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History

Midland League Duties 1921-22: A new season on the horizon

1 December 2021

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

CAPTION: Ernest Lemon, leading goalscorer for 1920-21, and Jack Hanna, the regular goalkeeper.

One hundred years ago, the town of Scunthorpe was expanding, thanks to the prosperity of the steel industry, which had enjoyed a significant boom from all things manufactured by ferrous materials during the Great War, and afterwards in the reconstruction of that which was destroyed. The three main companies making steel, John Lysaght’s, Redbourn and Appleby Frodingham all had white hot furnaces belching fire, and yielding the magnetic ‘gold’ which the world could not get enough of. 

In the district, the five small Lincolnshire villages of Victorian times which made up the town were quickly merging towards each other, and the population was in excess of 25,000 in 1921, although there was still a long way to go before the Scunthorpe of the 21st century would emerge. For those working the long hours in the heat, dirt and dangerous conditions, where a local life was claimed on average once a week, there was always the comfort of putting bread and butter on the table for a large and ever expanding family. At the end of most weeks, there was barely enough money left for a pint of Barnsley Bitter at the Britannia and a Saturday afternoon at the Old Show Ground watching Scunthorpe United.

The summer of 1921 was all too brief, and the few hot days seemed to be wet enough to spoil the cricketer’s enjoyment. Those more intent on soccer had to wait until the very end of August before football began in earnest. When the heavens did finally relent, those in attendance at the Frodingham Cricket Ground on Roland Road, or across at Brumby Hall, would probably have reminisced on how the fortunes of Scunthorpe and Lindsey United had ebbed and flowed during the previous 1920-21 season, as the red cherry was slammed to the boundary by muscles from arms honed in the shadow of a blast furnace.   

The truth of the matter was that the Nuts had performed quite well in 1920-21, finishing in a respectable fourth position in the Midland League table, which was only one place behind the Scunthorpe team of the previous season. Lincoln City took the top honour as Champions, and were subsequently re-elected back to the Football League. They headed the list from Notts County Reserves, with the men from the crooked spire at Chesterfield third. In finishing fourth, Scunthorpe and Lindsey had a positive goal difference of 21, although in those days it was goal average which counted.

In the Midland League, Scunthorpe United had as many as sixteen different goalscorers for their 38 matches. The lion’s share of those goals came from the combination of head and boot of Ernest Lemon, a diminutive left sided inside forward with Football League experience. He was responsible for making the net bulge 14 times, the only one of the Nuts to make double figures in this competition.

Ernest Lemon also had the second honour of being the only player to make the starting line-up for each and every fixture. However, the defence was almost as regular, with goalkeeper Hanna, full backs Ackroyd and Betts, and big Bob Duffus at centre half missing very few. Ackroyd was a popular character of the team, and schoolboys and steelworkers could frequently be heard shouting ‘good old Acky’ as their favourite player dashed down the right flank. Of course, Jack Hanna was a celebrity, having represented Ireland whilst in the green jersey at Nottingham Forest.

During the 1920-21 campaign there had been some worthy efforts from the Claret and Blues, particularly in the form on their travels. An early 2-1 victory at Bramall Lane against the Junior Blades was a marker, but this was shaded in comparison with the 5-3 triumph at the City Ground over the Forest Reserves at Nottingham, and all of the Nuts’ supporters must have cycled home deliriously happy along the A159 after a comfortable 4-1 dismantling of their Lincolnshire rivals, Gainsborough Trinity. Usually the last match of the season is far less well attended than the first, but those who bothered to watch the Scunthorpe versus Halifax Town fixture were all treated to the biggest win of the campaign, as the Nuts scored five without reply.   

In the 1920-21 season, Scunthorpe and Lindsey United had been expected to compete in the FA Cup from the First Preliminary Round in September, and Hull Brunswick proved no hurdle as the Nuts progressed with a comfortable 6-0 result. The next two Qualifying Rounds saw just as easy conquests against Bently Colliery and Grimsby Charltons. Brodsworth Colliery proved to be more problematical, and two replays were necessary before passage was gained.

The interesting feature of the Second Replay at Bramall Lane, Sheffield, was the introduction of a young Alec Moore, who not only scored but later was a most respected Scunthorpe Headmaster. He was also Chairman of Scunthorpe and Lindsey United, assisting them into the Football League years later in 1950.

With all these thoughts to stir the imagination, from conquests of recent times, no wonder the Scunthorpe supporters were looking forward to the release of the 1921-22 Midland League fixtures. Oh! To once more cheer the Nuts on to even greater victories.

IT'S A SCUNTHORPE FACT: The Pavilion, The Majestic, The Ritz (which became the ABC), The Savoy, and the Royal are all former cinemas that are part of Scunthorpe’s past.

IT'S A SCUNTHORPE UNITED FACT: There are 49 years between the only two Championship titles won by Scunthorpe United since they entered the Football League in 1950. They took the Third Division North in 1957-58 and the Division One honour in 2006-07. 

 


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