan, Morrison, Sargent
Hooper, Ward, Whatley, Spelman, Hitchins, Buckingham, Sargent, Hall W., Morrison, Duncan, Miller
The Boleyn Ground match had all the elements of an ideal Cup-tie, two London rivals, the players overcoming the pitch conditions so liberally covered in sand with their skill, speed and stamina as six goals were shared between them. Judging purely from the point of view of goal scoring opportunities West Ham should have won this remarkable match at the first time of asking.
The chances the home side created in the first half were sufficient, had they taken them to lead at the interval. However, with the exception of one from the penalty spot courtesy of Archie Macaulay the Hammers’ found themselves behind by the odd goal in three.
The half-time interlude didn’t pass without incident either, members of the National Unemployment Workers’ Movement had invaded the pitch carrying placards calling for support of their movement. After five minutes of protest, with some giving police officers a chase the intruders were all firmly escorted off the Upton Park playing surface.
Fifteen minutes into the second period the game looked beyond the reach of the Hammers when Spurs increased their lead to 3-1, and with the majority of the 42,716 in attendance were resigned to their side’s Cup fate being over for another year.
An over excited fan demonstrates how to clear the ball
Policemen escort an unemployed demonstrator
from the Boleyn Ground pitch
That was until West Ham manager Charlie Paynter switched the positions of outside-right Stan Foxall and centre-forward Sam Small.
This positional manoeuvre paid instant dividends with both players contributing to an exciting climax to the match. It was now Spurs’ turn to be on the back foot and fighting to save the game after Foxall scored two brilliant goals to bring the curtain down on an pulsating match which ended 3-3 and at one point for the claret and blue side an unlikely replay in north London.
The element of surprise was present throughout the tense struggle, which perhaps was what made it so interesting. After a shaky start, Hammers had settled sown well and had enjoyed a long spell of attack when suddenly Spurs broke away, Duncan crowded out, managed to slip the ball to Morrison, playing in place of Hall. The centre-forward shot instantly and the ball flashed home.
Willie Hall, international inside-right, had done a great deal of the spade-work for this goal, and it was his initiative that led to a second, ten minutes later, which again was against the run of play. Hall chased a loose ball to the touch-line, and cleverly flicked it back to Morrison. The centre-forward pushed it past a defender on to Sargent, who fired in an express shot from an acute angle.
Almost immediately, West Ham had a great chance to pull back the deficit, Small had two successive shots charged down and the second cannoned off to Goulden. With most of the goal to aim at, Len stumbled and the ball flashed just wide.
Hammers' deserved goal was not long delayed, but it was a lucky one. Morton, almost on the goal-line, cut in to just inside the penalty area. Covered by Ward, he tried to centre, but failed to lift the ball, it went out of play off Ward's hand. The referee consulted the linesman, and gave a penalty, Macaulay crashing the ball home.
Right on the stroke of half-time, Hammers had an ideal chance of putting the score right by the play. Foxall did his best thing of the afternoon from the wing position, drawing the defence to his side of the goal, before lobbing over a centre to Morton. With Hooper out of position, and unchallenged, the left-winger headed into the side netting.
Then came an epic second half. From the home supporters' point of view, the switching of Small and Foxall when with less than half-an-hour to go, Spurs had established 3-1 lead, was the feature of a match which will long be remembered. Within a couple of minutes Foxall outstripped for speed Hitchins, who had been to tenacious for Small. With his left foot - perhaps surprising for a man who usually plays on the right wing - he crashed an unstoppable shot.
Then with ten minutes left for play, Foxall repeated the trick with an even finer goal. He tore down the middle, and appeared to have a chance to shoot with his right foot, but he could not see enough of the goal to make sure, so he calmly dribbled to the left past Whatley and Hitchins, drew Hooper over, and then - again with the left foot - crashed home an almost identical shot.
Fourth Round Replay : 25 January 1939 (Postponed)
The replay was to have taken place at White Hart Lane the following Wednesday but had to be postponed after the capital was coated in a heavy fall of snow.
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Caricature cover from the replay programme at White Hart Lane
Fourth Round (Replay) aet : 30 January 1939
Tottenham Hotspur 1:
Hooper, Ward, Whatley, Spelman, Hitchins, Buckingham, Sargent, Meek, Morrison, Hall W., Lyman
West Ham United 1:
Medhurst, Bicknell, Walker C., Fenton E., Walker R., Cockroft, Foxall, Macaulay, Small, Goulden, Morton
Nine days after their first meeting the match finally took place on Monday 30 January and with 50,798 packed inside and anticipating another thriller of a match, although both teams placed vigour and pace before skill. West Ham spurned an early opportunity to go ahead after Macaulay missed a penalty on 12 minutes.
The Hammers fell behind on the half-hour when Fred Sargent scored from close range. The lead only lasted three minutes when a Charlie Walker free-kick was moved on to Len Goulden whose delicate flick gave Stan Foxall a clear opening which he gratefully accepted. Extra-time failed to declare a winner.
After two hours of really hard work Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham failed to settle their FA Cup difference. Both teams placed vigour and pace before skill. Hard, first-time tackling, safety methods and solo efforts were the order of the day.
They provided many thrills, but they robbed the game of much of its sparkle.
There was very little to choose between them, but West Ham were a shade superior because they had in Foxall and Morton two forwards who could beat their opponents and supply movements of real class.
With Macaulay plainly upset by missing a penalty kick in the 12th minute after Spelman handled in the area, Spurs took the initiative and at the end of 30 minutes had taken the lead through Sargent. three minutes later, West Ham were on terms, Foxall, weaving his way into the middle, tapped the ball to Goulden and the winger, took the through pass and crashed the ball home on the run.
The Spurs' attack was mainly a one man affair, Morrison. Though he rarely received a pass worthy of the name Morrison harried the West Ham defence into making mistakes. Unfortunately he received little support, for the inside forwards were always too far back and Sargent and Lyman, the wingers were in tantalising mood. A moment of brilliance was followed by periods when they looked crude and leaden-footed.
Play during extra time produced little excitement. The last outstanding incident occurred when Ted Fenton received a nasty crock on the jaw when he headed narrowly wide of the goal. His face was patched up at the end which a later X-ray revealed a fractured jaw.
Foxall and Morton were the Hammers' chief marksmen, and Goulden, although doing little shooting, put in plenty of work in midfield. Bicknell's mistakes were very rare, and although Dick Walker's lapse was fatal for the Spurs' goal, he saved many other similar dangerous situations.
After playing out a 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane the Spurs' preferred the following Monday for the second replay at Arsenal’s Highbury Stadium, but West Ham wanted the tie to be settled three days after this one. The Football Association decided in the Hammers favour.
Like the previous games, the Highbury encounter gave rise to the ‘pirate’ programme sellers, these publications offered no factual or reading content to the buyer.
Fourth Round (Second Replay) aet : 2 February 1939
Tottenham Hotspur 1:
Hooper, Ward, Whatley, Spelman, Hitchins, Buckingham, Sargent, Hall W., Morrison, Hall A., Lyman
West Ham United 2:
Goals: Foxall, Macaulay
Medhurst, Bicknell, Walker C., Corbett, Walker R., Cockroft, Foxall, Macaulay, Small, Goulden, Morton
Tottenham led through Johnny Morrison and for nearly 80 minutes looked the most likely winners. However, Foxall came to the Hammers rescue once more with an equaliser and from then on was a different story. In extra time Spurs’ lack of stamina cost them, with 12 minutes to play. Sam Small surprised the Spurs defence when he retrieved a ball that looked as if it was going out of play, and his centre left Macaulay with an open goal to give West Ham a 2-1 victory. Gate receipts for the three games totalled £11,269.
Although the Hammers lost 2-0 to Portsmouth at Fratton Park in the next round, just shy of 200,000 fans had paid to see their cup run!
Spurs' Fred Sargent surrounded by West Ham's Charlie Walker, Charlie Bicknell, Norman Corbett and goalkeeper Harry Medhurst
Lack of stamina beat Tottenham Hotspur in the second replay at Highbury. For nearly 80 minutes they looked like winners, leading by a goal and holding West Ham in a tight grip. Once Foxall equalised, however, it was a different story.
For the rest of the time it was all West Ham. It was a question of how long it would be before they got the winning goal. In extra time the Spurs could hardly raise a gallop and when United scored with only ten minutes left to play the game was over.
So, after 5 and-a-half-hours of strenuous endeavour with hardly a pin to choose between the sides, West Ham qualified to visit Portsmouth in the fifth round.
In one respect they earned it, for in each of the three games they fought an uphill battle. In each case Spurs took the lead but could not hold it.
It was a hard game in every way, with first-time tackling, charging and quick interventions preventing any sustained combined movements. It was exciting all through, played with splendid spirit and good value for money. Once again Foxall came to the rescue of West Ham. Morrison had given Spurs the lead in the thirteenth minute, cleverly converting a pass from Willie Hall. From that point until near the end, Spurs were in charge. But with only 12 minutes left to play Macaulay gave Foxall a lovely through pass. The centre-forward, shooting on the run, sent the ball whizzing into the net past an astonished Hooper.
That was the beginning of the end. The Spurs, saved by Whatley, who headed a shot from Macaulay off the goal-line, made extra time necessary. In the first portion Hitchins saved on the line from Macaulay, but after five minutes of the second period Small, a passenger on the right, gave Macaulay the opening for the winning shot. A few minutes later Foxall struck the crossbar with another great effort.
Although the Hammers lost 2-0 to Portsmouth at Fratton Park in the fifth round, just shy of 200,000 fans had paid to see their cup run!