Club historian John Staff turns the clock back a century to continue a new series reporting on the 1921-22 Midland League season.
CAPTIONS: Whittingham, scorer either side of Christmas, and Meredith, whose goal made the score 4-1.
The taste of a victory in any sport is tangible, not only for the participants, but also the supporters. 100 years ago, during the 1921-22 season, Scunthorpe United had experienced some lean times during November, and on into December. A string of matches had all ended in defeat, both in the Midland League and in cup competitions. But in their last game, at the Old Show Ground, the Nuts had enjoyed the fruits of a 3-1 success over Sheffield Wednesday Reserves, their first victory since beating Mansfield Town on October 27th 1921.
On Saturday December 24th 1921, just as Father Christmas was preparing to drop his sacks off down Frodingham Road and on to Ashby High Street via Brumby, the Nuts ran onto the field, ready to face Barnsley Reserves, at the Old Show Ground. Already the teams had enjoyed a cracker of a game at Oakwell, won 3-2 by Barnsley, but this time it was hoped that the Nuts had the impetus, after the Wednesday Reserves game, to change the result on its head.
There had been some interesting news during the week of a new signing, and the board had pushed the boat out to obtain the signature of former Chelsea and International goalscorer, Robert (Bob) Whittingham. He was a big man and played with a swash buckling style, which took no prisoners, but he came at a price in his heavier wage packet. Nevertheless, when a goal is scored, supporters do not think about the bill.
Whittingham was not the only team change from last week, because Richards was out of action, and Betts was starting a long suspension for a red card he received in the match with Notts County Reserves. This resulted in the following representation of the Nuts at kick-off: Wogin, goalkeeper; Ackroyd and Smith, full-backs; Lloyd Duke, Broadhead, half-backs; Meredith, Whittingham, Whitham, Maycock and Chamber, forwards. Barnsley paraded a very strong side, with a number of men of Second Division experience.
The match was played at a fast pace, and was an excellent example of Midland League football, even though the attendance was small, because a number of wives had insisted their husbands accompany them to Woolworths for some last minute Christmas shopping. How cruel! Fifteen minutes into the game, it was the Scunthorpe men that were to score first. Whittingham initiated the move, by pushing the ball to Meredith, whose centre was partly headed away. Whitham gathered the loose ball and passed it side-ways to Maycock for a simple tap in. The focus of the action next went down to the Scunthorpe goal area, where Wainscot, the Barnsley sharp-shooter, drove the ball at the corner of the target. John Wogin dived full length, and although he got a finger to it, he was powerless to prevent Barnsley Reserves equalizing.
Immediately before the interval Barnsley went on the offensive again, but on this occasion the move broke down catastrophically. There was a rapid transfer of the play to the other end of the field, as now Scunthorpe homed in on the visitor’s target. The ball was passed through to Whitham, and the cheers went up from the Old Show Ground supporters, as his close range shot entered the net. At half-time Scunthorpe were good value for a 2-1 advantage.
In the second half Scunthorpe went on the rampage, and showed how to take chances for once. Whittingham demonstrated his exceptional class with a tremendous drive from the corner of the penalty area, after he received the ball via a corner kick, which screamed into the back of the net. Moments later Maycock probably made the game safe with a curious goal, curious because the Barnsley keeper jumped up at him in anticipate of a fierce shot, but in so doing allowed Maycock a gap by the post for an easy shot into the net. Wogin in the Scunthorpe goal preserved the lead with a couple of fine saves. Finally, the result was wrapped in Christmas paper at 4-1, and Father Christmas could be seen guiding his sleigh back along Ashby Road so he could drop the two points down the chimney at the Old Show Ground.
The only reason there was no fixture the following day was because Christmas Day fell on a Sunday, and so on Boxing Day it was back to the Old Show Ground for some more festive cheer for the encounter with the Junior Imps of Lincoln City Reserves. In 1921, Father Christmas did not deliver any replica Scunthorpe United shirts, mainly because the elves did not have the technology. Instead, dads enjoyed a Christmas cigar on the Old Show Ground terraces, as non- participating spectators gasped hopefully for air. When the gladiators entered the arena, it was no surprise that the Nuts selected an unchanged eleven.
Once again, there was a treat for the home supporters, and both teams served up a portion of superb football. Lincoln had early chances, but could not thwart Wogin in United’s goal. Then Whitham was tripped on twenty minutes, as he made into the penalty area on goal, but much to the dismay of the majority of the spectators, Whittingham blazed the opportunity over the bar. At first Scunthorpe and Lindsey looked as though they might have to pay for the miss, as Lemon, the old Scunthorpe player, headed a glorious goal, to give Lincoln the lead.
Before the interval United levelled with a brilliant shot from Meredith, after a long dribble which started out on the right of the park. The applause had hardly died down when Maycock gave the Nuts a half-time lead, but the Lincolnshire Star leaves us guessing, a century later on, as to how it was achieved.
In the second period, Scunthorpe and Lindsey were just as keen to extend their lead, and did so through a ‘clever’ goal by their inspirational forward, Bob Whittingham, who was running the show up front for the Nuts. The final score was settled at another 4-1, when Whitham struck an accurate left foot drive into the bulging net, to conclude the afternoon. All that remained was to prepare to play the young Imps at Sincil Bank 24 hours later. Christmas had proved to be very happy!
IT'S A SCUNTHORPE FACT: In the year 1801, the population of the five villages that make Scunthorpe was as follows: Ashby 192, Brumby 136, Crosby 180, Frodingham 65 and Scunthorpe 169.
IT'S A SCUNTHORPE UNITED FACT: Alex Calvo Garcia, our Spanish legend, played a part in 278 senior games and scored 34 goals, included the famous Wembley winner against Leyton Orient in 1999.