The Giant Killers

Every F A cup giant killing since 1888

All time greatest F A cup giant killings

Number 46

 

Crystal Palace 2-0 Manchester City

 

First round: Saturday 8th January 1921

Croydon Common Athletic Ground, London

Attendance: 18,500

Scorers: Ben Bateman {49}, Bertie Menlove {64}

Lilian Gish starred as the country girl, forced to reject the attentions of rich squire's son, Richard Barthelmess because of her dark past in D W Griffith's 'Way Down East'. Paul Whiteman had a hit with his song 'Anytime, anyday, anywhere', Cars had to display a tax disc for the first time and Prime Minister, David Lloyd George made Chequers his official residence while unemployment rose to 900,000.   

The idea of the Southern League being absorbed as a Third Division of The Football League had been talked of since the turn of the century but didn't finally go ahead until 1920, by which time the vast majority of its best teams had already joined the fold. Crystal Palace remained true to the Southern League to become one of its strongest teams and so were rewarded for their loyalty with the elevation, as a newly created Third Division side, to associate members of the Football League with partial voting rights.

The club took to the new division well and by the time the F A cup first round came along they topped the table with their fans looking forward to the possibility of promotion to the Second Division at the first time of asking. Their opponents in the first round were Manchester City, themselves flying high in the First Division and aiming to be crowned champions for the first time in their history.

Unusually though it wasn't the First Division side who possessed the solitary full international that would be on show as that would be Palace's Joey Jones. City had built a post war side with few stars into a workmanlike, rather than glamourous side, whose main threat came from centre forward, Tommy Browell. The striker had made his name at Everton before the war, where he won the title but was then curiously allowed to leave Goodison Park with City manager Ernest Mangnall gratefully picking him up. Mangnall had previously lost out on Browell's signature when he was Manchester United's manager a few years earlier and in bringing him to Hyde Road he introduced the citizens to a player who would go on to become a legend for the club. 

Quite what Browell, his team-mates and the large Manchester City following made of Palace's Nest ground was probably not repeatable. The Croydon Common Athletic Ground, to give it its proper title had, as the name suggests, been home to Croydon Common up until 1916, at which point the Robins folded and vacated their Nest. Palace enjoyed the splendour of their huge Sydenham venue, which also doubled as the cup final venue, laid out on the hill beneath the huge exhibition hall which gave its name to club and stadium. The army evicted Palace during the war and after a stay at Herne Hill, the club moved into the Nest in 1919, securing at the same time a considerable number of ex Croydon fans, making them among the best supported teams outside the top two divisions. The ground though was hardly fit for top level professional Football, with a small stand which held 2,000 on one side and an undeveloped banking that ran from behind one goal down the other side of the ground with the other end barely able to accommodate more than a couple of hundred fans. Despite this the ground had accommodated ever increasing crowds during the season as Palace continued to push for promotion at the first time of asking. Attendances hit a record of 22,000 by Christmas, although even a swelled mass of visiting City supporters were unable to better that with 16,500 cramming into the bankings along with a full stand.

Palace suffered a blow before the game when their inspirational captain Ted Smith was ruled out through illness while the club were already robbed of the services of one of their two internationals when Ireland's Roy McCracken fractured a leg at Christmas. Their Welsh international Joey Jones was fit to take his place in the half back line with Phil Bates and Albert Feebury, this trio unaware yet that they were about to put in one of their finest displays as a trio for the club. Another trio that Palace fans were to know almost as second nature were keeper, Jack Alderson and his full backs, Jack Little and Ernie Rhodes who played alongside one another for over a hundred consecutive games during this period. Alderson was the only member of the side with experience at the highest level with just a solitary appearance between the sticks for Newcastle in 1913. Home fans placed their faith in centre forward John Connor who was joined in attack by Ben Bateman, John Wibley, Bertie Menlove and Alan Wood. On paper it was a good side and capable of pulling off an upset.

The first half was described by most who witnessed it as 'keenly contested', which really meant that both teams went at each other hammer and tongs, yet despite this hard edged first half Alderson wasn't tested while John Connor should have scored when given a free header in front of goal only to blaze it over Goodchild's crossbar.

The game needed a goal to open it up and thankfully for the fans, unprotected from the driving rain, it came just four minutes into the second period when Bateman took it upon himself to cut in from the wing, beat two City players and then fire an angled drive under Goodchild to open the scoring. City were rattled and came under increasing pressure as Palace pressed for a second and killer goal but it was the antics of the smallest spectator in the ground that caught the attention of the fans behind Goodchild's goal. In the celebrations a brown field mouse had come scurrying from the stand and began racing back and forward from the corner flag to Goodchild, who seemed unnerved by this new arrival on the field, much to the humour of the fans. The mouse continued to amuse the fans for almost twenty minutes, the little rodent not knowing where to run for safety from the cauldron of noise and humanity surrounding him. Amid all this Albert Feebery slotted a neat pass to Bertie Menlove who drove a second goal past Goodchild. In the wild celebrations that followed attention turned away from the tiny observer who took its chance to flee the scene.

City now had twenty-five minutes to save their face but their own fans found the scene all to familiar, City having been dumped out last year by Second Division Leicester. For the Palace faithful this was turning into their greatest day since the greatest of all cup shocks at Newcastle fourteen years earlier. As the game drew to a close the Palace players naturally began to tire. Jones was a rock while Bates had kept Browell in his pocket most of the afternoon and Feebury's runs kept City on the back foot. Now though Browell was getting more space and the runs were being closed down and it was time for Alderson to come into his own. In the final fifteen minutes City began to break through and the home fans felt that they must surely get one goal back but Alderson wasn't to be beaten with a series of excellent stops to keep the sky blues holding their head time and again. 

When the game drifted into its final two or three minutes the noise levels began to rise again as the home fans realised that there wasn't going to be a fight back and that title chasing City would soon be following their fans who had already streamed back to Selhurst station for the early trains home.

The final whistle brought the now traditional pitch invasion with many of the Palace heroes carried to the pavilion while City retired to concentrate on an ultimately failed title bid. The Palace directors had more reason to smile as they had taken £1,175 at the gate and a home draw in round two against Second Division Hull City. Palace were unable to repeat the heroics and duly bowed out at that stage but it was a taste of what they would face next season as they went on to clinch the Third Division title at the first time of asking.

Keeper, Jack Alderson would be the man in this side who had bigger and better things in his future. In 1923 he was selected to keep goal for England against France, being Palace's first England international but two years later he was unable to keep Palace in the Second Division and their relegation triggered his transfer to top flight cup holders Sheffield United where he went on to make over a century of appearances in a four year spell. 

Crystal Palace: 1:Jack Alderson, 2Jack Little:, 3:Ernie Rhodes, 4:Joey Jones, 5:Phil Bates, 6:Albert Feebery, 7:Ben Bateman, 8:John Wibley, 9:Jack Connor, 10:Bertie Menlove, 11:Alan Wood

Manchester City: 1:Jim Goodchild, 2:Sam Cookson, 3:Eli Fletcher, 4:Fred 'Tiny' Fayers, 5:Herbert Tyler, 6:Max Woosnam, 7:Tommy Broad, 8:Frank Carroll, 9:Tommy Browell, 10:Horace Barnes, 11:Billy 'Spud' Murphy