Today marks the 100th anniversary of our first ever game in the Football League, a trip to Exeter City which was played on Saturday 28 August 1920.
Both Clubs had been elected from the Southern League to the newly-formed Football League Division Three South over the summer and there was great excitement among the 7000 fans who packed out St James Park for the opening fixture.
The two line-ups for the afternoon’s game were:
Brentford: Young; Rosier, Hodson; Amos, Levitt, Elliott; Henery, Morley, Spreadbury, Thompson, Smith
Exeter: Pym; Coleburne, Feebery; Crawshaw, Carrick, Mitton; Appleton, Makin, Wright, Vowles, Dockray
Missing from Fred Halliday’s Brentford line-up were goalkeeper Jack Durston and forward Patsy Hendren, both of whom were playing a key role for Middlesex against Surrey in a title-deciding County Championship fixture at Lord’s.
Reports from the time indicate the Brentford team arrived well over an hour before the 3.30pm kick-off while the Exeter City Military Band were keeping the fans entertained with “new and up to date tunes.”
With Brentford taking kick-off, Bert Spreadbury (middle row, centre right above), wearing the Club’s new blue shirt with yellow trim, entered the record books as the first player to touch the ball in the Football League for The Bees; there would be little cheer for Brentford after that as Exeter dominated the match.
The Grecians had already seen two goals disallowed before they finally took the lead after 25 minutes, Bill Wright beating three Brentford players on the edge of the box before firing home past William Young.
The Bees' best chance of the half came late on as a penalty was awarded for handball. However, “even then Pym had no shot to save, for Hodson drove harmlessly against the railings, yards wide of the goal,” reported the local newspaper.
The second-half was barely two minutes old when Chas Vowles made it 2-0 with a neat low finish; Jack Feebery adding a late third from the penalty spot.
It had been an inauspicious start to life in the Football League for The Bees who now faced the long journey home and a first home Football League game at Griffin Park against Millwall just 48 hours later. More about that on Sunday though.