Grecians triumph at third time of asking
Exeter City 1 Plymouth Argyle 0
League Cup First Round (second replay)
28th August 1968
Gone are the days when cup ties would be replayed until one side came out on top. More time-efficient contingencies have been emplaced – in the case of the League Cup, penalties have saved fans the rigours of potentially endless meetings.
That wasn’t the case when Exeter drew Plymouth in 1968, however, and all in attendance in the third meeting were just keen for someone to settle the tie once and for all.
The initial draw had seen Third Division side Plymouth hosting Exeter, who were then languishing at the wrong end of the Fourth Division. Despite the divisional divide, it was the Grecians that had all the running at Home Park, but the game remained goalless after 90 minutes.
So the game was replayed at St James’ Park a week later, and despite having home advantage for the second meeting, City were still unable to break down Argyle’s defence even with the addition of extra time. 120 minutes passed without either goalkeeper being beaten, meaning the tie was taken to a third chapter.
With both teams having failed to convert home advantage, five days later the second replay was instead held at a neutral venue. Plainmoor, the home of Torquay United, was chosen as the arena for the third meeting.
With four former Argyle players in the side in John Newman, Peter Shearing, Alan Banks and John Mitten, City were keen to cause a cup upset at the third time of asking to earn a place in the second round.
The 10,000-strong crowd in Torquay might have been forgiven for doubting that they would be spared a fourth edition, when forwards from both sides proceeded to bungle their chances. In the first half, John Kirkham in particular was guilty of making a hash of two gilt-edged opportunities.
Plymouth began getting a foothold in the game in the second period, though one of their closest efforts came through Steve Davey, whose cross bounced off the crossbar. Norman Piper couldn’t get the better of City’s stopper Peter Shearing who did well to get behind a bending effort, and Bobby Saxton also headed wide.
A harmonised rendition of “all we’re saying is give us a goal” by both sets of supporters summed up the feeling around Plainmoor, as a third goalless draw looked to be in the offing. However, the decision to allow tactical substitutions in the previous season proved fundamental to the settling of this tie, as the introduction of Dermot Curtis at the beginning of extra-time proved the difference for City.
The Irishman’s input was to bring some much-needed urgency to Exeter’s attack, and it was his supply to Kirkham which allowed him to net in the 118th minute, finally ending a barren patch of five and a half hours and settling the match by the odd goal.
Triumphing in the cup tie saw the Grecians earn a place in the second round, and with it, the chance to host First Division side Sheffield Wednesday. If beating their Devon rivals was an upset, it barely scratched the surface compared to running out 3-1 winners against the Owls.
Exeter drew another top tier team in the third round in the shape of Tottenham Hotspur, but it proved a bridge too far for the Grecians. Spurs won 6-3 in the capital, finally bringing the curtain down on a giant-killing cup run.