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Midland League Duties 1921-22: Only a stutter at Worksop

8 April 2022

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

CAPTIONS: A draw at Wakefield and goalkeeper Johnny Wogin, in form against Rotherham County.

One hundred years ago, winter was in full swing, with a hint of snow in the air, frozen patches on the road and plenty of frost in the mornings. Nothing unusual for the second week in February, but better than January in 1922, which had seen snow, several inches deep. However, only on one occasion had a match been threatened by a postponement, but that was averted when the white feathers of the season stopped tumbling at midday, and the referee was content for proceedings to continue in total bliss. Oh how times have changed!

Scunthorpe and Lindsey United, at this stage in the 1921-22 had enjoyed a purple patch in Midland League form, and had moved up the Midland League, after a disappointing period of results during the autumn, in which little had gone right for the men of claret and blue. Half way through December, the Nuts went on an amazing unbeaten run in the league of nine matches, only spoilt by a loss to Gainsborough Trinity, in a Lincolnshire Cup match. Included in the victims were two doubles against near rivals, which made the victories even sweeter. Lincoln City Reserves, struggling in the lower depths of the division were conquered over Christmas, and Doncaster Rovers fell in the New Year pair of tussles.

Unfortunately, all good runs in soccer must come to an end, and in the first week of February, a visit to high flying Worksop Town, a team en route to the Midland League title, saw a brilliant goal-lashed match result in a 3-4 loss for the Scunthorpe men, who did not know defeat, until the referee sounded the all-important final whistle. At the end of 90 pulsating minutes, both teams were warmly applauded from the field, as 22 weary bodies headed for the meagre warmth of the dressing rooms.

Those rival supporters predicting a decline in the Scunthorpe fortunes were to be disappointed, because seven days later United bounced back with an emphatic performance against the lads from the Boston Stump. A 4-1 result may have been aided by an injury in the Boston ranks, but Scunthorpe made the most of their chances, as, indeed, they had done during their run of success. This was to set them up for the next sojourn on Thursday 15th February, at new boys Wakefield City.

It may be something of a surprise that a city the size of Wakefield never developed a team capable of Football League status. True it has a rugby league club of considerable standing and tradition, plus it lives in the shadow of Leeds, but there again, Huddersfield is of a similar existence.

On the afternoon, little has been documented about the game. The team that Scunthorpe selected from did contain changes, some forced and other experimental. Smith was unavailable at fullback, and was replaced by Betts, back from injury. The midfield needed supplementing by Kettleborough for Broadhead, for what was the debutant’s only appearance. In the forward line, Lloyd was another absentee, and after a shuffling of bodies in shirts, Walter Reed was the exciting local boy used on the left wing. Thus the Scunthorpe United men lined up as follows: Wogin, in goal; Ackroyd and Betts, fullbacks; Crookes, Duke and Kettleborough, halfbacks; Meredith, Whittingham, Whitham, Maycock, and Reed, forwards.

The half a dozen lines in the press devoted to the report of this match suggested that Wakefield City were distinctively fortunate to gain anything from the game. Most of the aggression, skill, and threat on goal came from the visiting Scunthorpe team, but ironically, it was the home side which went ahead first.

The goal was scored by Dixon, one of the Wakefield attackers, just before the half-time Vimto. Incidentally, for those who cannot remember Vimto, it was a blackcurrant type drink, traditionally sold at all football grounds, and was usually so hot, it instantly removed the skin from the top of the inside of the mouth. Within five minutes of the restart, Maycock ran in to equalise for Scunthorpe. Apparently, Betts and Whittingham shone for the Nuts, and Maycock was a twinkling star on the left wing.

Three days later, Scunthorpe United lined up at the Old Show Ground to face a Denaby team, anchored just south of the mid-point in the Midland League table. The only team change afforded by Scunthorpe and Lindsey United was the return of the vastly experienced captain Herbert Lloyd, a massive injection to any Midland League Club, without any question. Already Denaby had inflicted defeat on United, earlier in the season, on Scunthorpe’s travels, winning an absorbing game on their own Yorkshire patch, with a 4-3 advantage. The Denaby appearance at the Old Show Ground would be strengthened, this time, by the inclusion of their right fullback, returning after a month of suspension.

United won the toss and soon put pressure on the Denaby defence. In the early stages it was the Nuts that were asking all the questions. It was of little surprise that this pressure was turned into the advantage of a goal, scored on 13 minutes. The ball was placed tantalising down the right flank, and Whittingham out-paced his defender, controlled the ball, before despatching it high into the top corner of the net, the keeper totally stranded.

The goal put a spark back into the visitor’s engine and United had to cover their lines in order to preserve the lead. Ackroyd was injured in one of these sorties, and he needed treatment off the pitch, but the Scunthorpe goal remained intact. After soaking up the pressure, United came back into the game, and Whittingham was again prominent in the move, just before the half-time whistle, in pushing a precision ball onto the shoe laces of Maycock, just to his left. The speedy inside man was in full flight as he reached the pass, and fired a spectacular shot home for 2-0. 

The Denaby cause was greatly hindered at this point in time, by an injury to their custodian, who took an almighty knock to his knee. The gallant fellow hobbled about, but it was apparent the damage was done, and his team continued with ten men, as their full back bravely took the leather gloves. Although Scunthorpe hammered a the visitors' target, the rear guard action taken by the Denaby men proved water tight until half-time, and the Nuts led by that two goal margin after the first 45 minutes of action.

In the second period of the game, Denaby created few chances, and John Wogin was thankful for his thick green woollen jersey to keep out the cold. It was said that United never looked like losing, and there was little to enthuse about the next half of the match. Denaby adopted the ‘one back system’, in an effort to catch the Scunthorpe team offside. Instead of two men needing to be in position when the ball is played, the old rule required three.

However, the more the game wore on, and the heavier the Denaby limbs became, then the greater the chance of one of the many attacks the Scunthorpe team made, would find its way home. The last act of the game worth remembering was executed by Meredith, who took charge of a ball out on the right wing, then raced forward, cutting in towards the goal, and then unleashed a shot high into the swirling net rigging, which would have beaten virtually all goalkeepers. The final score was a useful 3-0 to Scunthorpe and Lindsey United.

IT'S A SCUNTHORPE FACT: Tony Jacklin, the former Scunthorpe professional golfer, won the Open Golf Tournament in 1969, at Royal Lytham and St Anne’s.

IT'S A SCUNTHORPE UNITED FACT: Not too many Scunthorpe United players have managed Premiership clubs, but briefly, in 2017, former Iron Craig Shakespeare, of four games during the 1997-98 season, managed Leicester City.


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