CHAPTER NINE – THE BALL WAS STARTED BY THE LUTON MEN
Page 1 – The Fox Public House
Page 2 – The first Luton Town F.C. game
Page 3 – J.C. Lomax and E.H. Lomax photograph
Page 4 – Luton Town v St. Albans
Page 5 – Luton Town v Hitchin and Hemel Hempstead
Page 6 – Luton Town v Wheathampstead
Page 9 – Luton Town v Marlow, F.A. Cup first round.
Page 10 – The attitude of newspapers
Page 11 – Luton Wanderers v Chesham, F.A. Cup first round.
Page 12 – Luton Town v Notts County
Page 13 – Wanderers crushed, and crushed again.
Page 14 – Luton Town v St. Neots
If you want to follow the Luton Town reports only, these are marked with the pink and dark blue kit.
For those of you who are reading this chapter is isolation, I should explain that Luton Wanderers changed their name to Luton Town in January 1885. The local newspapers generally described them as “Luton Town (late Wanderers)” and we will continue to follow them and local football. Reports, which are reproduced exactly, are from the Luton Reporter unless otherwise stated. Comments in square brackets within reports are mine.
The 19th September saw Luton Town (late Wanderers) make an early start to the season by travelling to St Albans;
“an opening has been made in the winter’s game. The above match was played at St. Albans on Saturday. The Luton team was not so strong as last season, being without the services of the brothers Lomax and Deacon. Nevertheless, although the St. Albans men were much the stronger of the two, the Lutonians played pluckily, and finally came off the victors by two goals to nil”.
On 26th September Park Rovers played one of the newcomers, Rangers. It ended 0 0 and was played at People’s Park. We have the Rovers team that day;
Goal, Patrick; backs, H. Hucklesby (captain) and Worboys; half backs, Swain, H Palmer and A. Perry; forwards – F. Whitby, J. Coleman (left wing), H. Whitby (centre), B. Worboys, Bird (left wing). The new boys Rangers lined up; Goal, T Brightman; backs, F. Horwood and A. Barrett; half backs, G. Howard, Hopkins and A. Fensome; forwards, A. Spacey, A Loomes (left wing), F. Rumbles (centre), G Peck and J. Northwood (right wing).
Goals were in short supply that weekend as Luton Albany also drew 0 0 with another newcomer, Frontier. The match was played on the Moor.
We have seen all the preparations made for the new Luton Town season apart from the dressing rooms. There is no conclusive evidence that there were any structures on the Dallow Lane meadows at this time. There certainly were no dressing rooms so the club approached the landlord of The Fox public house which was opposite Dallow Lane. Rooms in the pub were rented for the teams and would first be used on 3rd October against Higham Ferrers.
In 1794 the Fox (above) was described thus;
“In Dunstable Road, about a mile from Luton. Here was an annual fair called “Fox Fair,” noted for its buns, called “Wigs.” Till the middle of the last century (19th) it was esteemed as a pleasant country walk after church on Sunday to visit this place for refreshment. On its signboard there were the lines:
“I am a fox you plainly see,
There can be no harm found in me,
For Lawrence Clarke hath set me here
To let you know he sells good beer.”
On the morning of the 3rd October 1885, the Luton Town players, committee and supporters-to-be, must have been anxious about the first game. We all have our thoughts before the first game of the season when all teams are equal and optimistic and pessimistic fans chat about the future. But this was the dawn of a new age, a new club, besides a new season. What were the thoughts of the people of Luton on this day? The questions for them were many.
Would fans turn up and pay to watch? How many would stick to the Wanderers and ignore Luton Town? Or support both? How would Excelsior fans react to the extinction of their club? How good was the Luton Town team? There had not been any games against first rank teams except Wanderers game against the Old Etonians which they lost. The team was untested. Was there greatness in the ranks? Would the club remain a second or third rank team and achieve little like many of its neighbours? A bad start on the field and the club may not be able to attract some of the better players in the town and region to come and play for them. However, Luton Town had an edge off the field. The Lomax brothers were highly esteemed young men, good players and possessed the social skills required to persuade players to trial with Luton. J.C. Lomax was on the committee of the regional F.A. and both brothers had played in representative games.
The Luton Town players had a great burden on their shoulders. The town had waited a long time for a football club to represent it. Now they had it. The lads who played for Wanderers, Excelsior, Rovers, Albany etc, would now be representing the town of Luton. They would be under scrutiny during matches and there would be talk about them in newspaper reports, factories, pubs, churches and over the garden fence. These were ordinary men who were working five and a half days a week then playing unpaid for the Town Club. Most of us are affected by criticism to some degree. A mistake on the pitch for the Town Club and the whole town would soon know about it. Praise too can have an equally detrimental affect. Heaps of praise can be difficult to handle with the pressure and expectation it creates. How would the players cope with this scrutiny? We must take all these factors into account when making any judgment.
There was not a team manager or coach as there is today. It was the committee who picked the team. According to the minutes of the committee meeting on 29th September, the team was “duly elected by ballot in the usual way”. There were just 5 committee members present but we do not know if any of the absent members made their views known. Three of the committee members, Knowles, Small and George Deacon would play in the first game.
There is a legend that there was an agreement between the former Excelsior and Wanderers men that six from one team and five from the other would play. I discussed this in Chapter 6 and concluded that it was highly improbable that such an agreement could work. This first game would see eight former Wanderers players and three from Excelsior were in the team. This is conclusive evidence that there was no such agreement between the old Excelsior and Wanderers men about who should play. Such an agreement would go against the spirit of the 11th April meeting and J.C. Lomax’s vision of giving everybody a chance and developing the youth players.
Luton Town v Higham Ferrers. The match kicked off at 3.30 pm.
“This match was played in the Dallow-lane on Saturday afternoon, and resulted after a good game in a win for the Luton team by three goals to nil. The ball was started by the Luton men, who after about a quarter of an hour’s play succeeded in scoring one goal by J.C. Lomax. The strangers appeared very weak in the backers, but in the forwards played very well, passing the ball splendidly. During the second half the home team pressed their opponents very closely, and succeeded in scoring two goals (J.C. Lomax and A. Deacon). Teams:- Luton: Goal – G. Long. Backs – J.G. Hunt and W. Martin. Half Backs – E.H. Lomax, T. Brooks [Knowles] and T. Lawrence. Forwards – A. Deacon and G.H. Small (right wing), W. Barrett (centre), J.C. Lomax and G. Deacon (left wing). Higham Ferrers: Goal – W. Miller. Backs – Bateman and Willmot. Half backs – Knight, Groom and Mason. Forwards – Horrell and Folk (right wing), Parker (centre), Davy and Draper (left wing).”
W. Martin has never appeared before anywhere in the records. It could be that W. was his middle initial, or, it is wrong and this is the former Wanderers player, A. Martin. Note the use of “the ball was started” in place of “kick off.”
The Luton Times has a mere two lines in a small column which adds nothing. This report at least carries the names of the players. The early reports do not give us some of the detailed information that we long for, the colours of the kits, the crowd numbers and often we are not given the goal scorers. The reports were usually prepared by the Club Secretary or his assistant and sent to the newspaper. It was not guaranteed that the newspaper would publish it at all. Often it was edited down and valuable information is lost to us.
It was appropriate that J.C. Lomax scored the very first Luton Town goal. 21 year old John Charles Lomax, known as “Charlie’” was the quiet, mild mannered star player. A small, tricky winger he first came to attention in the St. John’s College team. He was spotted by Excelsior and Wanderers and asked to play for both. He, above anyone else, had helped raise the standard and profile of football in the town. He had played for the county and in a number of representative matches. He had become the reluctant voice of football in Luton and the driving force behind the formation of Luton Town Football Club. He was a keen sportsman playing rugby and he turned out for Luton Town Cricket Club and other clubs. He was also a leading figure on the committee of the local football association, the East Midlands Counties Football Association (E.M.C.F.A.). He was ably supported by his 19 year old brother, Ernest Herbert Lomax, the solid half-back who had also represented the county. E.H. had stepped in to help with the role of Secretary when Frank Pitkin resigned. As he was studying for his B.A. at Peterhouse, Cambridge, this was a remarkable achievement. Without his intervention the situation could have become desperate as the club could not function without a competent Secretary to arrange all aspects of the fixtures.
I am indebted to Dr. Philip Pattenden, Peterhouse, Cambridge University for his kind help in locating an image of the Lomax brothers. This is the first time the brothers’ image has been published. It is the “Peterhouse Association Football Team Autumn Term 1886” and is reproduced by courtesy of the Master and fellows of Peterhouse.
J.C. Lomax is seated with the ball. E.H. Lomax is seated far right as you look at the photo. Another St. John’s College footballer, George William Beldam is seated cross legged at the front and was an accomplished cricketer.
The full legend is as follows;
Back row – Wilson Butler. Robert Theophilus Jones, Gildart Arthur Jackson, Foss Westcott.
Middle row – Arthur Forbes Macfarlane Wilson, John Samuel Brown. John Charles Lomax (captain), Percy Temple Phillips Knott, Ernest Herbert Lomax.
Front row – William Arthur Lindsay, George William Beldam.
None of the players are wearing shinpads and Knott is wearing shoes so my initial thoughts are that the photo was not taken before or after a match. J.C. also appears to be wearing shoes (without laces!) and he is the only player without a cap (he did head the ball unlike some players at this time). Note the “bars” on the sole of E.H.’s boot which were an alternative to studs. E.H. looks very much like his younger brother, D.A.N. Lomax (see the biographies button).
The leg wear worn by Knott is intriguing. I have read about players wearing rubber leggings in an attempt to ward off injury but I have not seen any hard evidence that this occurred. The rubber leggings must have been similar to tights (rather than the thicker rubber suit worn by divers) to enable unrestricted movement. Knott’s leg wear appears to be woollen. It may be that they were designed to prevent pulled muscles similar to cycle shorts today. Why bother to wear them for a casual photo though? The shoes worn by two players could indicate that the photographer was ready and impatient to take the photo but the players were not quite ready but turned up as they were.
Most of the players have button down collars and Westcott (back row, right) has an extra row of buttons on his shirt. Westcott and Knott appear to have new shirts as they are slightly darker than the others. The College uses two sets of colours. Sporting teams, at least in living memory, are usually blue and white, which goes back to the first boat on the river in the 1820s or so, when the cox happened to have a blue and white handkerchief in his top pocket. The College arms are red and gold, so red and yellow colours are used sometimes. As the photo is sepia, it is difficult to tell what colours the shirts are.
Interlude – Foss Westcott, back row, right with the heavenly expression, would become Bishop of Chota Nagpur from 1905 to 1919. He went on to become Bishop of Calcutta and Metropolitan of India from 1919 to 1945.
Luton Town (late Wanderers) travelled to play Hemel Hempstead at Boxmoor on 3 October. It ended 0 0. The team that day was;
Goal – F. Hill; backs, G. Humphrey and H. Firman; half-backs – G Bennett, T.R. Hughes and L. Abrahams; forwards, G. Smith, W. Holdstock, W. Garrett, R. Ellingham and H. Kemp.
We have some new names in the Wanderers team as they had lost so many to the new Luton Town. But where was Herbert Spratley? After steering the Wanderers into a collision course with most football lovers in Luton and splitting his club in two, he decided to play for Dunstable against Luton Rovers. His new team was soundly beaten 3 0.
The Rovers team was; Goal, H. Warboys; backs, H. Hucklesby and J. Bird; half backs, F. Mooring, W. Day and W. Bird; forwards, J. Coleman, F. Whitby (right wing), W. Smith (centre), H. Lowe and E. Buckley (left wing).
Whether it was coincidence or inspired by the formation of Luton Town, the interest in football grew rapidly. Two new teams played on the Moor this weekend; Alexandria and White Star drew 3 3. Frontier continued a solid if unspectacular start with another 0 0 draw on the Moor against Victoria. The Luton Reporter says that;
“both teams played well and credit is due to S. Arnold and E. Webb of the Frontier, and also to R. Mildman, goal keeper, who showed good judgment. The most conspicuous players for Victoria were W. Miller and A.E. Saunders (of the Albany FC)”
I assume that Victoria were short of players and Miller and Sanders volunteered to play for them.
Albany played Rangers, on the Moor, that same day. Rangers won 1 0 through an own goal.
There was a specially convened meeting of the committee in the evening of 3rd October at the Alexandra Coffee Tavern to elect the teams to play against St. Albans, Boxmoor and Hitchin.
A further Committee meeting was held during the week and
“upon the motion of Mr John Long seconded by Mr T.C. Brown it was ordered that in as much as Mr H.G. Spratley had neglected to attend the meetings of the committee and also to the welfare of the club generally that he be written to with a view to his resignation and in the event of no reply then the committee at their next meeting or as soon as convenient, have power to appoint another gentleman in his stead”.
A long and cumbersome sentence but clearly they had had enough of Mr Spratley. Not only had he stopped attending committee meetings and sharing his burden of duties, he was playing his football for Dunstable.
The duties they refer to are vital to the running of the club. Although Ernest Lomax was arranging the matches, someone had to run around the town to tell the players that they were playing and what the match arrangements were. Members of the committee manned the gate to take the admission money if they were not playing. The goal had to be put up, the rope put round the pitch and footboards set out for spectators to stand on if it was muddy. Then there would have been duties at the changing rooms before and after the game. Also a committee member was elected to be umpire in games and referee at home matches.
The following weekend Luton Town played their second game in Dallow Lane against St Albans.
“The clubs met on the ground of the former in Dallow Lane on Saturday afternoon. Owing to the tardy arrival of the St. Albans men, it was not until considerably after the advertised time that the ball was kicked off. The rain which had fallen in the earlier part of the day had made the ground wet and slippery. The game which was witnessed by a considerable gathering of spectators, proved by no means an exciting one, notwithstanding that the teams were pretty evenly balanced. For the first ten minutes of play of a give and take character, neither side showing the least superiority. About the middle of the first half, however, the ball was brought well up to the St. Albans goal and G. Deacon by clever cut managed to pass it through. Thereafter the game resumed its uneventful character. It was relieved by a splendid run which C. Lomax made up the left side, with the leather at his foot all the way, but the shot he made for goal had to be delivered too suddenly to allow time for calculation. The ball was speedily at the other end of the field threatening the home citadel, but a minute or so afterwards it was again back in the St. Albans territory, and when about thirty yards from goal, Martin made a splendid shot, just over-topping the bar by about a foot. Ends were changed soon thereafter. In the second half the play became somewhat faster, but it was impossible to yet forecast the result. The ball continued to travel all over the field, the scene of battle lying now in front of one fortress and then in close proximity to the other. The strangers’ goal was, however, several times rather hotly besieged and it was only by the watchfulness of the keeper that it was saved. Many bits of brilliant play took place during this period, but such was the equality of the teams that the effect of these were speedily neutralised. Shortly before time, the Luton men got the ball once more up into their opponents ground and, after some hot work it was sent through the posts, but the point was disputed on the ground of offside, and the umpires disallowing it. The match ended soon afterwards, the home team winning by one goal to none. Teams:- Luton Town, Goal – G. Long. Backs – J.G. Hunt and A. Martin. Half backs – E.H. Lomax, T. Lawrence and W. Barrett. Forwards – W. Ealing, G.H. Small (right wing), A Deacon (centre), G. Deacon and J.C. Lomax (left wing). St. Albans:- Goal – E. Selby. Backs – Rev. F.C. Marshall and A. Tooms. Half backs – W.A. Sargent, A. Smith and J. Villiers. forwards – P.O. Ashby (centre), E. Halsey and W. Hatch (right wing), S. Bullock (Bedford) and J.E. Jones (Bedford) (left wing).”
Besides the two Bedford men in the St. Albans team there are also two Watford Rovers men, E. Halsey and W.A. Sargent. The latter was one of the three Sargent brothers.
Herbert Spratley played for Dunstable at St. Albans and endured a seven one defeat. This must have been St. Albans second team as the first team lost at Luton Town. Wanderers lost three nil at Bedford for whom A. Taylor played. The Luton Times reported that
“The home team were too strong for their opponents and had the best of luck, finally winning a very pleasant and fast game by 3 goals (kicked by A. Taylor) to nil.”
A month later A. Taylor would play for Luton Town against one of the football giants, Notts County.
The Wanderers second eleven beat Bedford’s second eleven 3 0 in Dallow Lane. They announced a meeting at St.Matthews schoolroom, Havelock Road on Monday 12th October to elect committee men in place of those who had resigned.
The Committee meeting on 13th October was attended by Mr Spratley and seven other members. Mr Spratley had received the letter from the Secretary and informed the meeting that his absence was due to illness and other unavoidable causes. The unavoidable causes he mentions must have been his duties as Secretary of the Wanderers and playing for them and Dunstable. He was given yet another chance by the committee as they resolved that;
“upon his promise to attend more regularly to the duties devolving on the committee that he be and shall continue a member of the same”.
The other item on the agenda was that a
“box or hut be made for the convenience of members of the committee at the entrance to our meadow in Dallow Lane”.
Presumably the gatemen had got cold and wet taking the admission money so required some shelter. The first structure belonging to the club was what sounds like a sentry box.
The 17th October saw three wins out of three for Luton Town with a 3 1 victory over Hitchin in Dallow Lane.
“The Hitchin team was very late in showing up and it was not started until about a quarter past four that the game was started from the centre by P.H. Bower (St. Neots). Nothing of importance took place during the first quarter of an hour, until a splendid run was made by G. Deacon, who succeeded in placing the ball between the posts for the first time. This put more life into the game, as may be seen from the fact that in a very few minutes, from a side kick by Lawrence, the ball was again sent between the posts. After half-time the ball was again started by Ellingham. No advantage was gained by the Hitchin men, such, however, was not the case with the home team, as owing to some first rate play by both Deacons, Small and Ellingham the ball was again sent through the strangers’ goal. The Hitchin men, realising the position of matters then set to work with great determination and it was with great difficulty that Brown, the Luton goal keeper saved his charge from one or two shots from Bower. The latter, however, managed about a quarter of an hour before the call of time to send the ball through the posts of the home goal. Nothing further was scored, and the match soon ended, the home team winning by 3 goals to 1. It might be added that through some unavoidable cause, the brothers Lomax were unable to take part in the match, otherwise the home team would have been very much stronger. The following is the home team; Goal – T.C. Brown. Backs – W. Martin and J.G. Hunt. Half backs – T. Lawrence, T.B. Knowles and Wm Fisher. Forwards – G. Deacon, A. Deacon, E. Ellingham, H. Walsh and G.H. Small.”
Of the new players, Fisher was an Excelsior player but Walsh is a mystery. There is a “Walsh” who was a forward in the Luton Rovers 15 team in 1880. Apart from that there are no other clues as to his origin. The Hitchin goal scorer, Bower, would be signed by Luton Town at the end of the season thus proving that signing players who have a good game against you is nothing new.
The Luton Town second team suffered defeat at Boxmoor at the hands of Hemel Hempstead.
“This match was played on Saturday at Boxmoor. The visitors were not so strongly represented as was expected owing to several members declining to play at the last moment. However, they managed to make a game of it, although their opponents were prepared (so it is said) to meet the strongest team Luton Town Club could produce. As the result of the match was in favour of Hempstead by one goal to nil, there is little doubt that had they sent their best eleven the tables would have been turned. The game throughout was not of the fastest character”.
An announcement in the Luton Reporter read as follows –
“Town Club – Practice for members in the Club Meadow, Dallow Lane on Mondays and Wednesdays at 3pm”.
This is one of the very few mentions of practice that we will come across. We saw in Chapter 8 that Lord Kinnaird had encouraged practice and consistent team selection in his 1879 letter. Only by doing so would combination play work and the outdated dribbling game be varied. The time was changing for the old fashioned head down dribbler. The combination game encouraged players to stick to the formation and pass to each other. Practice would help the two wingers get to know each other’s game and develop a couple of tricks to get past opponents. Full backs would stand a better chance of springing the offside trap if they had an understanding and practiced regularly. As we have already seen, practice was difficult for the working man. Monday and Wednesday afternoon relies on the players to get time off work. Any players from out of town would have severe difficulty in attending and would incur travel expenses.
More new players were to play in the next game Luton Town game against Wheathampstead on Monday 19th October.
“A team of the Luton Town club journeyed to Wheathampstead on Monday to engage the local club. The game proved very one sided, the Luton team winning by four goals to one. It must be taken into consideration that the Wheathampstead club has not long been formed, but with such a good captain as the Rev. F. Marshall they ought to show good form. The Luton team was as follows:- Goal, Humphrey; backs, Martin and Sanders; half-backs, F. Scott, A Kershaw and G. Deacon; forwards, E. Ellingham, W. Eling, W. Smith, G. H. Small and Miller.”
Sanders and Miller are Albany players. Albert Sanders was still playing for Luton Town in 1892 and Walter Miller until 1890. Also we see W. Smith in the team whose name has appeared in the ranks of Wanderers, Excelsior and Luton Rovers. They are probably only in the team because the Lomax brothers are absent. They may have been in the second eleven for the first few matches and were promoted for this game. A. Kershaw is a mystery as there is no trace of him before or after this game.
The selection of Sanders and Miller finally dispels the myth of an agreement to field five and six Excelsior and Wanderers players in the team. This selection also confirms J.C. Lomax’s 11th April vision that Luton Town “would give more scope to find out who were really the best players to play in the town matches: it would give them more opportunity of showing what they were as football players; and it would form a good club for the training of young players, who could thus work up to play in the town matches.”
Luton Town (late Wanderers) beat Park/Luton Rovers 3 1 at Dallow Lane on the 17th October. Until now Luton Town (late Wanderers) had been described thus in the newspapers. However, it seems they could not enter the F.A. Cup as Luton Town. The Luton Reporter announces under the title
“The English Football Association Challenge Cup Competition” that “A match in the first branch of the above competition will be played in the Dallow Lane, Luton on Saturday next, the 31st October commencing at 3.30. The contending teams being Luton Wanderers and Chesham. Team – Goal – T. Veale, Backs – J. Clarke, J. Smith, Half Backs – H.G. Spratley, J. Bennett, W, Garrett. Forwards – W. Smith, G Smith, R. Ellingham, A Worboys and W. Davis.”
Was there a groan of “Oh no, not the Ruffians” when the draw against Chesham was announced? (See Chapter 5.7 for Ruffianism).
Herbert Spratley is back with his old team in spite of his brush with the Luton Town committee. The committee met on 20th October and their anger jumps out of the pages of the minute book.
“The conduct of Mr H.G. Spratley having been considered by the committee that he being a member of the same had failed to carry out the duties connected therewith in a satisfactory manner. It was resolved that the secretary do at once advertise in both local papers that a general meeting of the members of the club be held at the Alexandra Coffee Tavern on Saturday next at 7 o’clock to transact important business”.
There is no mention in the newspapers of the Luton Town game against Grove House that is on the fixture list for the 24th October.
The major game the weekend was played at Rushden Cricket Ground. It is perhaps the best newspaper report we have come across so far.
“East Midlands Counties Association. A trial match in connection with this Association was played at Rushden, Northamptonshire on Saturday last on the ground of the Rushden Cricket Club. It had been announced as a match between the counties of Northampton and Rutland v Beds. and Hunts., but the players in the latter team were all from Beds., nine out of the eleven being Luton men. Very complete arrangements had been made by the gentleman who arranged the match – Mr Claridge, of Rushden, taking a prominent part – and on arriving at Wellingborough the Luton men, who had been joined by the remaining two players at Bedford, were conveyed with their opponents in a brake to Rushden. Here a large assembly room was kindly reserved for dressing, and the players were conveyed to the field by the brake. Rain had been falling heavily during the whole of the journey from Wellingborough to Rushden, and this continued all through the match. It may be readily imagined that the ground was rendered unpleasantly slippery, and many were the falls during the afternoon; in fact the whole of the players were in a more or less bespattered condition at the close. The Beds. men had to play uphill during the first half, and their opponents consequently scored rapidly. Soon after the start a goal was kicked, and the home team followed up the success by adding four more points to their score during the first half. With the ground in the favour it was thought the visitors would make a better show, but this did not prove to be the case, for the Northants and Rutland men scored four more goals, while the Beds. men were unable to obtain a single point. The game thus ended in a victory for the home team by nine goals to nil. The Rutland and Northants. team played capitally, their men being well together, while their passing was admirable. Some of their “shots” at goal were really cleverly managed. A.G. Henfrey (Wellingborough Grammar School) especially distinguished himself in this respect. It is, perhaps somewhat unfair to single out any individual player when all played so well, but a special word of praise is due to A. Panter (of Finedon) for his admirable play among the half-backs. The play of the Beds. team was sadly disappointing; they did not seem “on the ball” – to use a technical phrase – nor did they play at all in concert. Several good chances of scoring were missed in this way. The backs were exceedingly weak, and almost the whole of the work was done by the forwards, E. Buckley, W. Eling and the two Ellinghams working hard all through. Mr Fisher, of Bedford acted as umpire for the Beds. team, and Mr Platt, of Wellingborough Grammar School, for their opponents, while Mr Pretty (Hon. Sec of the E.M.C.F.A.) acted as referee. The following were the teams; Beds and Hunts,- Goal – G. Long – Luton; backs J. Bird (Luton) and T. Read (Luton); Half backs – T. Brook Knowles (Luton) and F. Turvey (Bedford); Forwards – H. Ellingham (Luton) and H.G. Spratley (Luton Wanderers) centre, W. Eling (Luton) and E. Ellingham (Luton) right wing, G.H. Taylor (Bedford) and E. Buckley (Luton) left wing. Northants and Rutland – Goal, G. Mason (Wellingborough Revellers); backs, G. Mackness (Rushden Wanderers) and J. Tunnicliffe (Kettering); half-backs, L.C.R. Thring (Wellingborough Grammar School), and A. Panter (Finedon); forwards, A.G. Henfrey (Wellingborough Grammar School) and F. Coles (Wellingborough Revellers) centre, T.H. Parker (Higham Ferrers) and A. Dayton (Earl’s Barton) right wing, C. Denton (Rushden Wanderers) and A. Smith (Northampton) left wing. After the match a committee meeting of the Association was held at the Coffee-tavern, Rushden, when the chair was taken by Mr Claridge, Rushden Wanderers , and there were also present: Messrs A. Pretty, hon sec., W.C. Thompson, hon treasurer, F. Pitkin, Luton Town, F.W. Hill, Luton Wanderers, W.H. McNamara, Dunstable Town, Fisher, Bedford, Dayton, Earl’s Barton, Parker, Higham Ferrers, Bailey, Finedon, Smith, Northampton, Platt, Wellingborough Grammar School, and R. Coles Wellingborough Revellers. The Dunstable, Rothwell, Thrapston and Geddington teams having been elected to the Association, the election of a team to represent the Association against the London Association on the following Saturday (to-morrow) was proceeded with. The following team was ultimately fixed upon : Goal, Spence, Kettering; backs, Platt and Pretty of Wellingborough Grammar School; half-backs, Panter, Finedon and Cox, Rushden; forwards, Garne and Bower, St. Neots, centre; Challen and Wagstaffe right; Henfrey, Wellingborough Grammar School and Buckley, Luton, left. A reserve team having been nominated, Mr Platt was selected to captain the team, while Mr Scott of Luton was appointed umpire. It was It was decided on the motion of Mr Thompson, seconded by Mr Fisher that the third class railway fare of travelling expenses of all players in trial matches be paid by the E.M.C.F.A.. It was resolved that a match between the Association and Berks. and Bucks. should be played at Wellingborough in February next, and that a committee meeting be held at Luton on December 7th. The hon. sec., Mr Pretty, explained with reference to the proposed challenge cup that only eight clubs had intimated their intention of entering for the competition and that the scheme would therefore fall through. A vote of thanks having been passed to the gentlemen who had drawn up the code of rules fro the proposed competition, a similar compliment to the Chairman concluded the proceedings. The next match in connection with the Association will be played with Cambridgeshire at Kettering on November 28th, while it was suggested that a trial match shall be played at Luton on Boxing-day.”
In local matches Rangers 2nd eleven beat Normandy 6 0 on the Moor, and Luton Albany drew a good game with Park Rovers on the People’s Park.
The committee meeting on the 24th October did not deal with Mr Spratley at all as the notes are headed “re cup tie” referring to the upcoming F.A. Cup tie away to Great Marlow. Mr Spratley did not attend but there were thirteen members present. In addition to the committee just five additional members of the club attended the meeting, Mr J Squires, H. Boxford, J.G. Hunt, J. Bennett and J. Smith. A new assistant secretary was appointed, Mr H.G. Boyce. The business of the cup tie was left to the regular committee meeting the the 27th. It is not recorded what the meeting actually discussed or achieved.
The committee meeting on the Tuesday before the F.A. Cup match with Marlow included additional members presumably because they were willing to take on some of the burden of running the club.
“Letters were received from Mr C. Lomax re cup tie and it was resolved that the secretary write to G.N. Railway superintendent about reduced fare to Marlow. Also that Taylor should be picked in the team to play for that tie”.
J.C. Lomax had asked Taylor to play in Luton earlier in the year having formed a friendship at the East Midland Counties Football Association games. Taylor was more than willing to play for Luton Town and his name was included in the team on J.C. Lomax’s recommendation, the first player to join Luton Town from outside the town.
“After some discussion the following eleven was decided upon
Goal – T. Brown
Backs – Martin and D. Lomax. G Hunt (reserve)
Half backs – Taylor, E. Lomax and T. Lawrence. Barrett (reserve)
Forwards – C. Lomax, G. Small, F. Whitby, G Deacon and A. Deacon. E. Ellingham (reserve).
Umpire Rev. Marshall failing this Mr Winter.
Proposed by Mr Smith and seconded by Mr Squires “that if either half back cannot play, Mr Hunt play back and Mr D. Lomax play half back”.
An amendment was proposed by Mr Pitkin and by Mr Brookes [Knowles] “that next reserves take their part in places noted respectively”.
The amendment was lost as Mr Smith’s proposal carried by 8 votes to 3.
This gives some insight into the way the committee chose the team and discussed tactics. 17 year old D.A.N. Lomax was clearly a very talented young man and highly regarded.
The committee also dealt with the second team’s game against Oakshott and chose the team which was;
“Goal – G. Long
Backs – Hines and Boyce. Hucklesby reserve.
Half Backs – Boxford, Barrett and Brooks. Sanders reserve.
Forwards – E. Ellingham, W. Smith, W. Eling, Wheeler and Fullerton. Miller reserve.
Umpire Mr Bennett.
It was resolved that Messrs C Browne and J. Smith take the gate and that a new ball be purchased.”
The Luton Reporter announced that;
“this cup tie is to be played to-morrow, Saturday at Great Marlow. The team leave Luton by the 10.45 train arriving at Marlow at 1.30. Play is to commence at 3 o’clock. Gentlemen desirous of joining the team to Great Marlow should at once make application to Hon. Sec. 25 Guildford Street, Luton from where all information can be obtained”.
The date is Saturday 31st October 1885 and Luton Town travelled to meet Great Marlow F.C. in the F.A. Cup first round. This was stiff opposition for Luton Town. Great Marlow had been formed in 1870, made a contribution to the purchase of the first F.A. Cup and had reached the semi-final in 1881/82 losing to the eventual winners, the Old Etonians. The Berks and Bucks Cup began in 1878/79 with Reading the first winners. It was a strong football region with Reading, Windsor Phoenix, Maidenhead, Swifts (from Slough), Wolverton, Chesham and later Wycombe Wanderers all competing. Marlow had won the cup in 1881, 1883 and 1885. They would go on to win it in 1886, 1888, 1889, 1890, 1894. 1897, 1899 and 1900. R.A. Lunnon, the Marlow forward, had played in a representative game between the South against the North in January 1885.
The Luton Reporter says;
“This tie in connection with the English Association Challenge Cup was played at Great Marlow on Saturday. Lomax won the toss and Shaw kicked off in the teeth of a strong wind a few minutes after three. For the first five minutes Luton more than held their own, and looked like scoring, but subsequently play progressed very evenly and at half time both goals remained intact. Directly afterwards, H. Walker put in a fine shot, which the goalkeeper muffed, and the ball rolled between the posts. The Marlowvians continued to harass the opposing backs with energy, and after twenty five minutes further play H.Walker brought about the second downfall of the visitors’ uprights, after some fine passing between Bailey and R.A. Lunnon. Two minutes before time Barrett in attempting to stop a shot by Tom Walker sent the leather through his own goal, and Marlow were left victors by three goals to nil. Although the day was a bad one for football some good play was witnessed on both sides. Shaw, Mellett, H.Walker, R. Lunnon, Martin, Small, Whitby, and the brothers Lomax being conspicuous.
-Umpires Messrs T.G. Lunnon and W. Capon. Referee Capt. Foulger. Sides:-
Marlow Goal – F. Plumridge. Backs – F. Spelier and W. Mellett. Half backs – R.H. Lunnon, J.S. Flint and F. Morgan. Forwards – R.A. Lunnon, J Bailey, right wing; T. Walker and H. Walker, left wing; and R. Shaw centre.
Luton Goal – G. Long. Backs – A. Martin and J.G.Hunt. Half backs – E.H. Lomax, captain, T. Lawrence and H. Barrett. Forwards – G Deacon and A. Deacon, right wing; J.C. Lomax and G.H. Small, left wing; and F. Whitby, centre; forwards.”
The South Bucks Free Press of Friday 6th November 1885 reported as follows;
“Luton Town v Marlow. This match took place on the Marlow ground. The home team began with the custody of the Crown goal. Shaw kicked off at 3.10. The play was very even all through the first half of the game. Both sides cheered by the spectators strove hard to gain a point, but in vain. At half-time Marlow had made 4 byes and 2 corners, Luton 5 byes and 2 corners. On ends being changed, and now aided by the wind and hill Luton were soon placed in the defensive and were for the most part kept in a state of siege. At length H. Walker put in a good shot and the first goal was scored, and ere long another goal was kicked by the same player, the ball being passed to him after a fine bit of play by the captain and Bailey. And ere time was called Long Tom put in a good shot which the goal-keeper helped to pass under the tape. Nothing further was done and Marlow were left victorious by 3 goals to none. During the second half Marlow made 19 byes and 3 corners while Luton only made 1 bye. For Marlow, Bailey, H. Walker and captain generally played exceedingly well. The brothers Lomax with Whitby, Martin and Small did good service for Luton.”
The article then sets out the teams.
There was a column entitled “Football Notes” which read as follows;
“The Bucks team (Chesham) which visited Luton came back discomfited, whilst representatives from the same Bedfordshire town succumbed to Marlow; Maidenhead, unlucky in the draw were upset by Brentwood.
Marlow were in fine form, and after half-time never gave Luton a look in, though I am informed their team was a better one than that which drew with the Old Etonians last year in the same competition, and were afterwards only beaten by a small majority. The home backs were stronger than the visitors, Speller and Mallett being especially noticeable, whilst Bailey and Lunnon and the Walker brothers were all there in the front rank. Luton showed a pretty combination in the first half, the brothers Lomax and Small being conspicuous, but they fell off completely in the second half and “George” was lucky in being able to prevent more disasters.
Marlow have a tough job in hand before they get into the next round. I shall anticipate a best “gate” on record on the 21st inst., when the Old Etonians will meet our little riverside neighbour. Marlow were in such form on Saturday that by the 21st when “The Fair” will be forgotten, I shall expect the ever lucky to come off only just second best.”
Marlow would beat Old Etonians 6 1.
It is interesting to see a column devoted to football in the South Bucks Free Press newspaper in 1885. Luton would not enjoy such a treat for many seasons, such was the prejudice against football and the Luton Town Club.
Although well beaten at the end, a goalkeeping error and an own goal conceded in quick succession was unfortunate.
There was a committee meeting on the day of the match which appears to have taken place before the team left Luton. It may have taken place on the train to the game and the notes written up later on. Taylor had sent a telegram to say that he could not play in the match. D.A.N. Lomax was chosen by the committee to replace him but it seems he did not make the team. Frank Whitby of Park/Luton Rovers did play his first game for Luton Town.
The minutes also note that
“Oakshott not being able to muster a team. In place of “Oakshott” match it was decided not to have a scratch game, but to keep the gate closed, so that only members who wished to practice would go in the field”.
The committee also found time to instruct Mr Smith to see Mr Spratley
“to inform him that if the Wanderers liked they could to their benefit keep people off our braeded fence”.
This is a spelling error and should read Braided fence. This is an important clue we have about the meadow in Dallow Lane. Wanderers were at home to Chesham and the Luton Town second eleven would be practising in the same meadow. We can guess that there were a series of pitches on the site as Albany also played at Albany Meadow in Dallow Lane. The minutes mention a gate from Dallow Lane but this was probably a five bar gate. A braided fence can be a semi-permanent hurdle which had stakes at each end. You could peg it into the ground to separate the two pitches. It could be taken up afterwards if necessary. This would be a good solution to keeping a boundary between the two rivals. There would probably have been a high hedge along Dallow Lane which would at least partially obscure the view of the pitches. There might have been a drainage ditch as there is a slope on the site.
Finally, the committee were concerned about the lack of match reports sent to the newspapers.
“It was resolved that Assistant Secretary take reports of matches if he is not working or playing, that some other member take some and hand it in to him, that it may be forwarded to such papers as he thinks fit to include “Sportsman”, “Referee”, “Pastime” and “Field”. Decided that our cards be sent to “Field” and “Sportsman”.
Paul Brown, in his excellent book “the Victorian Miscellany” says the following;
“in the early days of Association Football, newspaper coverage was sparse. “Newspapers, as a whole, took very little notice of matches,” recalled journalist Jimmy Catton. “The reports were brief, and there were none of the personal paragraphs, garrulous items, and more or less sensational news which are now part not only of weekly periodicals, but of morning and evening newspapers.” National dailies virtually ignored football, leaving it to the weeklies such as “Bell’s Life” and the “Athletic News”, and to regional newspapers in prominent football areas. Even then, football would have to vie for column space with other sports such as horse racing, pedestrianism, and quoits. Early match reports were typically submitted by club secretaries, and were formal and perfunctory – and often biased and unreliable. It wasn’t until the boom of the 1880’s that newspapers began to take the game seriously – following the realisation that coverage of popular sport increased sales.”
Luton would see the same pattern of prejudice on a slightly later time line. The number one enemy for football in Luton was politics. Any event of the smallest political nature was lavishly covered by the Luton Times and Luton Reporter. When politics was quiet, then much was devoted to the workings of the council, the Board of Health and religion. Even when it came to sports and pastimes, chess was given precedence ahead of football. But it was deeper than that. Newspapers appeared to simply dislike football as we shall see in future chapters. At this time, they refused to recognise that football sold newspapers. Attacking football achieved little, except to upset the thousands of football lovers in the town.
Meanwhile, the 31st October also saw Wanderers playing at home against the “Ruffians” of Chesham. The Luton Times takes up the story.
“A tie in the first round of the Association Challenge Cup Competition was played off on Saturday, October 31, in the Dallow Lane, Luton, the contending teams being Luton Wanderers and Chesham. It was a miserable day, rain falling the whole of the time. The home team won the toss, and Spratley elected to play up hill the first half and at 3.5 the ball was kicked off by Chesham who sorely oppressed their opponents for the first 20 minutes, as the home team were obliged to start with only ten men. When the team was completed the Wanderers began offensive tactics and the Chesham custodian was obliged to use his hands several times: at last a long shot by G. Smith got by him and Luton scored the first goal. Ellingham a few minutes afterwards added another. When ends were changed, the Wanderers were two goals to the good and soon afterwards by a good piece of passing by the forwards, the leather was shot through by G. Smith thus making the score – Luton Wanderers 3 Chesham nil. The Chesham, now aided by the wind, which was much stronger made repeated onslaught on their opponents citadel, but were unsuccessful until at last Avial sent in a “hot ‘un” which Veal dropped and in his hurry to get it away he turned the ball over before he picked it up and threw it away; Chesham claimed a goal and the referee allowed it. Encouraged by this the visitors now played up hard. and out of a scrimmage in front of the goal the ball was forced through. Each team were now on their mettle, and great efforts were made by Chesham to score, but without avail, a hotly contested game thus ending in a victory for the Luton Wanderers by 3 goals to 2, who have thus entered the second round, and have been drawn against the Old Wykehamists; the match will be played on Nov. 21 and most likely at Luton. The Wanderers, although only 3 men who played in last year’s cup team were playing in this, showed some very good form, and if they play as well on November 21st as they did on Saturday it will be a hard job for the Old Wykehamists to beat them, if they do so at all. The teams were as follows;
Chesham . Goal – F. Webb. Backs – G. Hobbs and C. page. Half backs – E. Beckley, J. Barnes and H. Barnes. Forwards – C.G. Ford (captain), A Caughtry, S. Avial, J. Culverhouse and A. Woods.
Luton Wanderers. Goal – T. Veale. backs – W. Bird and H. Hucklesby. Half backs – H.G. Spratley (captain), G. Bennett and W. Barrett. Forwards – G. Smith, A. Smith, W. Smith, W. Davis and R. Ellingham.
Umpires Messrs E. Ellingham and Hughes. Referee, J. Betham, Hemel Hempstead”.
The Luton Reporter also produced a lengthy report;
“These clubs met on the ground of the former at Dallow Lane on Saturday afternoon having been drawn together in the first round of the English Challenge Cup. The weather was most unfavourable rain falling all the time and the ground was consequently in a wet and pasty condition. The game was opened by the home team, kicking up hill they having the benefit of the wind. The play was far from brilliant, indeed such was impossible under the damping and discouraging conditions that prevailed. Both teams seemed pretty equally matched, the play being pretty much all over the field but before half time the Luton men had managed to secure two goals, those kicks by G. Smith, while the other was got by Ellingham. After ends had been changed the game still retaining its give and take description. Both goals were several times rather hotly besieged, and were only saved by the prompt action of the keepers. When the ball had been for some time in play the home team got it well down the field and Ellingham, with a smart shot, got it between the posts again scoring for his side. Matters were now looking serious for the Chesham players . Shortly after this however, Ayres got a goal for them. The ball rolled in between the posts, and it was said it was over the line before the goal keeper stopped it. The Luton men disputed this, but the Chesham men claimed it, and seeing that neither of the umpires were in a position to decide the point it was ultimately gracefully conceded. Thus encouraged they began to show more spirit and the play became rather faster, and in a few minutes more they had scored again, this time by Culverhouse. The strangers were thus improving their position rapidly. When the leather was set in motion again only nine minutes remained. Both sides, however, rose to the occasion, and these nine minutes saw certainly the best part of the match. The Chesham men made a determined and a most creditable effort to add another point to their score and so make a draw, and several times the ball was so perilously near the Luton posts that it was thought they would attain their object. However, they did not succeed and nothing further being scored the game ended in a win for the home team by 3 goals to 2”.
The two reporters dispute who scored the third Wanderers goal. With no number on the players shirts one had to know the players personally to identify them.
After the ruffianism encountered at Chesham, the Wanderers were very generous in giving the first goal to their opponents. Did it cross the line or not? The Wanderers players probably thought the game was won so did not matter. It very nearly backfired on them.
The Luton Reporter announced that Luton Town would play Notts County in Dallow Lane the following week. Play was to commence at 3 o’clock.
Notts County are one of the oldest clubs in the country and they visited Dallow Lane to play Luton Town on 7th November. The Luton Reporter called them one of the “crack clubs” in the Midlands. In the first round of the F.A. Cup on 24th October they had beaten Rotherham Town 15 0 at home. In the second round, on 21st November, they would beat Sheffield FC 8 0 at home. They would eventually lose in the sixth round to Queen’s Park of Glasgow, Scotland. (Queen’s Park lost the 1885 final to Blackburn Rovers and were to lose to them again in the 1886 final). Notts County would win the F.A. Cup in 1894.
None of the Notts County team that beat Rotherham Town would travel to Luton.
The Luton Reporter takes up the match –
“Teams representing these clubs encountered each other on the ground of the former at Dallow Lane on Saturday afternoon. Notts County is know as one of the crack clubs in the Midlands, and the expectation of seeing some good play drew together a very large number of spectators. By many of those who take an interest in football matters it was considered to be somewhat presumptuous on the part of the Luton men to oppose themselves to players of such acknowledged excellence, but as the result proved the undertaking was by no means so stupendous as it may have seemed. From their performance we should, however be inclined to think that the team which the County sent here on Saturday did not comprise many of their best players. Nevertheless they were no mean foe, and though not equal to the eleven local men they showed a beautiful style of play, and are evidently more acquainted with the scientific management of the winter pastime than most teams who visit Luton. The sides were composed as follows; – Luton Town T. Brown (goal), J.G. Hunt and A. Martin (backs), E.H. Lomax, A.Taylor of Bedford and W. Barrett (half backs), C. Lomax and G.H. Small (left wing), A. Deacon and G. Deacon (right wing), and F. Whitby (centre). Notts County: A. King (goal), J.R. Smith (captain) and T. Fiddler (backs), A.E. Scott, J. Woolley and C.A. Coulby (half backs), J.A. Brown and G.N. Brown (left wing), S.W. Coulby (centre), G. Parker and G.S. Doughty (right wing). Whitby started the ball for Luton about half an hour after the advertised time, the home men playing downhill. After a few give and take movements the leather was taken up in front of the Notts goal and some close work took place. A good shot was made by one of the Luton forwards but the ball slid off the head of one of the strangers and went outside the posts. On the ball being put into play again Taylor almost succeeded in scoring with a good kick from the centre of the field. After this the strangers’ goal was several times in imminent danger, and was only saved by the smart work of the keeper. One or two corners obtained by the home men resulted in nothing. G Deacon getting the ball to himself at the right wing on one occasion made a well delivered shot for goal and the ball went through, but the point was disallowed on account of the player being offside. At another time C. Lomax, having had the leather sent across the field to him, had a splendid opening in front of him, but-singular thing for Charlie-spoiled his chance by a misjudged kick. Just before halftime was called the Notts men narrowly escaped scoring owing to some looseness on the part of the home men. They had got the ball right in front of the Luton citadel when Brown running out to meet it missed his kick and it looked as if the home citadel was sure of being reduced but the ball twisted over the line within a foot or two of the westmost post. Small thereafter got the ball at his toe and made a smart run with it far into the enemy’s territory, but the good prospect he had before him was rendered useless by the sound of the referee’s whistle. When sides were changed nothing had been scored on either side. But in the second half G. Deacon repeatedly distinguished himself. Picking up the ball near the centre of the field, he dribbled it in fine style up the right wing till when approaching the corner he centred it with a well-aimed kick and was fortunate in putting it through, none of the other side managing to stop it. The ringing cheers of the spectators complimented him upon having scored the first point for the home team. Not long afterwards Small drove the leather across from the left wing and Deacon attempted to repeat his performance but though he accomplished some smart work in the corner against a much more powerful antagonist, the chance was somehow muddled when the ball reached the centre. The Luton team were still pressing their opponents pretty hard, the bulk of the game taking place within the strangers’ ground. Another goal was shortly after this got by the home men, partially, however, through a misunderstanding on the other side. Whitby was following the ball up the middle of the field but several of the Notts men fell back because he was offside. However, when the ball got in front of the posts the keeper kicked it out, and Whitby stopping it he had then little difficulty in putting it through. The point was questioned but it was allowed by the umpires. A third time did Deacon do good service for his side in bringing the ball up his wing and centreing it in a skilful way. The ball was then kicked right in between the posts, and had actually passed under the bar, but the keeper stretching back his hands caught it and threw it out. This was claimed as a goal by several, and many of the lookers-on were greatly disappointed when the umpire decided in the negative, the ball though through never having been touched the ground behind the line. No further incident worthy of note occurred and the match thus ended in favour of Luton by two goals to none. Both Hunt and Taylor made several fine useful kicks for their side. It was observed that the Notts. backs were in particularly good form. Umpire for Luton, E. Ellingham; Umpire for Notts County C.E.B. Bowker; referee J. Long, Luton”.
Arthur Taylor of Bedford gets his first game for Luton Town after missing the game against Great Marlow the week before. Taylor was the Bedford player in the Beds and Hunts teams where he had forged friendships with the Luton players. He played in the E.M.C.F.A. representative game at Dallow Lane in early March against the London Association second eleven.
It is interesting to note how often the “did it cross the line” debate occurred in 1885.
Although a friendly against the reserves of best teams in the country, it does sound like a terrific performance. After the disappointing defeat against Marlow, this must have been a great tonic for the lads and the town itself. With Luton Wanderers going through to the second round of the F.A. Cup, this win must have helped restore some dignity amongst the Luton Town fans.
Luton Town (late Wanderers) could only draw this weekend 1 1 with Luton Albany. The latter’s team was; Goal – G. Folks. Backs – A. Sanders and F. Horwood. Half backs – J. Moody, W. King and F. Darby. Forwards – A.J. Deamer and J. Furlong (right), W.F. Miller and Webb (left), Rumball (centre). Sanders and Miller are back with their old team having represented Luton Town a few weeks earlier. This again demonstrates the fluid nature of football in the town.
INTERLUDE – The 5th November saw much celebration in the town. There was a play with local people involved such as Councillor A. Spratley who played the “Earl of Leicester in a “most lively appearance”.
“Mr Flemons, Manchester Street of Messrs Stichcombe and Co, London supplied the costumes. Then the company after marching through the town “the procession, which was illuminated by a large number of torches, halted in Park Square, where a fine display of fireworks took place under the supervision of Mr T Baker, Pyrotechnist, London. This display was very good indeed, and was witnessed by a great crowd of people who fairly filled the Square. Several balloons were sent up, which as the air was still and clear were seen to good advantage, as was a flight of rockets of various tints. Several pieces went off very successfully, but the most important part of the exhibition, and which was kept till the last, was an arrangement fixed on a pole. This when set off showed the sentiment “Success to the Straw Trade” in large letters of fire, and was justly admired. This part of the proceedings over, the procession was reformed, and proceeded to the Moor, where a bonfire and an effigy was burned. The evening’s entertainment was concluded with a masquerade ball in the Town Hall. It was numerously attended, the dancers in their quaint and motley dresses forming a weird and curious company. The carnival passed off very successfully, and as far as we heard without any mishap of any serious nature”.
INTERLUDE – Annie Gibbons of St. Anne’s Lane was found lying in the gutter by P.C. Gobby. He had previously seen her the same evening (November 9th) in Park Lane when she was very disorderly. She was fined ten shillings.
The following Saturday, the 14th, had a touch of “after the Lord Mayor’s show” about it as Luton Town secured two one all draws against Rushden and Hotspur (who came from Wimbledon). The Luton Reporter coverage of the Luton Town game against Rushden is as follows;
“This match was played in the Town Meadow, Dallow Lane on Saturday afternoon and ended in a draw, each side scoring one goal.”
The Northampton Mercury devoted more space to their report;
From the Luton Reporter;
“Luton Wanderers v Wellingborough Grammar School. These clubs met on the ground of the former at Dallow Lane on Saturday afternoon. The weather was most unfavourable, rain falling most of the time, making the ground in a slippery condition. The game was opened by the visitors who kicked up-hill, and as the home team were one short they were considerably pressed by their opponents who succeeded in scoring twice off free kicks in front of the goal. After the home team had their full team the game was of a more even description. G. Smith made several brilliant runs the entire length of the ground, passing all the opposing backs and centreing the ball splendidly. Several goals ought to have been scored off his middles, but the other forwards were not up, and the chances were lost. After half-time the Wanderers seemed to fall all to pieces none of them showing any good form except Bennett, Garratt and Bird in the backs, while G. Smith was by far and away the best of the forwards. The School forwards were playing well together, their passing being remarkably good, considering the state of the ground, which resulted in three more goals by Challen and Garne, the game finally ended in a win for the visitors by five goals to nil. The teams were:- Wellingborough Grammar School – F.G. Manning (Goal), A.W. Platt, H.E. Mortis (backs), L. Thring, J. Parnell, G. Fuyford (half-backs), T. Holmes, A. Henfrey, W.H. Garne, J.B. Challen, P. Fryer (forwards). Luton Wanderers – G. Davis (goal), W. Humphrey, W. Bird (backs), G. Bennett, W. Garrett, J. Clark (half-backs), G. Smith, A. Smith, W. Smith, E. Ellingham, H. Buckley (forwards).”
The Wanderers forward line was a commentators nightmare and only our old friend W. Smith would keep his place for the cup tie the following week. It was hardly a confidence booster before their F.A. Cup tie against the Old Wykehamists.
The Luton Reporter went on to announce that;
“the Wanderers leave on 21st November from Midland Station for London to play Old Wykehamists at Kennington Oval. Team will be; Goal – T. Veale. Backs – H. Hucklesby and W. Bird. Half backs – G. Bennett, W. Garrett and J. Clark. Forwards – G. Smith, W. Davis, H. Kemp, R Ellingham and G. Worboys”.
Having been the captain of the Wanderers in the previous round, Herbert Spratley did not even make the team in the second round.
The Luton Times, full of its own self importance, usually only covered the bigger Luton Town games. The Luton Reporter provided regular sports coverage. Why was there such a disparity between the reports of Wanderers five nil defeat and Luton Town’s two games? A report on the Rushden game was clearly submitted to the newspaper as they published the result. Yet there are barely two lines on the game compared with lavish coverage of the Wanderers defeat. We are left to guess the cause of such prejudice. Was the editor a Wanderer of a spiteful Spratley nature? Was there some personal animosity against one or more of the players or committee? Or did the newspaper feel slighted by the lack of reports submitted by the club?
In local football Rangers beat Victoria Rangers 3 1 on People’s Park.
The 21st November saw the Luton Wanderers take on the Old Wykehamists who were the former pupils of Winchester College based in London. They were a strong team and Ingram of Old Wykehamists had played for the South in a representative game against the North in January 1885. They played their home games at Kennington Oval which had held every F.A. Cup Final since 1872 bar one. The report takes up the game;
“A most one sided game was witnessed at Kennington Oval London on Saturday afternoon, when these teams met in the second round of the English Challenge Cup competition. The Luton men this time met a team which was more than their match. Indeed from the first they had no hope of succeeding against a club so famous as the Old Wykehamists. As it proved the Luton players were worsted at every point, and their opponents gained a very easy victory by 10 goals to none, six being kicked in the first half, and four in the second”.
Luton Town played St. Neots the weekend of the 21st and had nothing to crow about either. The Luton Times reports;
“A match between the above teams was played in the Dallow Lane on Saturday afternoon, and resulted after a good game in a win for the St. Neots by one goal to nil. Whitby have started the ball it was quickly taken into the strangers’ half but through the excellent play of the goal-keeper, the home team were unable to score. Whitby on one occasion having hit the poles. Only one or two good runs were made for St. Neots by P.H. Bower. At half-time neither side had scored. On the ball being started again, it was quickly taken into the strangers’ ground and several shots were made by C. Lomax and Deacon, but nothing came of them. After about fifteen minutes play, the ball having been centred by Dillingham to Bower, the latter took it past all the Luton players, and amid great cheering succeeded in playing it between the Luton posts. Whitby again started the ball, and Luton began to press their opponents hard, but nothing was scored and the game resulted in a win for the visitors by one goal to nil”.
At least it sounds like a wonder goal won the match which brought some great cheering. The majority of the crowds appear to have been appreciative of good play by either team. It was only a friendly match with nothing at stake. P.H. Bower impressed again and the Luton players took note as we shall see later.
The report uses the terms “poles” and “posts” which appears to highlight the old and new. Before cross bars, poles could be used as goal posts. This must have been common terminology of the secretary or official of Luton Town that wrote the report for the newspaper.
The fixture list shows that Luton Town should have played Olympians in Clapton on 21st November. There is no report of the game. The committee meeting notes show that the game was played. As J.C. Lomax and Whitby were playing against St. Neots we must assume it was the second team that travelled to Clapton.
INTERLUDE – Local crime that week included a James Halsey a labourer of Bridge Street who was charged with assaulting George Temple who was the landlord of the Plume of Feathers. He would not leave when asked to do so at closing time. He was ordered to keep the peace and pay £10. If the money was not paid then he would spend two months in prison.
INTERLUDE – Albert Gee a boy from York Street was charged with stealing the sum of 9s 6d from a bakers stall in the market on Monday. The baker, John Lygrave from Boxmoor saw the boy take the money and chased him down Barber’s Lane and caught him. Lygrave said he would not summon the boy if he gave up the money. The boy gave Lygrave the money. Although the boy pleaded guilty the court discharged him in consequence of the promise Lygrave had made.
The last weekend in November should have seen Luton Town play Clapham Rovers in Wandsworth and Bedford Town at home. Clapham had written to say that they could not play so the committee decided to strengthen the team to play Bedford. All preparations were made including choosing the gatemen who were to be Messrs Bennett and Smith. However, a telegram was received very late from Clapham to say that they could play on the 28th and
“resolved to do so if Messrs Lomax could play. If not to wire them to that effect”.
It is quite an accolade that a major club and former F.A. Cup winning team would like the Lomax brothers to play against them. There are no reports of either games. It is such a pity that the details of the game are lost to us.
In local football we have a detailed report on St. John’s College against Dunstable in People’s Park. The Luton Times says;
“The ground was in a most sloppy condition, and though the weather was satisfactory , there was but little opportunity for good play. The Dunstable team were two men short and had to obtain substitutes, while two or three of the best players of St. John’s were too unwell to play. The visitors kicked up-hill in the first half, and with a strong wind blowing across the ground, play was principally on their right wing. The home team made some good runs and by means of excellent passing got within reach of their opponents goal on several occasions, but their shots were ineffectual. the visitors were equally unfortunate for they had a number of good attempts to score. On changing ends, the ball remained almost continually in the quarters of the home team, and their fortress was attacked repeatedly. The visitors were, however, prevented from scoring, and were at times compelled to defend their own goal, which was threatened at intervals. At the call of time, neither team had scored and the result was consequently a draw. The visitors played well together, while the passing and running of the St. John’s men was capital. Furlong and Benavides played in particularly good style, while W. Hills, F. Hill and Cook played well for the visitors”.
We can only assume that the newspapers chose to ignore reports on Luton Town’s two games. Instead they give a long report on the College’s dull 0 0 draw against lowly opposition who turned up two players short.
“The History of Luton” by William Austin
Dr. Philip Pattenden, Peterhouse, Cambridge University
Historical Football Kits website