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We've Met Before – Plymouth Argyle

Paul Waterhouse of Bygone Chelsea 1905-99 looks at our past record against Saturday’s FA Cup opponents.

League encounters between Chelsea and Plymouth Argyle are few and far between, in fact, only accounting for six fixtures between 1962-63 and 1976-77. However, in cup football there is a longer history between both clubs and the F.A. Cup in particular is where five of those cup games have taken place. These are the games we’ll look at in this feature.

The first ever meeting between them took place on 19th February 1921, the occasion being a 3rd Round Tie at Home Park and in a tight encounter in front of 37,749 spectators the 3rd Division side held Chelsea to a 0-0 draw, therefore securing a replay at Stamford Bridge. Five days later a huge gate of 59,871 turned up at Stamford Bridge and as had happened at Home Park, Plymouth Argyle held on to draw 0-0 again. Ashton Gate, the home of Bristol City was chosen as the venue for the second replay on 28th February and once again Plymouth Argyle showed they were a force to be reckoned with. Dominating the game for long periods in front of a healthy 26,007 spectators they took a deserved lead through Bill Toms in the 68th minute. Chelsea huffed and puffed but looked to be heading to a shock defeat until with just seven minutes remaining, Robert McNeil pulled them level. Three minutes later Jimmy Croal scored to put Chelsea ahead and clinch a most undeserved victory and a place in the 4th Round where they eventually lost 1-0 at Cardiff City.

Five years later the 3rd Round of the F.A. Cup brought both teams together again, the game taking place at Home Park on 9th January 1926. By then, Chelsea were in Division 2 whereas Plymouth Argyle were in Division 3 South and enjoying an excellent campaign. The game drew a bumper gate of 31,025 and Chelsea hit the ground running, taking a 26th minute lead through Robert Turnbull. Three minutes later the lead was doubled when Robert McNeil scored and Chelsea already looked in complete control. Plymouth Argyle had in their ranks a former Chelsea star by the name of Jack Cock, and the prolific marksman reduced the arrears in the 70th minute to create a very nervous last twenty minutes for the visitors. Thankfully they survived a frantic finish to make Round 4 and a trip to Selhurst Park in order to face Crystal Palace who won the tie 2-1.

The last F.A. Cup meeting occurred on 25th January 1936, the 4th Round Tie taking place at Stamford Bridge in front of a 53,703 gate. The match programme featured a tribute to King George V, a regular visitor to Stamford Bridge and reputedly an avid Chelsea fan who had sadly passed away five days earlier at Sandringham. Joe Bambrick settled any early nerves by putting Chelsea ahead in the 10th minute, but the vital second goal arrived in the 43rd minute when Johnny McNeil put through his own goal. With just seconds of the half remaining, William Barraclough scored again to give Chelsea a commanding 3-0 lead at the interval. The home side had to wait until the 75th minute when Harry Burgess hit Chelsea's fourth goal, but a late flourish from Plymouth Argyle saw the visitors pull a goal back via Jack Vidler with ten minutes remaining and then, with a chance to reduce the deficit even further, Sammy Black had his penalty brilliantly saved by Vic Woodley in the Chelsea goal. The reward for the 4-1 victory was a home tie against neighbours, Fulham, who left Stamford Bridge after a 0-0 stalemate despite Chelsea playing for nearly an hour with ten men. In the replay at Craven Cottage, Fulham ran out 3-2 winners after a dramatic encounter.

Reproduced with permission from Paul Waterhouse, Bygone Chelsea 1905-99

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