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History

Midland League Duties 1921-22: No luck on the road

9 February 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: Suffering defeat at Meadow Lane, plus the Natty Nut and Stumpy of Boston.

There was a certain amount of agitation amongst Scunthorpe and Lindsey United supporters, 100 years ago, because the Nuts had run up a blind alley, and four consecutive games had ended in defeat. The results had been unfavourable in recent times, not because of a lack of effort, but because the chances they created could not be converted into goals. When they had scored goals, the opposition seemed to find the net more often.

The pattern of negative events began at the beginning of November, when a voyage down the leafy Lincolnshire lanes to Gainsborough ended in an FA Cup defeat. There could be no faulting the effort put in by the Nuts, but it was the first of a number of reverses. At Rotherham Town a 1-5 result may have suggested that the claret and blues were soundly spanked, but the score did not reflect the close and exciting affair, where only the home team took the dozens of chances.

Shortly after the loss at Rotherham, Scunthorpe and Lindsey were engaged in midweek action on Wharncliff Cup duty at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. The Junior Blades were never a pushover on their own patch, and there was no argument with the 4-0 exit from the competition. Scunthorpe simply fell to a far better unit on the afternoon, attended by a meagre bunch of die-hard supporters. Next on the agenda was a third consecutive sojourn into the chimneys of industrialised South Yorkshire to do battle with Denaby, in a Midland League fixture before 2,500 spectators. On this occasion the Nuts were involved in a 4-3 thriller, but unfortunately, after putting in yet another hard shift, they found themselves, once again, in arrears.

One hundred years ago, on Saturday November 26th 1921 Scunthorpe and Lindsey United were in home action with a Midland League fixture against Notts County Reserves, a team of Magpies with an inconsistent record, so far in the season. Scunthorpe and Lindsey could not be sure which eleven men would be selected to represent them on the afternoon, because of the number of injuries in the camp. At the last moment there was good news of Betts, who was able to return to his usual position at left back. Meredith was also back in contention, and resumed in the number seven shirt on the right wing.

However, there were significant changes needed, and an upgrade of three men for debuts from the Reserves. Shem Hill was recalled for what would prove to be his one and only start of the season at right half in the absence of Richards. There was bad news about the injury to player-manager Herbert Lloyd, who was replaced by Palmer, and second team centre forward to the spearhead from Broadhead. Thus, a disjointed Scunthorpe side took to the park in the following formation: Bates in goal; Ackroyd and Betts, fullbacks; Hill, Duke and Palmer, halfbacks; Meredith, Whitham, Clarke, Redd and Maycock.

When the Nuts ran out onto the park at kick-off, it was the first time the crowd had seen them that month. Those hoping that home soil would be an advantage would eventually be disappointed, but although the losing trend continued, on this evidence Scunthorpe United deserved at least a draw from the performance.

The first half was quite frantic, and supporters of the claret and blues soon warmed to the inspiration of Clarke, the new man at the sharp end of the attack. He marked his debut with a memorable goal, which saw the Nuts take the lead. Unfortunately, after this promising start, lapses in defence allowed the Magpies Reserves to score twice within a minute, and once more the home side were ruing their missed opportunities.  

There were no more goals in the first half, and after the break the game was played as though a cup-tie. This tempo led to some heated exchanges between Betts and a County player, to which the referee took a dim view, and sent both of them off. In the final analysis the attendance had seen a superb game, but United were again losers, this time by 2-1.

One week later the Scunthorpe team was in the South of Lincolnshire at Boston. Richards returned to right half, Broadhead replaced Palmer, and Gibson filled in for the injured Meredith. Over on the left wing Maycock missed his first match of the campaign, and was replaced by a promising prospect in Chambers, who had been shining in the second team. Therefore, it was very much a changed eleven from the team of the previous week, some of which was forced upon the player-manager, Herbert Lloyd, himself still not totally fit to resume.

It was a brisk sort of day at Boston, when the team made the field at Boston’s Shodfield Lane on Saturday December 3rd 1921. The chill in the air did not prevent 3,000 hardy Lincolnshire souls from wrapping up well in over coats, caps and gloves, and enjoying a customary cigarette, which made a blue haze float nonchalantly over the population. The crowd was to enjoy another keen and exciting game, which was evenly balanced.

Both teams had their chances, but Ackroyd and Betts, back together again, protected Bates in the Scunthorpe goal very competently, with the assistance of the relatively new centre half of Duke. One minute before the interval their guard slipped, and Boston took advantage to score. It was a blow to the visitors, who had given everything.

In the second 45 minutes the Nuts continued to give chase, as they sought an equaliser. Reports suggested that the pace in this period was just as hectic as the first, with no lack of effort by any of the competitors. On the hour mark a ball was floated expertly into the Scunthorpe area, and Manning of Boston was able to head the ball beyond Bates. It was cruel on the Scunthorpe efforts, but to the claret and blues credit they raised their game yet again but to no avail. The final result was 0-2 against them, and the journey back home seem twice as long.

Although this terrible run of results was a terrible experience, the consolation was that with the men in the team playing the way they were, everything would sort itself out in due time. If the side had been in complete disarray, then there would have been concern. Christmas was not far away, and perhaps the corner might be turn in the coming fixture on the road to Hull City Reserves, and at home to Sheffield Wednesday Reserves.

IT'S A SCUNTHORPE FACT: King Edward VIII only reigned for a few months, but in that time Scunthorpe celebrated becoming a Borough.

IT'S A SCUNTHORPE UNITED FACT: After Ian Baraclough played and managed Scunthorpe United, he managed club sides Sligo Rovers and Motherwell, but in 2017 was given the appointment of managing the Northern Ireland's Under 21 International team before becoming full-time manager of the men's national side.

 


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