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History

Midland League Duties 1921-22: Contentment in the cup, but a loss in the league

12 January 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: Vic Witham, who scored three of the ten against Holderness, and news of a tough test at Mexborough.

The 1921-22 season started on a high for Scunthorpe United in their Midland League programme. A draw at home to Rotherham County was followed by victories over Hull City Reserves and Wath up Clayfield Road (nowadays Doncaster Road), and another on the road at Nottingham Forest Reserves. There was even brief talk at this early stage in the year that the directors could have found the golden key of a team that could unlock the door to the club’s first Midland League Championship.

In the next few weeks, the war time slogan of ‘careless talk costs lives’ probably applied, because, all of a sudden the points started to dry up and losses at Gainsborough and Barnsley Reserves were hardly compensated for by a point from the 1-1 draw at Wombwell. From the lofty perch towards the top of the table, the Nuts had slipped to halfway down the ladder. However, there was better news of the FA Cup, and a hard fought victory at Retford meant that the next fixture on the calendar was another cup-tie, this time at home to Hull Holderness in the First Qualifying Round of the competition.

One hundred years ago, the match was scheduled on Saturday October 8th 1921, and to be frank, an easy afternoon was anticipated by the club. The Football Association insisted that Midland League clubs were required to take part in the competition from the Preliminary Round, and put into regionalised sections. The early rounds were no contest for the likes of Scunthorpe United and Gainsborough Trinity, who usually strolled through the qualifiers until they met each other. Therefore only one team from the district had the chance to make the First Round Proper for a league team, and the plum tie that brought the record attendances. Generally the public failed to turn up for these easy, one sided cup-ties.

At kick-off, the gate at the Old Show Ground was only small, but this was attributed to a 3.15pm start, instead of the expect time of 3.30pm. In order to make sure there was no FA Cup upset at Scunthorpe, the directors were able to field a full strength team. Had they not done so, a hefty fine could have been imposed by the powers at the FA. With this in mind, Scunthorpe stood toe to toe with Holderness with the following team: Bates, goalkeeper; Ackroyd and Betts, fullbacks; Richards, Brandon and Lloyd, halfbacks; Meredith, Gibson, Calthorpe, Witham and Maycock.

Hull Holderness had made their way through the Preliminary Round by virtue of a close fought victory over the Zebras of nearby Brigg Town, but reports suggested that Brigg did everything but murder their opponents, who stuck away a cheeky goal for an unlikely winner. At Scunthorpe, straight from the kick-off, the Yorkshire visitors proved to be no match for the rampant Nuts, who set a record for themselves under the guise of ‘Scunthorpe and Lindsey United’ of an incredible 10-0 score line. Such was the state of play that Bates, in the Scunthorpe goal, could have gone down the road to the Britannia for a pint of Barnsley Best Bitter, and nobody would have noticed. It must be stressed that the Hull team did their utmost to provide a professional challenge, and no disrespect is intended to their valiant efforts. Newspaper headlines of the day included ‘Holderness Routed’ and ‘Goals Galore, Scunthorpe in Merry Mood’.

For the record Scunthorpe and Lindsey were 3-0 up at half time, and the goals were attributed to Calthorpe (4), Whitham (3), Richards (2) and Maycock. The reward for the day was a Second Qualifying Round tie with Brodsworth Colliery, the team the Nuts needed a Second Replay to beat, at the Third Qualifying Round of the competition just eleven months earlier.

Following this cup-tie stroll in the park was the challenge of a visit to Mexborough in South Yorkshire to play a Midland League fixture. It was no surprise that the Nuts should select an unchanged team, especially with everyone having recovered by the next Saturday. By chance this was the fourth consecutive away match, and if Hull Holderness could not provide an opponent, then Mexborough certainly were. It may have been ironic, but this would prove to be only the second success the Yorkshire had experienced that season, and whilst Scunthorpe could not be denied in the Cup, seven days later their performance was best described as lethargic.

Reports of the day said the team was never dangerous, and they could only count on three shots throughout the afternoon. The Mexborough defenders had a firm grip on the situation, and once the home club took the lead on the half hour from the penalty spot, the points appeared to be slipping away from the Nuts. A second goal shortly after the break confirmed this prediction, and the Scunthorpe camp could not grumble at the 2-0 loss. It was yet another setback, but a chance to put matter right in one week’s time, when Mansfield would be heading toward the Old Show Ground.

However, there was an unexpected bonus for the directors. United had been scheduled to play a Monday afternoon game at Millmoor against Rotherham County Reserves, in the return fixture of the Midland League. The original match was postponed in favour of Scunthorpe United meeting Retford Town in the FA Cup, which took priority. The new date of the fixture was widely advertised, and the club prepared for the re-arranged match on the first Monday of October 1921.

Two days before the team was due to travel, just when the club was returning from the away defeat at Barnsley, the news was received that their game had been postponed, by order of the Football Association, because Rotherham County’s Millmoor ground was required for a First Qualifying Round, Second Replay between Rossington and Birdwell, which was a top priority. As it happens, all clouds have a silver lining, and as compensation, Scunthorpe and Lindsey United could expect a cheque for £20 in the post over the next few days.

The schedule for both clubs was such that no date for the fixture would be set in the near future. Indeed, United did not make the return until February 27th 1922, by which time the £20 dividend was well and truly spent!

IT'S A SCUNTHORPE FACT: The Scunthorpe Central Library was once situated on Market Hill, opposite the market itself.

IT'S A SCUNTHORPE UNITED FACT: The first Scunthorpe United player-manager of the Football League era was former Busby Babe, Freddie Goodwin, who was in charge from November 1964 until December 1965, when he left to manage in America.

 


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