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History

Midland League Duties 1921-22: Down to earth with a bump

5 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.

CAPTION: A Cup-tie cartoon for the Retford encounter, and the headline of the 2-1 away result.

One hundred years ago, Scunthorpe and Lindsey United had sprinted up the Midland League table in September, with four matches producing some encouraging results. Nobody grumbled at a start that had produced a drawn result, followed by three consecutive wins. A draw at home to Rotherham County Reserves was followed by victories at the Old Show Ground against Wath and Hull City Reserves, and another on travels to Nottingham, in conflict with the Forest second eleven.

Unfortunately, the last two matches, played in the previous seven days, did not bring results that had been wished for. In particular, the 3-0 defeat at the hands of Gainsborough Trinity was damaging, because, to be quite frank, the team was in the main, second best. A little bit of pride was restored at Wombwell a few days later, when the team salvaged a 1-1 draw from an entertaining and evenly balanced encounter. On the other hand, the Nuts had banked eight Midland League points, and occupied a position in the upper section of the table. Plenty of other clubs only could dream of these returns.

Having analysed all the pros and cons of the story so far, thoughts turned away from the Midland League and towards the FA Cup, which was just as important a cash opportunity for successful clubs to pay their bills. Scunthorpe and Lindsey United were of a status that they could expect to compete from the Preliminary Round, and their black numbered ball came out immediately after that of Retford Town, a club of a lower ranked League in Nottinghamshire than Scunthorpe.

The pundits of the time backed Scunthorpe United to make progress, but there is many a slip between cup and lip, and so the Nuts had to be at their best to continue in the competition. 100 years ago all FA Cup rounds for all clubs started on the same day, unless there was a good enough reason as to why not, such as unfavourable weather or pitch conditions. On September 24th, 1922 Scunthorpe United lined up ready for battle. The only absentee from cup duty was Broadhead, who did not make it to the game against Wombwell, so Calthorpe, once again, deputised, and United lined up as follows: Bates in goal; Ackroyd and Betts, fullbacks; Richards, Brandon and Lloyd, midfield: Meredith, Gibson, Calthorpe, Whitham and Maycock, forwards.

Retford Town were usually viewed by around 1,000 spectators on a normal Saturday, but the romance of the FA Cup, and the attraction of Midland League visitors, assisted to double the attendance, with more than 2,000 supporters passing through the turnstile. At 3pm, the players ran onto the ground, met by a tremendous roar of approval made by this body of enthusiastic fanatics. Favours of claret and blue were in evidence in all corners of the terraces, and after a toss of the coin, and a shake of the captain’s hands, the official in the black shirt whistled the tie into action.

Once underway, a keen tussle ensued, and the difference in league class meant for nothing, as the team found their own levels. Both teams created chances, and both teams gave not an inch. Tackles were hard and furious, as each set of players looked to gain the advantage. Despite there being little in the tie, it was the home team that went into the interval with a one goal lead, scored by the Retford hot shot, who was named Wotton.

In the second 45 minutes it was the Nuts that showed their Midland League finesse, and put the Retford lads under severe pressure. It was reckoned to be a ding-dong second half, and the man that was too hot to handle was the Scunthorpe number nine, Calthorpe. He had a blinding game, and scored shortly after the restart to equalise the score. Then as the game came to a climax it was Calthorpe who forced an error from his fullback, who unfortunately assisted the fierce shot into the back of the net, whilst attempting a clearance.

When the final whistle blasted, United had the 2-1 advantage, and were safely into the hat for the First Qualifying Round. Credit needed to be paid, though, to a gallant Retford Town side, that had given everything in a full blooded FA Cup tie.

And so the passage of seven short days brought Scunthorpe and Lindsey United into focus with yet another task, and that was the 50 mile journey to Barnsley to play the Collier’s Reserve side. The Yorkshiremen had produced some wonderful footballers over the years and had won the coveted FA Cup in 1912, and 100 years ago a visit to Oakwell was always an interesting one. However, despite the fine weather, only a small crowd was on hand to see an unchanged Scunthorpe eleven rush onto the field on October 1st, 1921.

The game stated at a fierce pace, with plenty of action to thrill the isolated pockets of spectators. Both teams produced plenty of chances, but initially the defenders held the upper hand. Finally, as the first half wore on, it was Barnsley who made the breakthrough, and when Turner beat Ackroyd on the right wing, it allowed the player the room to shoot low and hard into the bottom corner of the net.

Before the interval tea break Scunthorpe drew level. The goal came when Witham charged down a clearance from the Barnsley goalkeeper, named Thorpe, and the ball was found heading purposefully into the unguarded net. In doing his dangerous deed, Whitham, a former Barnsley player, was injured, but continued after treatment.

In the second period the play was just as frantic, but Barnsley were the men having the greater share of the chances. They took the lead for the second time, and it was again the danger of Turner who instigated the move. Out on the Barnsley left, the Barnsley man harried both Richards and Ackroyd, the later tried to back-heel the ball out of his path. The ploy did not work, and as Turner forced the ball forward, Richards only succeeded in put the ball into his own net. It was an action in which Scunthorpe conjured their own undoing to a greater extent.

Scunthorpe now agitated to find a second equalizer. They pressed up field with intent, and received their reward when Maycock shot a tremendous drive which thundered onto the crossbar, and with the Barnsley keeper stranded, Gibson ran through and pushed the ball home. Barnsley protested that he had handled, but after the referee consulted his linesman, the goal was allowed to stand.

In the dying embers of the game each side ran hard at their opponent for the winning goal, and it was the home side that struck the final blow late in the day. Turner being the destroyer, although this time it was the visiting players appealing to the referee, asking for an offside decision. The game was lost at 3-2, but it had been a wonderful effort from the Nuts, and had a meaningful penalty shout been given, the score might had been more forgiving.

IT'S A SCUNTHORPE FACT: The Plowright Theatre in Scunthorpe was built in 1958 as the Scunthorpe Civic Theatre.

IT'S A SCUNTHORPE UNITED FACT: Scunthorpe United have made the Fifth Round of the FA Cup on two occasions, facing Liverpool at home in 1958 and Swindon Town away in 1970.

 


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