CHAPTER 26. SNOW FARCE
The 1880’s and 1890’s saw some very severe winters. Many games, including lucrative Christmas ones, were lost as was much needed revenue. This severely tested the survival of the club. The winter of 1891/92 was typical with huge falls of snow including one just before the clubs first appearance (after preliminary rounds) in the First Round proper of the F.A. Cup. The laws and rules of the game were still evolving – both sides had to turn up on the pitch on the day and only at that time could the referee decide whether the game was playable. LTFC therefore decided to clear the pitch of snow and take the cost out of the match receipts. It seems that this action caused the F.A. to change their rules later in the year – see the last paragraphs of this chapter.
Also on the rules of the F.A. Cup we see the LTFC disputing Clifton’s expenses for the game including the cost of a break to transport their own players to their own ground – see the 28th December committee meeting.
7th December 1891 committee meeting –
“Team selected for St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Expenses of Clifton match £13 5s 11d. Hon sec approach Mr Myers to see if he would take 2/- a week for advertisement. “That 5/- be allowed to each player for loss of time Clifton match and Bedminster”.
“The purchase of a number of white jerseys be left over until next meeting”.
Cricket club met the committee about a match with Notts County on 4th January – not clear why the cricket club are asking for co-operation here.
9th December 1891 committee meeting – meeting about letter received from Middlesboro F.C.
“This letter was freely discussed after which Mr Jacquest proposed that Middlesboro’s offer be not entertained also that the club do not undertake to go to Middlesboro under £100 and all expenses. An amendment was proposed that no offer whatever be entertained and that the club abide by the draw. This was seconded by Mr Pakes”. Amendment carried.
The F.A. Cup draw states that the first drawn club has choice of venue. It was quite common for an away team to offer an inducement to switch the game to the away ground. Middlesbrough’s offer was a good one but LTFC gambled that they would get a big crowd and that home advantage would give them a decent chance of winning the game.
10th December 1891 Luton News football column said
“A Watford contemporary gives vent to his feelings to the recent match between Luton and West Herts in a manner the reverse of creditable. Nothing can possibly be gained by indulging in ill-natured gibes and sneers, and surely it is not worth while to go out of the way to stir up bad feeling between the supporters of the different clubs. The least a critic can do is to refrain from any attempt to degrade a friendly game and a manly sport by the introduction of bad blood.”
12th December 1891. From the Luton Reporter of 19th December 1891. In the Kettering Charity Cup, Luton Town walked over, Banbury Harriers scratching. Luton Montrose travelled to the Cricket Ground to play Hitchin. Their team was : A. Tearle, goal; E. Davis and W. King, backs; W. Goodliffe, W.Bird and F. Moody, half-backs; F. Biggs and F. Hey (right), R. Fuller (centre), C. Colling and G. King (left), forwards.
On the same day, Luton Town managed to arrange a game.
“Luton Town v St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. Owing to the scratching of the Banbury Harriers in the second round of the Kettering Cup, Luton Town had no match fixed for Saturday, but luckily an arrangement was made with the team belonging to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, and a very good match was anticipated. An hour’s rain, however, served to spoil what would have been a most interesting contest, for the ground was very heavy. A large number of spectators braved the miserable drizzle and were not unrewarded for their self-denial. Anything like precise or pretty play was out of the question, but both sides conducted themselves with credit, and a fairly even contest ended with the victory of the champions of the eighth division by two to nil. Captain Taylor having won the toss, Wyllys, after much delay, started the game, his own side numbering but 10. Hands and a corner just after the opening were both unproductive, and Oclee missed a rare chance. Two more corners were placed behind, and after awhile the medicals broke away and caused Burley to fist out, which he did most admirably. Sanders took possession and shot the ball right into goal; it was cleared, but in endeavouring to relieve the pressure Fernie, for the visitors, kicked the ball through his own goal. For a time Luton pressed and several scrummages and corners were witnessed near the goal, but the ball would not go through. Deacon and F. Whitby once or twice aided one another down the field and gave good exhibition of combination, but though Cheshire came within a few inches of adding to his list, half-time was reached with nothing further resulting. Two minutes only were allowed for change over on account of the approaching darkness and the drizzling rain, which the home team now had to face. After an offside run dow by the Hospital men “Frank” made the cross-bar quiver with the force of a neat, though futile shot. Two corners were again useless, thanks to the wind and wet. Two or three times “the lads in red” came within an ace of scoring, and goalkeeping was anything but a certainty owing to the increasing darkness. Hoy showed some fine form by stopping the rushes of three or four good saints and by placing the ball nicely to the forwards. Now and again the play was even, but for the last ten minutes the Lutonians kept the ball well up, so that their opponents’ goalkeeper had to use his hands frequently and more than once he saved his charge splendidly. A struggle took place near the visitors’ goal, and somehow Harry Whitby put the leather in the right place a few seconds before the call of time. Several of the students showed excellent form; they were fast and fairly smart, but playing one forward short they could hardly work as they would wish. The Luton Club played the same team, while the hospital was represented by J. Ballard (goal; F.E. Fernie and J.S. Macintosh (backs); J. Harvey, J. Gordon and G. Watkins (half-backs); J.F. Fernie, W. Wyllys, C. Neill and G.R. Fox (forwards). Mr F. Scott was the referee.
14th December 1891 committee meeting –
Mr Gunning be asked to referee “against West Bromwich on Wednesday Dec 30th”. Team selected against Montrose. Gate money for sat 12th £4 12s 4d, Pavilion 6/7.
“Charge for “A” Division of Police 26th Dec be 3d and West Bromwich Albion 6d, Pavilion and enclosure 6d extra”. “Also that a policeman be stationed on the gate in order that all members may be forced to produce their tickets”.
“Proposed by Mr Long, seconded by Mr Woodbridge that as the club had run through the division the event be celebrated by the meeting of players and committee to a social tea at the Midland Hotel on sat 19th at 5 o’clock for 5.15”
The Midland Hotel, on the corner of Manchester Street and Williamson Street, was the club HQ.
19th December 1891 – as reported by the Luton Reporter of 26th December 1891.
“Luton Charity Cup. Luton Town v Montrose. Played on the Bury Park field and resulted in an easy victory for the Town by five goals to nil. The Montrose had obtained choice of grounds, but their opponents declined to play on the field adjoining the railway, alleging that it was unsuitable. The Montrose, retaliating, refused to use the Town meadow and engaged the Bury. This was in as satisfactory state as could be expected after the recent hard frosts, but that is not saying much for it was distinctly unfit to play upon. The turf was hard frozen and scientific play was out of the question. The Town won the toss and elected to kick from the Bury end. From kick off the visitors’ forwards obtained possession and the ball was taken down the field, but mis-kicks let in their opponents. From the start it became apparent that the game would afford more amusement than admirable play; spills were frequent , and true kicking was rarely witnessed. the Town forwards soon manifested their superiority and a few minutes from the commencement F. Whitby sent in a splendid shot, which the goal-keeper managed to steer over the bar. Only two or three minutes elapsed when a determined attack was made on the Montrose fortress and H. Whitby, rushing up, sent the ball through the posts at a terrific pace. This reverse seemed to put the Montrose on their mettle for they pressed in a very determined fashion for a space. Once or twice they looked like scoring, a slip by Hoy almost letting them in on one occasion, but “hands” relieved the pressure. The fray was thereafter carried into the amateurs’ quarters and from a capital throw by Taylor, F. Whitby almost scored, Deacon finishing up by kicking over. The opposition forwards next displayed some good passing, but they were pulled up by the Town backs, and soon afterwards F. Whitby added to the score of his side with a long shot. The juniors’ forwards took the ball down in very good style a few minutes later and experienced very hard luck, a score being staved off with difficulty by the leaders. H. Whitby put in one of his excellent runs and ended by centreing in good style but Wright kicked behind. Some rough and tumble play in the Montrose territory and men went down like ninepins. Splendid chances were missed by the Town forwards by hair-breadths, one by F. Whitby being a magnificent attempt. The Montrose advance guard took their turn at invading but Biggs threw away an apparently easy opportunity of improving his side’s position. H. Whitby distinguished himself more than once by making brilliant runs, and he inevitably placed the ball in the goal mouth or so near the centre that another player could negotiate it. At half-time the score had not been increased, however. It was not until the second half that the position of the Town was improved. The Town men obtained “hands” about a couple of yards from their adversaries uprights and Wright managed to score. After some admirable play on both sides H. Whitby sent in a hot shot which struck the cross-bar and this was followed by an attempt by Wright which proved successful, the ball going through off the head of Stickles. The left wing man put in splendid shot immediately afterwards, and Deacon attempted to put it through but failed. Oclee was, however, close by and succeeded in eluding Town’s vigilance. Give and take play followed but no further score resulted, and at the close Town had qualified for the third round by five goals to nil. The teams were as follows:- Luton Town: Goal, J. Burley; backs, A. Sanders and J. Hoy; half-backs, H. Paul, A.H. Taylor and J. Wright; forwards, H.W. Oclee (centre), H. Whitby, W. Cheshire (left), F.K. Whitby, G. Deacon (right). Montrose: Goal, A. Tearle; backs, G. Roe and J. Stickles; half-backs, W. Goodiffe, W. Bird and W. King; forwards, F. Biggs and F. Hoy (right), R. Fuller (centre), C. Colling and G. King (left). The referee was Mr R.H. Healing, and the linesmen were Messrs J. Bennett and H. Wilkinson.”
The reserves were due to play Upton Ivanhoe.
“A match between the Town reserves and the Upton Ivanhoe had been arranged to be played on the Dunstable-road ground on Saturday. The Londoners left by the G.N.R. but did not put in an appearance at the proper time and inquiry revealed the fact that they had missed the connection at Hatfield. No match took place.”
With bat ball and bicycle –
“The ties in the second round of the Luton Charity Cup competition were the most interesting topics of conversation in football circles, and it seems that the results on the whole agree with the prognostications of those who regard themselves as capable judges of “form.” The most important encounter was that between Millwall Athletic and the 2nd Scots Guards, when the East End team won by five goals to nil, while some interesting play between Kettering and Rushden, the former obtaining the verdict by two to none. The defeat of the Tottenham Hotspurs by the 1st Scots Guards by four to nil was not looked for.
The encounter between Luton Town and Montrose was interesting for more reasons than one. For some time previously it had been claimed by some that there was little difference between the teams in point of merit, and if for no other reason it was well that the elevens should have met. The result will surely make it apparent to the most jaundiced admirer of the Montrose that his favourites are no match at all for the older club. The youngsters undoubtedly played well, but they are neither quick not strong enough for the Town men. Their five to nil thrashing will, perhaps, put an end to the discussion as to supremacy.
The conditions under which the game was played were not conducive to brilliant exhibitions , and on the whole must be confessed that the form displayed was better than might have been expected. Falls were a frequent occurrence, but fortunately nobody met with serious harm. The Town men played in good style considering the hard state of the ground, and H. Whitby was in conspicuously brilliant form. Wright came to the fore in welcome fashion, and his achievement in obtaining two goals on his own account was a notable one. On the Montrose side the palm must be given to Stickles and Tearle, who each did a heap of work. The last-named saved his charge several times in the best possible manner.
By the way, the record of the Town Club up to date is interesting reading. They have been defeated only four times this season, and if they continue to play as well as they have done in the past their list will soon be one of the best in the kingdom. The teams who have to be numbered amongst the vanquished include some formidable combinations, and I see no reason why the Lutonians should not continue in their victorious career. With greatly improved combination they are now a strong lot, and they will take a lot of beating.
A correspondent alludes to the somewhat erratic shooting of the forwards and remarks : Before the Middlesbrough match is played I should strongly advise them to spare a few half hours in practice shooting, and with that improved they may become a very good team, if not, as the Athletic News says, a great team. But the next few matches will demonstrate their prowess – I mean Marlow, West Bromwich Albion and Notts County visits.” With regard to Notts County I may add that their prospective not a matter of certainty. The advice given above I heartily concur in, though without any wish to detract from the undoubted merits of the “reds.”
The same correspondent, writing to me last week, says “In one respect our professionals remind me of the Blackburn Rovers. I refer to the fact that they can play a hard and good game when there is a cup to loo forward to. The Rovers are a hard nut to crack in cup ties, but in some of the League games they can go down softly – witness Burnley last Saturday. Can’t Luton fight in cup rounds, and so a certain powerful Northern team will find on January 16th. Let’s hope they’ll regret their visit. But time and play will prove.”
In other Luton Charity Cup games it was announced that St. Matthew’s beat Luton Terriers by four goals to nil. However this was corrected in a later edition and in fact Luton Terriers beat St. Matthews 4 0. Chesham walked over Bedford who scratched.
The draw for the Kettering Charity Cup third round was drawn as follows:-
“Division 1, Luton Montrose or Hitchin v Luton Town; division 2, Rushden v Finedon; division 3, Kettering v Kettering Anchors; division 4 Newark Town v Grantham Rovers. The first named club has choice of grounds, and the ties must be played off on or before January 23.
21st December 1891 committee meeting-
“teams selected against St. John’s, Stratford and A Division of Police for 26th dec and West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday 30th.”
From the Luton Reporter of 2nd January 1891.
“With bat, ball and bicycle. The severe weather at Christmas led to the abandonment of a large number of football matches throughout the country, grounds being either hard frozen or in a terribly sloppy state. The change afforded the skaters an opportunity to indulge, but their joy was shortlived, the thaw which set in on Christmas Day putting an end to skating for a time. Amongst the matches which were not played have to be included the Boxing Day fixtures of the Town Club with Stratford and the A Division of the Metropolitan Police.”
28th Dec 1891 – Team selected against Edmonton for 2nd Jan.
“It was unanimously resolved that objection be taken to the ground expenses, also to the charge made for the break conveying their own players to the Kingswood ground in the match with Clifton”.
“It was suggested that as the holiday matches had to be scratched it might be advisable to send out a few handbills announcing the match against West Bromwich for Wed 30th but eventually it was resolved that the crier be sent round to announce the match on Wednesday.
The Town Crier was Charlie Irons.
30th December 1891. Taken from the Luton Reporter of 2nd January 1892.
“West Bromwich Albion v Luton Town. This fixture, which had justly been regarded as the most important match on the local club’s list, was decided on Wednesday afternoon and resulted in a hollow defeat of the homesters by four goals to nil. The “Throstles,” as the northern combination are termed, came with a splendid reputation. It is only a few years since they appeared in the final contest for the English Cup, and their position in the League competition has generally been a prominent one. It was scarcely to be anticipated, therefore, that anything but a beating was in store for the “reds,” especially after the visitors had disposed of the Kettering players by two to nothing on the previous day. The home executive were extremely unfortunate as far as the weather conditions were concerned. They had gone to considerable expense in securing the services of the famous players, and when rain fell heavily all the morning the outlook was very bad. This aspect of affairs continued with scarcely any intermission during the afternoon, and the ground was necessarily found to be in a very slippery state. To add to the discomfort of the players a very strong wind blew across the ground during the game, and with a slippery ball and insecure footholds scientific play was pretty much out of the question. There was a surprisingly good attendance of spectators, those present numbering about 1,000, and it is satisfactory to be able to announce that the club authorities will not be out of pocket by the affair.
Punctually to time the elevens faced the central ring, and it was then found that the visitors were represented by almost exactly the same eleven as on Tuesday. When they examined the home ranks, however, the spectators discovered to their dismay that H. Paul, the Luton centre half-back, was missing from his post. Paul has made a name for himself this season as a veritable tower of strength to his side, and his absence served to weaken the Luton team in a very appreciable degree. The elevens were as follows:- West Bromwich Albion: Goal, Reader; backs, Powell and Nicholson; half-backs, McCulloch, Reynolds and Dyer; forwards, Nickalls (centre), Bassett and McLeod (right), Haynes and Pearson (left). Luton Town: Goal, J. Burley; backs, A. Sanders and J. Hoy; half-backs, A. Taylor (captain), J. Wright and E. Barford; forwards, F.K. Whitby, G. Deacon (right), H.W. Oclee (centre), H. Whitby and W. Cheshire (left). The home captain won the toss and the visitors started the ball against the wind. For the first minute or two the West Bromwich men pressed, but the homesters were enabled to retaliate by a splendid bit of play on the part of Wright. A “foul” against the Lutonians was the first absolute point of advantage obtained in the match, and from the kick Haynes obtained possession and ran the leather up in grand style, though he finished up with a rather bad shot over the bar. Immediately afterwards the ball travelled in the same direction but the forwards missed their opportunity, the ball being very softly placed into Burley’s hands. It was plainly apparent that the high wind was greatly in favour of the Lutonians, but the visitors continued to force the game in spite of this disadvantage. They at length succeeded in obtaining a “corner,” but the kick was badly taken and the ball went behind. Deacon next distinguished himself by a fine exhibition of dribbling in which he passed three or four of his foemen and it seemed that the fray would be carried unpleasantly close to the Albion uprights, but “hands” off Taylor relieved the pressure when a score for the “reds” seemed almost inevitable. F. Whitby ended up a fine run up the wing by an exceedingly hot shot at goal which missed the post by the merest trifle. Although it was by this time apparent that the West Bromwich men’s combination was incomparably better than that of the home representatives they by no means had matters all their own way, for occasionally one or two of the home forwards relieved the monotony by some really good passing. At one time Deacon and F. Whitby took the sphere right down their side and from a throw in which followed the first-named kicked beside the post. A splendid opportunity was missed by the locals soon afterwards. Taylor threw in and the ball rolled in exasperating fashion through half a dozen men to the opposite goal-line. Deacon continued to exert himself, and after some plucky efforts sent the ball spinning over the cross-bar with a high shot. The visitors shortly afterwards had a capital chance presented to them by a mistake by one of the home backs, but they did not avail themselves of it, and though Oclee conceded a free kick by handling the ball nothing resulted. Deacon continued playing in the pluckiest possible manner, and at one time he carried the ball past two of his adversaries, while directly afterwards he obtained a “corner” by knocking Powell on to the sphere as it was travelling out of bounds. More than once just now the West Bromwich fortress was almost captured, but the visitors’ backs proved their reliability under very trying circumstances. The Albions a little later took their turn at attacking, and bad miss by Barford threatened to end in the downfall of his side’s citadel, when sanders stepped into the breach and transferred the scene of operations to the centre of the field. Taylor, who had been tackling his opponents in his best form, acted similarly hereabouts when the Albion forwards seemed very threatening in their demeanour. Bassett had a capital pass made to him and he ran half down the field but unfortunately for his side he was adjudged to have infringed the “off-side” rule. One of the best displays of passing between the home forwards during the game was witnessed at this stage. Oclee and the left wing men carrying the ball down and H. Whitby finished up with a long shot which fell very little short of obtaining the desired effect. The opposition forwards by means of some admirable combination swarmed to the attack and Sanders was knocked over, the ubiquitous captain of the “reds” was close by and deprived the “Throstles” in the best possible manner. The latter again seized the sphere, however, and had the cross-bar been a foot lower they would have scored. It was noticeable that Nicholson seemed to strike terror into the hearts of his enemies; only a couple of the home forwards seemed to care much about colliding with him, and he repeatedly ran the ball well down before feeding his front rank. Bassett became dangerous here, but Hoy forced him to kick wide. Burley was enabled to show his defensive ability a little later and he disposed of a couple of capital attempts to lower his colours, but the downfall of his fortress was close at hand. A “foul” was awarded against him for carrying the leather further than the specified distance and another free kick fell to the Albions immediately in front of goal. From the kick the ball was rushed through, and visitors thus notched the first point in the match. The Lutonians kept up a sharp attack in their adversaries quarters for a time and Oclee greatly distinguished himself, but these efforts soon died away. Another misfortune happened to the home eleven shortly thereafter. Burley committed an error of judgment by rushing out at the ball when it had been brought into close proximity to his charge and he failed to get back in time to prevent Bassett putting it through the posts. The leaders now redoubled their exertions and more than once they narrowly missed increasing their advantage, Bassett and Nicholson behaving splendidly. Burly tumbled down between the uprights but he managed to steer the ball behind the line, thus conceding a “corner.” Play became considerably faster, and Oclee and H. Whitby evoked applause by some very fine performances. The Lutonians could not manage to score, however, though they obtained several “corners,” and the only other noteworthy feature before the arrival of the interval was some magnificent dribbling by Bassett. Luton had to contend against wind and heavy rain when they crossed over, these disadvantages become more pronounced as the game proceeded. The difference between the teams in point of excellence was far more marked in the second portion, the leaders having considerably the best of the exchanges and playing in admirably easy fashion, while the locals were exerting themselves strenuously. The latter did not avail themselves of some excellent openings soon after the re-start, and they had to pay the penalty of this neglect. Two or three times individuals showed good style, but the endeavours were not long sustained, and ultimately the Northerners made a fierce attack, which was put to an end by some determined tackling by Hoy. Deacon next centred in very fine style, but no score resulted, and a regular bombardment of the home fortress was kept up for a space. An addition to the total of the leaders was prevented by the Luton keeper falling on the leather. Pearson endeavoured to kick it through but Burley succeeded in an explicable way in disposing of it, though it was only at the expense of a “corner.” Some very tame play was was witnessed, but the Albion eventually brought a change over the scene by putting on a third notch. From now to the finish the game was all in favour of West Bromwich, and a quarter of an hour before close they added a fourth point. The Luton linesman was Mr J. Bennett, and Mr Wall (of the Middlesex Association) acted as referee.”
From the Luton Reporter of 2nd January 1891.
“With bat, ball and bicycle, The West Bromwich Albion match is at length over, and it has resulted according to general anticipation in the victorious career of the locals being checked. So far as the club authorities are concerned the financial aspect of the affair was a very important one, and the venture unfortunately turned out badly. They had been anticipating receiving an appreciable addition to their funds and I am sorry that their enterprise has not been rewarded. They paid a large sum to the visitors and with the contingent expenses the total outlay was a big one. As a matter of fact they will not lose money, but on the other hand their finances will not receive the desired fillip.
It is perhaps superfluous to remark that if the day had been fine there would have been a large “gate.” As it was a surprisingly large number braved the elements, which could scarcely have behaved more unkindly. “Rude Bereas” [from the Bible a name meaning a place of many waters] was at his wildest and the rain fell in sheets, but the enthusiasts who lined the ropes could not be induced to budge an inch during the game, though they seized advantage of the interval to scurry under shelter. Those more fortunate beings who occupied the pavilion were somewhat better off in this respect, but there was a lamentable dulacas [?] about the whole affair.
I have heard it said since the match that the play was not worth witnessing, but that is the statement of either an extremely pessimist or one of who wishes to decry his fellow-townsmen. The game most distinctly was worth seeing if only for the sake of the brilliant combination and tricky play of the visitors. Of course no one in his own mind believed that the locals had much chance of bearing off the palm; the argument was all the other way, for the Northerners are constantly playing with the crack League elevens and are naturally in the pink of condition. Their eminence in the football world, too, is greater than the Lutonians can fairly hope to reach at present.
The homesters on the whole played a fair game, but it was devoid of the dash and brilliancy which they exhibited in one or two of the cup matches. They seemed to be struggling on with a consciousness that they were battling against hopeless odd, and while they tried very hard their opponents took matters in a nonchalant sort of way which was exasperating as it was admirable. On the Luton side Oclee played a very plucky and consistent game, while Deacon made his presence apparent to more than one of his opponents. The backs played well and Burley acquitted himself well – indeed, it was a marvel how he managed to stand at all, for the spaces between the posts were perfect quagmires. The absence of Paul was a great drawback, for though Barford played a hard game he did not tackle so persistently as the St. Albans man. The result was that the opposition forwards managed to trouble the backs far more than they should have been allowed to do.
It is difficult when one comes to judge the Albion to say where the palm lay, for all behaved splendidly. They placed implicit reliance in one another and they rarely made a mistake when passing, while their heading and “hacking” were very fine. Bassett was responsible for most of the scoring and he frequently indulged in grand runs. Pearson and Haynes were a capital pair, while Nickalls occasionally played splendidly. The half-backs did a heap of work and the two backs proved themselves to be very reliable. Nicholson was especially good, and he seemed to do pretty much as he liked with the ball.
I hear that the Middlesbrough folk are confident of their success in the next round of the English cup, and that heavy odds are being offered against the Lutonians. The Northerners are a heavy set of professionals, and their record shows that they are capable players. Their tactics are to start with a great rush and force the game, and I am told that if they succeed in scoring early in the game their total is likely to be a big one. There is no doubt that the defensive unit of the Lutonians will be tried, but if the same method is pursued as was adopted at Clifton I am confident that there will not be much difference in the scores at the finish.
2nd January 1892. From the Luton Reporter of 9th January 1894. It is a short report as there was an exciting story to be covered in the “With Bat, Ball and Bicycle” column. More of that soon.
“Luton Town v Edmonton. The Town team journeyed to Edmonton on Saturday to try conclusions with the footballers there, and they succeeded in winning by five goals to nil. F. Whitby notched two of the points, Deacon headed one and kicked another, and Oclee headed the ball through once. The visitors had by far the best of the game.”
The Luton Charity Cup draw was also announced in this edition.
“The draw for the third round took place on Monday night and resulted as follows:- Millwall v Chesham: Edmonton Albion v 1st Scots Guards: Luton Town v Luton Terriers: Kettering v Wolverton (L. and N.W.). This is the final round for the divisions. The first-named have choice of grounds, and the matches must be played on or before February 6.”
In local football
“Luton Montrose v Bury Park. – Owing to Hitchin resolving not to meet the Montrose a second time in the Kettering Cup tie which had been ordered to be replayed the Montrose were left without a fixture for Saturday, and a game was arranged with Bury Park. It was decided on the ground of the last-named club and produced a very stiff tussle, the result being a win for the Montrose by three goals to two.”
With Bat, Ball and Bicycle.
“It smatters somewhat of ancient history to talk about the West Bromwich match, but a week’s reflection has enabled me to compare thoroughly the play of that club with that of our own. Two lessons should be leaned by the latter, and they will be wise to profit thereby. Firstly, the back passing of the “Throstles” often enabled them to retain possession of the ball when they were hard pressed, and so it was eventually sent towards the goal. Particularly was this noticeable with Bassett’s play.
The other point I refer to is the grand way in which the players followed the ball in a line down the field. If the ball was being carried down by the right wing the left kept up with it, the halves followed, and the backs were not far behind. Thus the game was often forced in proximity to their opponents’ goal and good resulted. It was mainly by these “wrinkles” that the Albions obtained the upper hand and, with the absence of Paul, secured four to nil.
Next Saturday’s match should prove more interesting, now some of us have satisfied our curiosity in seeing a League team in the Dunstable-road. Certainly it will, or should be, more even. Marlow has a splendid record this season, having played 15 matches, and lost only one. If the Lutonians beat them they will be able to do what only the Old Westministers could in the English Cup tie, where the Marlovians went under at a rate of six to one. With a fine day, full team, and favourable form Luton may be victorious. Let us hope so, at all events.
The “reds” have encountered the Marlow men thrice: both matches at home were lost by one to none (and in both cases soft goals), and the third at Marlow was drawn (one goal each), so that on past records the latter have the advantage. A couple of H. Whitby stingers would make matters more even.
Last week an account of the Luton Town team appeared in the “Evening News and Post.”
There was nothing new for the club’s partisans to learn beyond the reason for the professionalism of the team – a very satisfactory one too. Two sketches of Messrs Lomax and Taylor are best not remarked about for fear of offending the “sketcher” – I don’t care to say artist.
A week or two ago the same paper published a list of the probable players in the Middlesbrough match. Now, at first sight, it is most formidable, as many of the men come from the best Scotch and League teams. But I should like to know if they enlisted for Middlesbrough because they are paid better there or because they did not play well enough and had to find a job elsewhere. Re., Middlesbrough. I know of one man at least who had the sack from a League team and is now in the iron town. It is much to be hoped that our men will be in no ways timid, and remember that the game is not lost before it is over. We can all trust Paul and Taylor to put the stopper on their initial rush and spoil their little game. As the time approaches my hopes do not lessen, and I am now certain that Middlesbrough need not fancy they have an easy task.
Though without Sanders – whose place Day filled – the Town Club managed to “rub it” into Edmonton last Saturday at the rate of five goals to nil. The defeated are not a first rate team, but they played a very fair game.
In reviewing the fixture card and the doings of the Town Club now the season is half over, it has struck me that one alteration would be an improvement. I should think that now the entries for the Luton and Kettering Cups have so much increased, some of the better clubs might be reserved or selected for the last stages, say the best four or eight. This would avoid the necessity of the Town Club, for example practically wasting its time playing such clubs as Bury park, Montrose, etc, etc. It would then be better occupied in encountering other stronger teams, and would certainly improve the gate, and, best of all, the play would be far more interesting and satisfactory. On the 23rd the premier club will have to scratch an excellent match with the Minerva to go through the farce of playing the Montrose for the Kettering Cup.
There is only one more stage for the Luton Cup before the semi-finals. I fancy I am not far wrong if I select the following four to appear in Luton in March and April :- Millwall Athletic, 1st Scots Guards, Kettering and Luton Town. If the last two-named meet won’t there be some shouting and counter-shouting. “Play up reds!” “Play up Ket!” A certain gentleman who is not unconnected with the West Bromwich Albion says our team is two goals superior to the Kettering men. “They are all rush, run and kick” says he.
Next Saturday is the half-way through the year’s fixtures and the Town Club has something to be proud of. They have played 18 matches, won 12, drawn one and lost five. The next half has some keen encounters for us and a hard time for the players, but they will their best as of yore.
The match in the Kettering Cup competition between Hitchin and Luton Montrose which has been ordered to be re-played was set down for decision on Saturday but in the meantime Hitchin scratched. This is the second instance within a few weeks of clubs scratching when protests which they had made were upheld, and though the result as far as the club protested against was satisfactory the practice seems to be a very childish one. It would have been far more graceful for the losers to put up with their defeat if they did not intend to take any further part in the contest. ONLOOKER.”
Under the heading Luton Town Football Club the following article appeared in the 9th January 1892 Luton Reporter.
“A highly appreciative article on the Luton Town Club and its players appeared in the London “Evening News” on Saturday. It is illustrated by a couple of portrait blocks, but these are not very successful. The matter which accompanies them, however, forms a fairly correct history of the club. Its foundation is accurately sketched and the laudatory reference is made to the officials. The article, which is headed “A Southern ‘Pro team.” next refers to the team in the following terms:- “although all the members of the team are registered as professionals it must not be supposed that the club is in any sense a professional club like the only other Southern “pro” organisation – the Royal Arsenal and the Northern and Midland clubs. All the players are local men, and they do not receive wages for playing. About three years ago, the Middlesboro’ Club (Luton’s next opponents in the English Cup) advocated the payment of players for time lost. This proposal was supported by the Luton club at the meeting of the Football Association, but on being put to the vote it was lost. At the last annual meeting it was decided to pay the players for time lost, and this, of course, made it necessary for them to be registered as professionals. This is all the remuneration they receive, so that it is rather absurd to class the Lutonites with the regular imported and highly-paid set of players who represent the professional clubs. In fact, the Luton club does no more than other clubs (Association and Rugby) do, only it has the pluck to avow its action, whilst other clubs prefer to remain amateur by winking at the law. The whole eleven are local players, and the majority have played with the club for some years.”
The results of the present season’s play having been mentioned, the writer proceeds as follows:-
“All the members of the team are working-men. Statements have appeared in various papers to the effect that they go in for a regular course of training. This is quite a mistake. They seldom kick a ball except in the matches every Saturday. The club is well supported by the townspeople, who roll up in large numbers whenever a good match is being played, and, and of course they like to see their own side win, they impartially applaud good play by either side. The ground is a remarkably good one, having been levelled last year at considerable cost. At the same time a handsome pavilion was erected at a cost of £500.
The captain of the club is A.H. Taylor, who plays left half-back. This sterling player first played for Bedford (about 10 years ago), and he was afterwards chosen to represent Bedfordshire and the East Midlands in their county fixtures. Taylor has played for Luton town ever since the formation of the club, and took part in the final for the Kettering Cup two years ago. He is a powerful half-back, sure tackler, and a good shot at goal. He keeps his team well together, and is very popular with the players as well as with the supporters of the club.
The important position of goal-keeper is filled by J. Burley, this being his second season with the team. A cool and clever custodian is Burley, ready for anything that may turn up, and always happy when he has plenty of work to do. He is a sure kick, but he prefers using his hands when he can, and is very clever in getting the ball out of danger. The backs, A. Sanders (right) and A. Hoy (left), are a very useful pair. Sanders is an old hand, this being his fifth season in the team. He is not by any means old as far as age is concerned, for he commenced playing when he was only 16 years of age. He is not a big man, but is very plucky and kicks well. Hoy was formerly in the Reserves This is his second season in the first eleven. He has improved wonderfully of late, and often proves a great thorn in the side of the opposing attack. The half-backs who partner Captain Taylor are J. Wright (right) and H. Paul (centre). Wright was, like Hoy, formerly in the Reserves; this is his second season in the first eleven. He is a sturdy player, and can always make his presence felt in a scrimmage. He plays well to his forwards. Paul is one of the best men in the team. He comes from St. Albans, and plays regularly in the Luton team for the first time this season. He first played for St. Albans in 1883, and in 1886 was chosen to represent Herts., and again in 1887 and 1888. In 1889 the St. Albans club gave him a benefit match. He is a very fine centre half-back, a sure kick, a glutton for work, and excels in heading the ball. Many a goal has he headed from a corner kick. His consistent good form has made his very popular with the Luton crowd. On the whole, the defence of the team may be set down as good.
The right wing is occupied by F.K. Whitby (outside) and G. Deacon (inside). Whitby is a smart and clever forward and this is his fifth season in the team. He can dribble trickily, and passes accurately and with good judgment. A dangerous man near goal, his shooting being clean and hard. His partner, Deacon, has played in the team since the formation of the club, and previously figured in the Luton Wanderers team. He is not so speedy as his partner, but imparts any amount of “go” in to his play, and although only a “little ‘un” he tackles the opposing backs and goal-keeper (however big they may be) in most plucky style. He is a useful player, always depended on to do his very best. Another new man this season is the centre-forward, H.W. Oclee. He is a very unselfish player, and keeps his wings well employed. He possesses a fair amount of pace, shoots at goal well, and has a happy knack of being in the right place at the right time. H. Whitby (outside) and W. Cheshire (inside) occupy the left wing positions. H. Whitby has now played in the team four seasons, and plays better than ever during the present season. Like his brother, he is a fast and clever forward. The pair are two of the finest runners (up to half a mile) in the district and they have won any amount of prizes. His runs down the touch-line and accurate centres are quite a feature of the play of the team. Cheshire was this season drafted from the Reserve team into the first eleven. He is a good steady player, rather effective than showy. Feeds his partner well, and can kick with either foot. He is a dangerous shot at goal, frequently putting in puzzling “daisy-cutters.” The quintette of forwards, though not all brilliant individually, work well together, and their play has improved greatly since the beginning of the season. No doubt the “straw-plaiters” will be seen to still greater advantage in the future.”
4th January 1892 committee meeting-
team selected against Marlow for sat 9th Jan. admission 3d, members free, pavilion 2d.
Gate money for 30th Dec £21 9s 2 1/2d Pavilion £2 2s 0d. Received share of Clifton gate £3 12s 8d. Decided to accept this amount. Received our share of Montrose gate £1 12s 4d. Expenses of Edmonton match £2 18s 6d. Resolved that the charge for Middlesboro match on Jan 16th be 6d and Pavilion 6d extra.
9th January 1892. from the Luton Reporter of 16th January 1892. Luton v Marlow postponed.
“SEVERE WEATHER.- There was a considerable fall of snow in Luton and throughout the neighbourhood early on Saturday morning, and more fell during Sunday night so that by Monday it lay to the depth of four to five inches in some parts. During the week Corporation officials have been busy clearing the streets, some 25 extra men and 10 additional carts having been engaged in this work. Keen frost has continued to prevail, with the exception of short intervals about the middle of the day, and numbers of young people have enjoyed skating on a portion of a flooded field ad joining the Bedford-road.”
“HALFPENNY BREAKFASTS FOR THE POOR. The committee who last year gave cheap breakfasts to some many poor people at Wellington Street Baptist Chapel have this week recommenced operations on the same footing. On Tuesday morning between 140 and 150 men were given a hot meal of tea, coffee, and bread and butter, and on Wednesday 250 women were similarly entertained. Yesterday (Thursday), however, the breakfast, which was again for men, was taken advantage of by only about 70. A charge of a halfpenny is made for men and women and children pay a farthing. As so few men have attended it would seem to show that the destitution is not nearly so widespread as last year. The committee accordingly propose to discontinue the breakfasts for men.”
Interlude – from the Editorial of the Luton Reporter of the 16th January 1892.
“Luton has grown to be a very big place must be the thought of everyone after perusing the elaborate and carefully compiled report of the Borough Surveyor for the past year. The total length of the public streets which have to be kept in repair by the Corporation has now risen to 32 1/2 miles, about half a mile having been added during the past 12 months, in addition to which there are upwards of two miles of private streets. One hundred plans of new buildings of one kind or another were deposited with the Council for their sanction in the course of the year. There are 56 lamps in the borough and they are continually being added to, while the borough’s population of 30,015 persons reside in 6,191 houses, 12 per cent of which, however, Mr Lovegrove says are at the present time empty.”
With bat, ball and bicycle.
“Frost and snow have put paid to chances of football being played during the last week or so, and amongst the matches which have had to be scratched was that between the Town Club and Marlow. This had been looked forward to with great interest by all in the locality who are interested in the game, for both teams have excellent records this season. The Marlovians have played 15 matches and only lost one, while the Lutonians had lost 5 out of 18.
The teams had met on former occasions. On two of these the visitors managed to beat the Lutonians by a goal to nil, while when the Town men visited Marlow they succeeded in drawing the game, the score being one each. Under these circumstances the match on the present occasion would have been exceedingly interesting. The Bucks. men have undoubtedly improved vastly during the last season or two, while the “reds” have advanced in excellence by leaps and bounds. The “clerk of the weather” was pitiless, however, and the meeting will have to come later on if it is witnessed at all this season.
It is doubtful whether the Town ground will be in a fit condition for deciding the cup match on Saturday. At the time of writing it is hidden beneath two or three inches of snow, and though a commencement has been made in the direction of clearing off the snowy coating i does not seem that rapid progress is being made.
The Secretary of the Town Club informs me that he endeavoured to get the match postponed, but after correspondence with the Secretary of the National Association Mr Smith has been informed that the teams must meet on the field, and that if the ground is unfit to play upon the referee must order that no play shall take place.
Opinions are divided as to the probable result, but the general idea seems to be that a licking is in store for the local champions. The visitors will come with a capital series of performances to their credit. They are third on the list of the Northern League, and of 10 matches they have succeeded in winning seven. This will scarcely be reassuring to the Town supporters but despite what must be admitted to be a very strong recommendation I am confident that the Northerners will not be allowed to have matters all their own way.
“Argentina does not seem to be a happy hunting ground for footballers if a story which comes from that country is true. It is stated that during a match which was being played there a number of soldiers marched on the ground with fixed bayonets and arrested the players on the ground that they had infringed the Revolutions Act. The men were brought before a magistrate and fined 10s each. How would this suit local players?”
11th January 1892 committee meeting –
“Team selected against Middlesboro, Mr Evans to meet referee and linesmen. “resolved that as a slight misunderstanding had arisen with regard to the date of the 1st Semi for the L.C.C. that our ground be let to the committee for the 12th March instead of 19th”.
“The Red Cross band be allowed on the ground free at the cup tie v Middlesboro, subject to the approval of the Middlesboro club”.
Hon sec write to Mr Favell of Kettering Charity Committee accepting his suggestion with regard to arranging with Montrose about ground. The admission to Town v Montrose be 3d also that Minerva be scratched.
Adjourned committee meeting of 14th January 1892 –
“Letter received from C. Larette of Athletic News. “in the event of Paul not being able to play his place be filled by Mr Bennett failing him Mr Barford”. Mr Scott volunteered to meet the team.”
16th January 1892. Taken from the Luton Reporter of 23rd January 1892.
“The English Cup Competition
Luton v Middlesborough
After successfully going through the qualifying competition for the English Challenge Cup, winning all of their games with very considerable credit, the Luton Town Club had the honour of taking part in the first of the second series on Saturday last, the fortune of the draw allotting them Middlesborough as opponents. The Luton Club, which is now in its seventh year of its existence, has entered the English Cup from the first, but this is the only time it has succeeded in getting beyond the preliminary contests. The farthest they had ever reached before was the semi-final, when their colours fell to the Old Brightonians. The members have naturally been much pleased at the enhanced importance this improvement in their fortunes has given them in the football world. Saturday’s engagement had been looked forward to with great anticipation, and speculation had been rife for some time as to the probable result. It was known that the Middlesborough team was a rather formidable one, consisting as it does for the most part if not entirely of professional players, drawn from some of the best clubs in both England and Scotland, including Preston North End, Sheffield Wednesday, and the Heart of Midlothian. They consequently had advantages in the way of training which cannot be laid claim to by the Luton eleven, who as our readers are aware are merely amateurs, receiving remuneration only for the time they are engaged on the field. Their opportunities for practice are few, and indeed they seldom touch a ball from Saturday to Saturday. This being so it was recognised that the Luton men had a tough fight before them, and many would not have been disappointed had the result been similar to the fiasco which the match with the 93rd Highlanders last season resolved itself into.
Unfortunately the weather was all against good play. Perceiving that the state of the ground was utterly unsuited for the purpose, the Secretary of the Luton Club (Mr I. Smith) put himself in communication with the Association in London and endeavoured to get the fixture postponed; but he was informed that, according to the rules, the teams would have to meet on the spot before the referee could decide whether the game should be gone on with or not. In the meantime a number of men were set to work to clear the snow off the ground. In this they were more successful than might have been expected, but the prolonged frost had rendered the turf extremely hard and all the scraping that could be employed failed to bring the icy covering entirely away. The referee, who was Mr T.G. Ashmole, of the Leicestershire Association [he was the President of the Leicestershire F.A. from 1890 to 1894], after inspecting the field thought there was not sufficient reason to postpone the match, and accordingly the game proceeded, though it was evident to everybody that the condition were very unfavourable for anything like scientific performances, and dangerous as well. For similar reasons the attendance of spectators was not nearly so large as would certainly have been the case had the weather been less rigorous. Not more than 1,200 lined around the ground, and the pavilion had even less than its usual number of beholders, which, considering that this was the most important engagement ever brought off in Luton, was not by any means satisfactory.
The teams were as follows:- Luton Town: Goal, J. Burley; backs, A. Sanders and J. Hoy; half-backs, J. Wright, H. Paul and A. Taylor (captain); forwards, F.K. Whitby, G. Deacon (right wing), H.W. Oclee (centre), W. Cheshire and H. Whitby (left wing). Middlesborough: Goal, H. Mackay; backs, R. Crone and J. McManus; half-backs, J. Copeland, J. Bell and T. Bach; forwards, D. Wilson and W.C. Campbell (right wing), D. Mullins (centre), G. Waller and D. Black (left wing). The linesmen were Messrs W.C. Cattell and J.T. Lewis, both of the Kettering Club, and the referee, as has already been stated, was Mr T.G. Ashmole.
Luton won the toss, and defended the Workhouse end, having a slight benefit from strong wind that was blowing athwart [across] the field. Mullins started the ball for the visitors at 25 minutes past 2. Some desultory shooting took place in the Luton territory, but the game had not been more than two or three minutes in progress when Middlesborough obtained a penalty kick off Wright, almost right in front of the Luton goal. The ball was well placed by one of the half-backs, and after some good defence by the Luton backs, the leather went right between the posts unexpectedly bounded through off Campbell’s head. First blood was thus drawn by the visitors. But everybody felt it was more by good luck than skilful management. this rather discouraging start seemed to nerve the homesters to greater efforts, and for some time they played with commendable vigour. The ball was kept for the most part about mid-field. A good many free kicks took place for both sides. From one of these the home forwards carried the ball well up, Frank Whitby making a good run on the right. From a foul Wright also played the leather well in the mouth of goal, but it was cleverly headed out by one of the backs. After this the visitors worked their way up, but near the middle of the field, when their forwards were lining up finely, Sanders took the ball from them and relieved in grand style. Immediately afterwards Oclee did some good service, and the forwards working well together , Harry Whitby seemed to have things all his own way; but the treacherous nature of the ground destroyed his aim. Thereafter Deacon endeavoured to send the ball over his head, but it pitched on his toe and gave a fine opening to the visitors, whose backs were showing up in splendid form. Some scrambling play followed, Luton losing numerous opportunities, while their shooting was rather erratic. Their passing, also, was none of the best. It may, however, be said that their opponents showed to no better advantage in this respect. There was more kicking than passing, but probably they found that work of this kind was out of the question in such circumstances. After Hoy had sent the ball well into the visitors’ ground, and it had been returned, it remained about the middle of the field for some time. About this time Paul had a nasty fall, being fouled by one of the half-backs. The ball having been sent over to Harry Whitby, he ran it up and put in a fine shot, causing Mackay to use his hands in defence. Waller, Black and Mullins now did some really fine passing, and succeeded in eluding the half-backs. They did not count upon Sanders, however, that player very neatly ran round the two right wing men and made a splendid dash down the left wing. Oclee ,too, distinguishing himself this time by doing some capital individual play, and gave some work to the Middlesborough goal-keeper. Taylor was also doing useful service on the left. One of the visitors’ backs having charged Oclee, a foul was given against Middlesborough; this gave Luton a look in at their opposing goal, in the vicinity of which some close work took place, but the Middlesborough backs were too strong for the home forwards, and the ball was eventually brought down the field again. Several more penalty kicks fell to Luton about this time, but were unproductive. The a little more excitement took place. The visitors’ forwards by a combined rush took the ball well up, but Hoy going in robbed them of the leather, though only at the expense of a corner – the first in the game. The ball was beautifully paced by one of the half-backs, but it was kicked out; it was immediately returned, striking one of the uprights, rebounding into play, and Bell securing it put in a stinging shot, the sphere passing through quite out of Burley’s reach and putting on a second goal for Middlesborough. During the few minutes remaining of the first part a hard tussle took place in the centre of the field, Deacon and Frank Whitby showing some good form, and Harry Whitby should have scored from a splendid chance that was given him but he was unable to do so, no doubt owing to the slippery foothold. A moment or so afterwards the whistle indicated that the time for the interval had arrived, and so the first half of the game ended with the score standing rather badly against the home team – Middlesborough two, Luton nil. A a five minutes’ breathing time the opposing sides again faced each other, the strangers now having the benefit of the wind. The chief feature of the second 45 was the manner the players from the iron town occupied the Luton territory. It was noticed, however, that though they could use the head dexterously and to good purpose, they were inclined to make rather too long shots. Immediately after the re-start the home goal was hotly bombarded, but Burley and his companions at the rear were equal to the demands made upon them. Very smartly did Hoy stop a combined rush once, and placed the ball well up the field, a piece of work for which the onlookers generally complimented him. Another good run by F. Whitby ended in the ball going out, Crowe (who made a most efficient back for the visitors) proving too much for him. Soon after this Wilson obtained possession and put in a grand shot, but Sanders, who is usually to be relied upon, relieved. About this time the Luton colours were again lowered but, as on the first occasion, in a rather fluky fashion. Bach, taking the leather from one of the Luton forwards near mid-field, took it through the Luton ranks in an unaccountable easy manner and sent it home. Burley actually handled the ball and was on the point of throwing it out when he chanced to slip, and as he fell the ball slipped from his hands and rolled gently under the bar. Things were now looking rather gloomy for the “straw” men, as our friends at a distance innocently term them. But they were in no way disheartened. They set to work with renewed activity and dash, and during the next ten minutes they entirely changed the scene of operations from their own to the opponents’ ground. Cheshire and Harry Whitby had a good run until they were stopped by McManus. Shortly after this it looked as if Luton were to score, but hands were given against them; the free kick was taken by Crone, who placed well, but nothing came of the incident. McManus was after this pressed hard by H. Whitby and conceded a corner, but the advantage was thrown away. Ten minutes before the end Cheshire and H. Whitby brought the ball up well on the left, and from the way it was centred it should certainly have been put to good account, but F. Whitby somehow mulled it. Play having once more been shifted to the home ground, a free kick was given against Luton, and the ball was actually put between the posts, but a little cheer of derision went up from the home team’s sympathisers when the referee brought the leather back again and it was discovered that in their haste the visitors had kicked it from the wrong spot. One or two corners followed, at both ends of the field. When the Luton men were pressing a scrimmage took place in front of their opponents’ goal, and the Whitbys very nearly succeeded in scoring. Mackay being so warmly assailed that he had to pass the ball behind in order to save his charge. Immediately after the ball had been brought into play again another vigorous assault was made on the visitors’ goal, and Cheshire managed to put in a hot low shot which passed on the wrong side of the post by only two or three inches. In the last minutes of the match nothing worthy of notice happened , and time was called with the score standing :-
Both sides were heartily applauded as they left the field. Though defeated, neither the home team nor their supporters were at all disheartened, for they had been fully prepared for a beating, and, considering the hard luck they had had, the score was not regarded as at all distressing.”
With Bat, Ball and Bicycle commented as follows;
“The great match of the season – the biggest event of the kind, indeed, that has ever taken place in Luton – has come and gone. And the outcome of it has not been contrary to anticipation. The Luton men might have done better than they did – I will go so far as to say that they could have done a good deal better; but that they should win against a team such as Middlesborough can put in the field was not for a moment dreamt of. All that can be said is that the home eleven played as well as they usually do against a team regarding whom alarming tidings have come to hand. I can understand why one or two of them should feel somewhat nervous. With all the improvement that has been wrought upon it, football has not yet been reduced to so scientific a pastime as to be totally devoid of danger. It seems to me, however, that when a man becomes so conscious of the risks he is running as to feel hesitancy in undertaking them, and deliberately shirks his opportunities, his proper place is outside among the spectators and not among the players. This may be cruelly logical, but it is football as it is played in England to-day.
They need not, however, have been so desperately timid as some of them unquestionably were. The strangers hardly came up to the account that had proceeded them. Though they are a powerful team – tall, stalwart fellows with plenty of muscle – and had come from clubs where they would get a skilful training, they certainly played on Saturday very loosely, and did not exhibit that form which we had all been led to look for.
I am glad to observe that the special representative of the “Athletic News” agrees with me in this. This is what he says”- “The Luton men had decidedly the better of the play in the first half, and more than once with a fair amount of luck would have scored. Their defence was admirable, and though time after time they got in front of goal, here their play was very faulty. A little short judicious passing would have done much for them. The play of Middlesborough was scratchy in the extreme. It may have been their day off, but they did not play up to their reputation.” He adds: :As far as I can judge, Luton are a stronger team than most people in the south think. They certainly seemed more at sea on the slippery ground than their opponents, but on fair ground should give any southern team a good game.” This should be encouraging.
Our lads had the luck against them all through. They experienced hard lines before the goal more than once. On the other hand, two of the Middlesborough goals were distinct flukes. So that had the element of luck been absent, and the Luton men played up just a little more strongly it is not too much to say that the result would have been very different.
Indeed, as far as one could judge from a single encounter, the two teams were not by any means unevenly yoked. Apart from the failing which I have alluded the home eleven, taken as a whole, are not so greatly inferior as was predicted. Visitors from London were extremely well pleased with their performance, though it was remarked that they are not “tricky” enough. They would do well to try to be more artful. This was a feature in which the visitors shone.
The most unsatisfactory part of the whole business was the wretchedly small gate. I admit it was not an inviting day to stand about in – I have had rheumatics myself ever since – but the snow was dry. I have seen a much larger crowd of enthusiasts round the ropes in worse weather than that of Saturday. Perhaps the uncertainty of the fixture coming off had something to do with the paucity in the attendance. But those who saved their sixpence lost more than sixpence worth, for it was truly a well contested game.
It was a great pity that the match was proceeded with at all in such unfavourable circumstances. The laws of the Association are as unbending as those of Medea and Persians, but with less reason. Everybody must feel that it is unfair to compel men to play on such ground as that which presented itself of Saturday. It is true that a protest might have been entered, but there was a sort of moral compulsion on the home team, which might have been avoided had the referee been allowed to inspect the ground on a previous day and communicate with the visitors. It all added to the terrors which the Luton team had already magnified sufficiently in their own minds. I believe, therefore, it would have been wise of the luton authorities if they had made the protest and had the fixture postponed.
It is all very well for some folk to say that the local team were wise in declining to enter a protest on the score of the hard frozen state of the ground, but I do not agree with them. It is true that the Northern team would have had a long journey, but on the other hand the Lutonians’ exchequer would have been benefitted materially and their prospect of making a satisfactory show would have been better. It is curious to note that the whole of the protests which were lodged have been sustained by the Council of the Association, and no less than seven games will have to be replayed.
18th January 1892 committee meeting –
“team selected against Montrose for sat 23rd.
Gate money for sat 16th £28 1s 3d, Pavilion £1 7s 6d = £29 8s 9d.
Expenses of cup tie as follows
Referee £1 19s 0d
Linesman £1 7s 11d
Linesman £1 6s 9d
Clearing of ground £7 8s 9d
Printing £1 0s 0d
Posting, advertising and crier £1 2s 3d
3 gatemen @ 2/6 7s 6d
4 Policemen 10s 0d
Total £15 2s 2d
Travelling expenses for Middlesboro £13 18s 0d
Total expenses £29 0s 2d
This leaving 8/7 for division Middlesboro portion 4/3 1/2. Cheque for £14 2s 2 1/2 be sent to Middlesboro.
Resolved that the ground be let to Mr A. Austin for a match on March 19th at the charge of £1 viz. London Boys v Sheffield Boys and carried unanimously.”
There is no record of an objection by Middlesbrough but the subject of the costs of clearing the pitch must have come to the attention of the F.A. as the rules changed for the start of the 1892/93 competition, see paragraph c below.