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Midland League Duties 1921-22: A good start to the season

22 December 2021

Club historian John Staff turns the clock back a century to continue a new series reporting on the 1921-22 Midland League season.

CAPTIONS: Ackroyd, who did sterling work in defending at Nottingham and Harry Maycock, whose goal beat the Junior Forest.

The 1921-22 season had started in a most satisfactory fashion for Scunthorpe United. On the opening day of the new season a large crowd had watched the Nuts at the Old Show Ground take a point out of the game against a useful Rotherham County Reserves side, thanks to a last-kick-of-the-game goal by Harry Maycock. It felt like a win, under the circumstances, as the crowd strolled back home in the favourable warm weather.

It was only seven days later that the Nuts were on duty again at home, and the players took advantage of the inexperience of Wath Athletic, a club new to the Midland League. It may have been ironic, but Wath led from the fifth minute of the game with their only shot on target and for the rest of the game it was one way traffic from the home side. Scunthorpe and Lindsey’s resolve finally paid off with two goals in the second half from Gibson, finalising the score at 2-1. The general agreement from the terraces was that the Nuts were full value for their win.

The next fixture on the horizon required a trip down the Great Central Railway, via Barnetby, to Nottingham. The destination was a match against Nottingham Forest Reserves at the City Ground, which would prove to be a test of great magnitude. The game took place on Thursday September 8th 1921, and being midweek, was poorly attended by the local population. From the point of view of the Scunthorpe camp, there was little necessity for too many team changes, but Broadhead was unavailable, and local man Calthorpe was happy to fill in the centre forward berth. Therefore the Scunthorpe United representation was as follows: Bates in goal; Ackroyd and Betts, full backs; Richards, Brandon and Lloyd, halfbacks; Meredith, Gibson, Calthorpe, Whitham and Maycock, forwards.

In the event, those who bore witness to this clash were treated to an exciting encounter of good quality football for the Midland League standard. It was the Forest Reserves who won the toss of the referee’s coin, and set the pattern of the game, with forceful attacking soccer. United had to take a back step, playing with a bright sun in their eyes, throughout the first 45 minutes, but Ackroyd and Betts put in some sterling work, and Bates, the Scunthorpe custodian, was well protected. When he was exposed, Bates produced the necessary saves to keep his goal intact. Thankfully, there was equally excellent running by Richards, Brandon and Lloyd in the visitor’s middle ranks.

At half-time the Scunthorpe fortress was still not breached, and the Forest Reserves continued with their dash in the next 45 minutes, and little was seen of Scunthorpe as an attacking unit with any huge amount of menace. However, with time ticking by, and the men of Nottingham unable to unlock the door to a goal, Scunthorpe found a way to undo them. Only two minutes remained on the referee’s watch, when a Forest attack once again broke down. The loose ball was threaded through to Calthorpe, who had a long gallop down the park, and taking careful aim the debutant showed how to enjoy the fruits of making the most of one’s chances.

It was an unlikely victory, but one that was very well deserved, thanks to the shear hard graft put in by a team effort, and maximising the minimal. The 1-0 score hoisted the Nuts high up in the Midland League table, but it was still early days yet. This score gave the side a huge boost as they turned their thoughts to Saturday’s coming match, at the Old Show Ground against Hull City Reserves.

The fixture at Nottingham did take its toll on the Scunthorpe team, and right full back J.W. ‘Acky’ Ackroyd took a sharp knock which would need some resting for a fortnight. Therefore Roberts was introduced as cover from the Reserves with no detriment to the well-oiled Nuts machine. The Junior Tigers had not enjoyed the best of starts to their own Midland League journey, and the men of Scunthorpe were determined to keep it that way.

In the end, Scunthorpe and Lindsey did not disappoint any of their followers, and gave the Hull second teamers no opportunity to get a grip on the game. Whereas the match at Nottingham had been a spectacle, this game was far less interesting. However, in this case, the positive result Scunthorpe gained was equally important.

The Nuts opened the scoring through their clever right half Richards, who was on the books of Sheffield United the previous season. Only three minutes had passed, when he charged into the middle of the goal area, slipping his defender, and headed firmly through the Tigers defence, for a cheeky goal. This cast the die for the first half, as the home men looked to increase the advantage, but they could not do so, until three minutes before the break. On this occasion it was Harry Maycock who came in from the left wing, and fired home for a much deserved 2-0 lead.

Hull City Reserves posed little of a threat to those two goals United had put in the bank. There was even a period in the second half when injuries reduced United to nine men, but the Tigers had blunt teeth, and Bates in the Scunthorpe goal was untroubled. The injury was as a result of a collision, and Brandon and Whitham spent time on the touch line being treated by trainer Lal White before they had recovered sufficiently.

Although Scunthorpe returned to the full quota of players, they too were thwarted from scoring any further goals, despite a number of rosy chances coming their way. In the end, the good sized crowd were content with the two extra points gleaned from the 2-0 final score. So far the path trod by the team was heading towards the summit of the Midland League. No doubt the supporters of 100 years ago would have looked at the programme and contemplated the next voyages on the club’s journey, which would see them visit Gainsborough Trinity in the much anticipated local derby, and also have another midweek sojourn to Wombwell. Everything at the Old Show Ground was on an even keel at this point in the season.

IT'S A SCUNTHORPE FACT: The War Memorial originally stood outside the Old Show Ground, on the opposite side of the road, before being moved to its present site outside the museum.

IT'S A SCUNTHORPE UNITED FACT: Ian Botham, the former England Cricket Captain, has played both football and cricket at the Old Show Ground.


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