Along Come Norwich Flashback – Leeds United 1 – 2 Norwich City (1935 – A)

29/10/21

Norwich's first ever game against Leeds turned into a humdinger of a cup tie that went to a replay which saw great triumph. Nick Hayhoe brings the story

Story of the match

On Saturday 26 January 1935, Norwich City (of the Second Division) played Leeds United (of the First Division) for the first ever time: an exhausting 3-3 draw at the Nest that saw Norwich 2-0 down at half time, 3-2 up with minutes to be played and Leeds equalising in the last minute with a fortunate goal. After all of that, a draw. Replay at Elland Road Wednesday.

And so it was to Leeds on a bright, cold and occasionally misty afternoon in front of 27,000 where Norwich triumphed against the top-tier team and booked their steam train tickets for a place in the 5th round for the first time since 1915.

Jack Vinall scored for Norwich in the 15th minute from a Leeds defensive cock-up, only for Leeds to equalise almost immediately afterwards. Ken Burditt put Norwich back into the lead in the 70th minute, and from there the 1930s version of “game-management” was put into force – Leeds barely able to muster an attack despite the cries of “come on United!” from an increasingly gloomy crowd.

As the EDP byline ran the following day: “Five hundred City supporters went frantic when the end came. They stood in their places and raised a cheer as 27,000 disappointed Yorkshiremen wended their way sadly out of the ground.”

Long term significance 

This was the last of several famous pre-Carrow Road FA Cup giant killings for Norwich, who’d already established themselves as a team prone to make First Division opposition look daft: ranking alongside a victories at Liverpool and over Sheffield Wednesday, Sunderland and Tottenham at home before the summer of ’35 move to Carrow Road. Norwich’s early cup exploits almost certainly helped reprieve them from being kicked out of the league when having to apply for re-election after finishing 2nd bottom of Division Three South in 1947.

You may have forgotten that

Leeds United have only been in existence since 1919. Their spiritual predecessor, Leeds City, had been booted from the league as a result of financial irregularities and collapsed. United were quickly formed and took up City’s old residence at Elland Road, entering the Football League the following season. Norwich never played the old Leeds City, so this cup tie is genuinely the first meeting between Norwich and any Leeds team, predecessor or otherwise.

What happened with the rest of that season

Norwich lost the next cup game away against Sheffield Wednesday 1-0, and both sides finished mediocre seasons mid-table in their respective divisions.

Despite this, however, this was an extremely important season in Norwich City’s history. In May, the board of directors received a letter from the Football Association stating that the Nest, which, as a final straw for the FA, had seen a crowd of over 25,000 for the Wednesday cup game, was far too dangerous to sustain larger crowds and they needed to move to somewhere more suitable immediately – especially if they had any aspirations to get into the First Division. That summer a patch of land was found in amongst some factories and warehouses near the River Wensum, and a stadium was quickly built on it. Norwich City have called that patch of land home ever since.

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