The Giant Killers

Every F A cup giant killing since 1888

All time greatest F A cup giant killings

Number 40

 

Barnsley 2-1 Sheffield Wednesday

Fourth round {last 32}:Saturday January 24th 1931

Oakwell, Barnsley

Attendance: 24,032

Scorers: Bill  Harvey {38}, Jack Ball {75}, Jimmy Curran  {77}

It girl, Clara Bow was starring with Norman Foster in the comedy 'No Limit', Gracie Fields had a hit with 'Dream Lover', The first Highway code was being compiled and Sir Isaac Isaacs was sworn in as the first native born Governor General of Australia.

A decade had passed since Barnsley's great cup victory over eventual League Champions, West Bromwich Albion but the much expected promotion to the big time that Barnsleyites had confidently predicted back in 1920 had never materialised and by 1931 the second division outfit were fighting at the wrong end of the table just two points off the drop when they defeated their division rival, Bristol City in the third round of the cup under the management of Brough Fletcher who had played at centre forward eleven years earlier against Albion.

Fletcher's job was made no easier by the economic slump Yorkshire, the nation and indeed the entire World had been plunged into by the Wall Street crash a couple of years earlier. Barnsley were broke and the board had begun to assess every player meticulusly to try and trim the playing staff down as little as possible but when the draw for the fourth round of the cup paired them with the might of glamourous near neighbours, Sheffield Wednesday.

Wednesday were the pin up boys of Yorkshire football having won consecutive League titles in 1929 and '30 and sitting top of the table in a bid to be the first club ever to complete the hat-trick, albeit their two point lead over Arsenal had been achieved having played three games more then the London club. The line up was a star studded one built around the five England Internationals, Ernie Blenkinsopp, Alf Strange, Tony Leach, Harry Burgess and Ellis Rimmer who along with Tommy Walker, Mark Hooper and Jack Allen had formed eight of the regular eleven that had clinched Wednesday's back to back titles. They set off for the short trip to Barnsley with their recently signed goalkeeper, Jack Breedon returning to the club had had left just a few weeks earlier.

With their lack of finances, Barnsley didn't have the clout to attract big names in the twilight of their careers and instead had a side that could boast just one player with top flight experience in George Henderson who had turned out forty times for Sunderland before his arrival at Barnsley. Despite their lowly position and lack of big match experience, Barnsley warmed up for their big cup tie with a confidence boosting 5-0 hammering of Charlton the previous Saturday while Jack Breedon's replacement in goal, Tommy Gale was viewed by fans as their best hope in keeping mighty Wednesday at bay.

The directors probably weren't especially thinking of the result as much as the huge crowd that was expected to descend on Oakwell for the game, especially with the press building the game up in the days leading to the tie with warnings to fans to get to the ground early or face being locked out. By kick off the directors must have been a thoroughly miserable bunch for not only was the crowd well down on what they had expected but keeper, Gale had been ruled out through injury.

The early indications had suggested a good attendance as the diehard Barnsleyites turned up early with over twenty thousand fans, including a fair travelling contingent of Wednesday fans in the ground an hour before kick off but as the favour sellers started to ply their trade outside the ground the flood turned to a trickle. One fan arriving from Pontefract shortly before kick off expressed his delight at having made the smart choice before explaining that most other football fans leaving from the town had opted to avoid the possibility of being locked out of Oakwell and instead opted for the safer option of nearby Leeds, who were taking on Newcastle in their cup tie or, to a lesser extent, Bradford sides, City and Park Avenue, both of whom had home cup ties against big attractions, Wolves and Burnley.

If a crowd of less than twenty-five thousand was a disappointment then the loss of Gale was a catastrophe that left most home fans feeling that any remote hope they had was gone before the kick off. Gale's replacement was a relatively untried reserve called Len Crompton who had failed to impress since arriving from Blackpool at the start of the season and whose future at the club had already been decided with the directors having privately agreed that his contract would not be renewed, although Crompton himself was blissfully unaware as he took up his place at the Pontefract Road end goal.

With a near gale force wind blowing up the ground Barnsley won the toss and played with the wind at their backs towards the Monk Bretton end and it instantly started to pay dividends as George Gibbs gave Tommy Walker the first taste of what was to be a torrid afternoon for the experienced wing back, dancing past the Wednesday star before setting up the first corner of the game. Gibbs himself took it and it was only the slow reactions of the Barnsley forwards that prevented a goal as the ball dropped invitingly right into the goal mouth and almost begged for a final killer touch before a hefty Wednesday boot cleared the danger.

Despite the wind in the home side's favour it was Wednesday who carved out the best chances in the first half hour. Jack Allen's header from Mark Hooper's cross looked testing but not to difficult for Crompton to deal with until the keeper fumbled the ball into the path of the onrushing Wednesday forwards. Crompton recovered quickly enough to push the ball out for a corner, which also resulted in some desperate defending in the goal mouth before the danger was finally cleared. Crompton had soon made amends with an impressive first half display that saw him commanding his penalty area with an unrecognised confidence but shortly before the interval he was beaten by Jack Allen but the Wednesday forward so his goal bound shot cleared off the line by George Henderson.

Having survived several first half scares, Barnsley were given a gilt edged chance to take the lead when a suspiciously offside looking Bill Harvey burst through the Wednesday defence to face Breedon one on one. But with the goal at his mercy Harvey half heartedly stroked the ball wide of the gaping goal and it was only as he walked back up the field that it became clear to the spectators that the forward had been convinced he was offside and hadn't made an effort.

Any relief the Wednesday fans felt was short lived as the resultant goal kick found Gibbs who yet again skinned Walker before whipping in a cross that a grateful Harvey headed past Breedon to open the scoring. 

With renewed vigor Barnsley got straight into Wednesday in the remaining seven minutes of the first half and the Champions went in at the break genuinely feeling fortunate to have remained only a goal down as the ball pinged around the penalty area in a dangerous series of attacks that the home side were never able to convert into clear cut chances.

Wednesday used the half time break to regain their composure and when they returned for the second half it was a much more physical nature that they adopted. Two decades earlier Barnsley had been renowned as the most physical team in English football to the extent that some opponents had accused them of downright violence on the field and that legacy had not left the club whose current crop were quick to mix it with their illustrious opponents. The game sank into a near brawl by the hour mark until the referee finally called a halt and issued a caution to Wednesday's Allen. While Wednesday were still desperately trying to create chances, Barnsley had abandoned any attempt to get a killer second goal and as soon as a red shirt got the ball in their own half the ball was quickly returned to Crompton who continued excellence in goal lifted the whole stadium. 

And Crompton had to be sharp when Jack Ball forced Nai Richards into a hurried back pass with Crompton out of position. The Keeper only just managed to scramble back in time to prevet the equaliser as his team mates stood hands on heads, convinced their good work had been undone. Barnsley were rocking and within a minute Harry Burgess pulled the save of the day out of Crompton with a fierce drive that forced the keeper into a stunning finger tip save. A few minutes later Ernie Blenkinsopp dropped a long range lob onto Crompton's crossbar with the keeper a helpless spectator.

As the game moved into the last twenty minutes Barnsley enjoyed a few minutes of relief and looked to have survived Wednesday's onslaught when Jack Ball's looping header finally beat Crompton and crept into the net. The Barnsley fans were silenced for only a few brief moments as their Wednesday counterparts celebrated a hugely relieving strike before the home faithful cheered louder than at any previous time in the day to try and urge the home side to one last effort.

The equaliser had come with fifteen minutes still on the clock and Wednesday poured forward, intent on finishing the tie at the first attempt as any thought of defence was virtually forgotten. Wednesday's new found confidence, quickly proved costly and yet again the source of their downfall was Tommy Walker who was yet again easily beaten by Gibbs who slotted a perfect ball for Jimmy Curran who had all the time in the world, not to mention the freedom of Oakwell to steady himself before crashing the ball high into the roof of Breedon's net.

Wednesday had enjoyed parity for just two minutes and the stance of their players when Barnsley scored said more then any words could as they trudged back up the field to kick off again. There was still thirteen minutes left on the clock but Barnsley had no interest in attack and every outfield player no played as a defender, happy to whack the ball as far up field as they could and allow Wednesday to come at them. Such tactics are never as easy to break down as it appears and Barnsley knew they were winning the battle with the hoots and boos from the Wednesday faithful every time George Henderson attempted to kick the ball out of the ground, although even some Barnsley fans chided the defender for not trying to play football.

As the game moved into the final stages fans began climbing over the perimiter wall to stand virtually on the touchline, waiting for the referee's whistle to mob their heroes with Wednesday now clearly a spent force. They had looked a nervous side from the first whistle, changed their tactics to the rough and tumble that only served to suit Barnsley in the second half. Then briefly tried playing the football they were known for, being rewarded with an equaliser before throwing the tie away minutes later. Now they just wanted to get off the pitch and the final whistle saw them quickly leave the arena into the throng of delighted Barnsley fans.

Wednesday still had the prospoect of being the first side ever to win a hat-trick of league titles but the next few weeks saw Arsenal use their three games in hand to overhaul them and by March any hope of Wednesday retaining the title was gone as they eventually finished third, never to win the title again.

Barnsley's players also made a dash for the tunnel as they were swamped by delighted fans who chaired the hero keeper Crompton off the field. The press instantly began making comparisons to the hard men of nineteen years earlier who had brought the cup back to Oakwell while the directors began to contemplate just what a cup run could do to the finances, especially when the draw for round five kept them away from the remaining top flight clubs to face promotion chasing Wolves.

 Barnsley didn't make the same mistake of scaring off the fans this time and over 33,000 crammed into Oakwell for a fifth round tie that proved to be a huge anti climax. Gibbs had an early goal rightly ruled out for offisde but from then on it was all Wolves as the visitors swept into a two goal half time lead, the second coming after Crompton was nutmegged! A third goal followed in the second half before Henderson netted a late consolation. The memory of the hard men of 1912 was safe and the team of 1931 were left to get on with their battle to avoid relegation. A battle which was partly won thanks to a comprehensive 3-0 defeat of Wolves in March.

Brough Fletcher's joy at staying up was short lived as he was forced to release six players in order to balance the books during the summer, one of them being the hero of the cup tie Jack Crompton, who moved on to Norwich of the Third Division having played just nineteen times for Barnsley. The holes in the squad proved harder to fill and Barnsley suffered relegation for the first time in their history in 1932.

Barnsley: 1:Len Crompton, 2:Cyril Dixon, 3:Nai Richards, 4:Joe Smith, 5:George Henderson, 6:George Caddick, 7:Jimmy Curran, 8:Jimmy Proudfoot, 9:John Wallbanks, 10:Bill Harvey, 11:George Gibbs

Sheffield: 1:Jack Breedon, 2:Tommy Walker, 3:Ernie Blenkinsop, 4:Alf Strange, 5:Tony Leach, 6:Charlie Wilson, 7:Mark Hooper, 8:Jack Ball, 9:Jack Allen, 10:Harry Burgess, 11:Ellis Rimmer

Barnsley

Sheffield Wednesday

1931