St Neots & District v Posh 4th Qualifying Rd 12 Nov 1938

Venue: London Road, Peterborough

Attendance: 5,422

Score: Peterborough Utd 1 v St Neots & District 0

Referee: W.E. Wood

A header in true Macartney style, 17 minutes after the start, provided the only goal at London Road, when the Posh beat St Neots and District in the final qualifying round of the FA Cup.

And so the Posh go into the ‘hat’ again – this time with more distinguished company – with the ‘Saints’ took their leave of the competition after a fine run of four victories and with a final ‘picking’ of £103 10s 3d as their share of this games gate.

The result was very much as anticipated, but the nature of its achievement – it was far from convincing – will cause serious thinking before the next round. Having survived a first half with a deficit of only one goal when it might easily have been half a dozen. St Neots shed their inferiority complex, matched their superior weight and robust methods against the Posh’s skill, and played with a will-to-win spirit that might have succeeded at any time in the second half in earning at least a reply.

The ‘Saints’ were glorious in defeat, Sam Haden, Dickens and Bowater thought so, at any rate, for when the final whistle sounded they rushed to shake Kimble’s hand. It was a sporting tribute not only to the St Neots captain’s brilliant exhibition of goalkeeping, but also to the visitors amazing pluck in playing their professional opponents to a goal on their own ground.

The3 anticipated goal scoring orgy did not materialise for two reasons in the first place the goal at the St Neots end was neither wide enough nor high enough for the erratic Posh marksmen when they had practically the whole of the first half to indulge in shooting practice. In the second place the St Neots defence, particularly after the interval, was stubbornly indifferent to the advances of the Posh forwards.

There seemed to be no excuse for the Posh’s failure to pile up a useful margin by the interval. The ball ran so well for them that St Neots took a quarter of an hour to get in their first shot. In the first half Dickens was troubled on only three occasions, and the visitors attacks stemmed before they became too dangerous, numbered no more than seven.

Posh’s success was the outcome of a handling incident when Fielding tried to centre from the touchline. Fielding placing the free kick beautifully for Macartney to leap forward and head in with great speed.

St Neots took a long time too recover from that set back, and in the meantime Posh were playing well on top. But their range finding was pitiful to watch. Sharp fired over the bar at least five times (he once struck the crossbar) while Fielding, Haden, Macartney and Warnes were also away from the target. They were, at least, nine instances when goals might have been scored with carefully directed shots, and allowing for a normal average of failures Posh should have been at least four goals up at half time.

There was not the slightest doubt about the Posh’s superior play, but St Neots almost proved in the second half that it is not always the orthodox, copybook type of stuff that wins matches. If anything the Posh were inclined to overdo the ‘fancy work’.

Haden was probably the most consistent Posh forward. Veteran though he is, he showed amazing stamina and there was never any doubt about the accuracy of his passes. Sharp provided openings for others and just as regularly wasted those made for him, and although Bowater was a spearhead in the first half, in the second half he was fairly subdued.

As a matter of fact, so keen was the St Neots defence after the interval that it had a strangle-hold on the Posh wings, Fielding in particular found himself out of the scheme of things, for if he managed to get past J. King, he was nearly always beaten by Gentle, who stood out as one of the best backs on the field.

It was little wonder that Macartney spent most of the second half looking for chances that never came, for he had both wing men well marked, while Haden and Sharp stood too far back all the time.

The W formation is all very well if the backwards points are fast men who can follow up their own passes and be in line when the ball comes in from the wing, but Sharp and Haden definitely are not, and that is where the scheme invariably falls through.

For St Neots incisive thrusts were repeatedly made on the left by J. King (a fine attacking half back), Hookham and Lawson, who was recently recommended to the FA for the amateur international trial. With this trio combining effectively in the second half, it was a pity Dearman failed to maintain the promise which he showed at the start, when he revealed real ability as leader of the attack.

Posh took no chances, having gained the lead, and Harold Smith, who was re-appearing as centre half after his recent injury, dropped behind as an additional back. Jack Smith who was also back in the Posh side following a recent injury, was not his usual confident self, and in the last minute it looked as though he had given away a penalty when he brought Hookham down inside the area during a last desperate St Neots attack – but the referee, perhaps luckily for Posh, thought otherwise.

McDonagh and Rowbotham played extremely well for the Posh, and had no small part in keeping Hookham and Lawson away from Dickens during the St Neots revival. Warnes started well enough with outstanding headwork – he could head a ball farther and with more accuracy than any other man on the field – but he gave the impression of uncertainty in his ground work, and his tackling and passing were not good.

And finally a word of praise for St Neots. Although out-played by a better team in the first half, they came up for the second session as though they had the game ‘in their pockets’. If their attack had been as good as their defence they might have won. The defence must get a special word of commendation, and particularly big, burly G. George the centre half.  His bulk did not prevent him from moving with speed. He played a steady game, tackling cleanly and fearlessly, and sending out lovely passes from time to time to the front rank. Gentle and King were outstanding and Kimble played the game of his life in goal – a real captain’s part.

Because they failed so lamentably to take their chances, it does not follow that the Posh did not deserve their success. They clearly deserved to go into the next round, but not before St Neots taught them a lesson. The Posh will have to find their shooting boots if they are to progress any further towards Wembley.

Teams:

The Posh: Edward Dickens, Charles McDonagh, Jack Smith, Sam Rowbotham, Harold Smith, Sam Haden, Horace Fielding, Arthur Sharp, Charlie MacCartney, George Bowater and Fred Warnes.

St Neots & District: T. Kimble, R. Branson, W. Gentle, G.A. Bunnage, G. George, J. King, Bellamy, E. King, G. Dearman, T. Lawson and L. Hookham.

Goal scorer: The Posh – Charlie MacCartney 17 mins.