Bristol Rovers v Posh 1st Rd Proper 26 Nov 1938

Venue: Eastville Stadium, Bristol

Attendance: 7,342

Score: Bristol Rovers 4 v Peterborough Utd 1

Referee: C. Kearse

Although the Posh lost this FA Cup tie, they gave Bristol Rovers, the Third Division (Southern Section) side, a run for their money.

The score flattered the Bristol side for Posh were never at any stage the inferior footballers. They had never played finer football and some indication of the drive behind their attacks is provided by fact that they put the ball into the net four times, only to have goals disallowed for minor infringements.

Player-Manager Sam Haden was “right proud” of his “boys”. Interviewed by the Peterborough Standard he said “I shall be pleased to give anyone my views this week.”

“Our boys went for the whole 90 minutes” he said, “and we left a very good impression behind at Bristol. I know Mr Fletcher, the Bristol Rovers Manager, very well – he used to be at Barnsley – and he told me afterwards that we had given them a fright.”

“Don’t call them plucky Peterborough”, Haden added “because they weren’t plucky in the sense that they put up a good show against a stronger side; they were every bit as good as Bristol in the football sense. I think we played the better football, and on the day we certainly deserved a draw. Until they got their fourth goal I thought we stood a chance of bringing them down to Peterborough for a replay.”

Haden recalled two instances where the Posh might have altered the complexion of the game. The first was when three successive shots failed to find the net while Nicholls, the Bristol Rovers keeper was lying on the ground: the second was two or three minutes after half time when Haden himself just failed to score as Nicholls narrowed the margin for the shot. “I might have changed the whole game had I put it in the net” he said.

Haden was generous in his praise for the Posh players, particularly Warnes and Dickens, and said that White, the new wing from Grantham, put up a very good performance.

He said nothing about his own share in the Posh’s magnificent display, but on his display he would put up a good show in more distinguished company.

Heavy rain throughout the week had waterlogged the Eastville ground, and owing to the river rising behind the stand it was impossible to drain the pitch in the normal way. Groundsmen worked throughout Friday night with pumps to make the ground playable, but it was still sodden when the teams took to the field.

As usual, the Posh lost the toss and were set to face a strong sun. They showed up prominently in two early attacks but Warnes was stunned in heading away a free kick from McArthur.

The ground churned up badly after five minutes, and after a corner Kavanagh missed a chance for Rovers. Dickens had plenty to do when Tolland and Butterworth became active, but two good movements showed that Peterborough were in a determined mood. From the second of these White crashed a pass from Haden wide of the mark.

The Posh were persistent and some of their forward passing was clever. The longer the game went on without Rovers getting the lead the more confident the Posh became, and there was always danger in their forward movements. Moreover, on the heavy ground they were finding their men well. Nicholls made one great save from White, who put in a high curling shot. He had to jump at full stretch to keep the ball out at the expense of a corner, and the crowd were generous in their applause of this effort.

Warnes got across in splendid style to stop Butterworth when the Rovers again swarmed to the attack. Nicholls had to be alert to save from Sharp, but after 20 minutes the Rovers  went ahead when Curran rammed the ball into the back of the net. The the Posh found the net, but were adjudged offside, and soon after Dickens prevented Kavanagh from increasing the lead.

Dickens was playing a conspicuous part in the Posh’s defence at this stage, but after half an hour Fielding scored a goal to level matters. The ball came across from the left, and with the defence spread eagled, Fielding made no mistake with a cross drive which gave Nicholls no chance.

After this equalising goal Rovers faded out, and on many occasions their defence was anything but solid. The Posh could not force home their advantage and five minutes from the interval Bristol were in the lead again. Curran put a useful ball across to the left, and Spivey took it in his stride and delivered a great shot. The ball shot off Warnes head (he could not see it in the sun) and then, as it appeared to be going wide it struck McDonagh’s shoulder and ricocheted into the net.

Macartney took advantage of a misunderstanding by two Rovers defenders and went clean through after the interval, but he shot wide. The Posh were still undaunted, and were fighting back like terriers. Dickens was at the top of his form and saved several great shots.

Then Haden was left with just Nicholls to beat. He had raced to the inside right position, and as Nicholls advanced he narrowed the angle for the shot, but even so the ball was only inches away from the target.

Posh never waited for the ball to come to them; they went for it and kept Rovers on the run. Haden had thrilling duels with Warren, and it is to his credit that he never played second fiddle.

After 10 minutes Tolland, playing as a floating forward, increased Rovers lead when he shot through a ruck of players.

The Posh were hard pressed for time, but when they returned to the attack Macartney gave Nicholls a hard shot to hold. In another raid Millar saved the situation for Rovers. The Posh kept pegging away, snapping up everything that looked like a chance, and their 200 supporters raised a cheer when Macartney found the net from Fielding’s centre, but they had not heard the whistle sounded for offside.

Seven minutes from the end Tolland put the issue beyond doubt with another goal for Rovers. The Posh never gave up trying, and towards the end Bowater gave Nicholls a difficult shot to save.

The season’s cup run enabled the Posh to net £560 18s 0d from their six games.

Sadly for the Posh the nest egg would have been considerably larger if the anticipated 15,000 ‘gate’ at Bristol had materialised.


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

Bristol Rovers: Joe Nicholls, Harry Roberts, Alec Millar, Ray Warren, Matt O’Mahoney, Wally McArthur, Albert Butterworth, Frank Curran, Walter Kavanagh, Danny Tolland and  Dick Spivey.

Goal scorers: The Posh – Horace Fielding 30 mins. Bristol Rovers – Danny Tolland (2), Dick Spivey and Frank Curran.