St Albans City 1-1 Dulwich Hamlet
FA Cup 4th Round Qualifying
Saturday 18th November 1922
The tale of Wilf Minter scoring seven times in an FA Cup tie and still finishing the evening on the losing side is well known. Wilf, better known as Billy, secured his place in the record books courtesy of Dulwich Hamlet winning 8-7 at Champion Hill on 22nd November 1922. To this day Minter’s feat remains as the highest score by an individual on the losing side of an FA Cup tie. While that match has been recalled many times over the years, the 90 minutes played the previous Saturday at Clarence Park and that led to the game at Champion Hill has always been overlooked.
St Albans City had been granted a bye to the 4th Round Qualifying for the 1922-23 season after reaching the 6th Round Qualifying the previous season. Not only had City built a good reputation as a cup fighting side by playing in seven rounds of the FA Cup in 1921-22, but the prestige of the club had been enhanced by lifting the championship of the Athenian League for a second successive season.
Dulwich were no slouches themselves having been Isthmian League runners-up in 1921-22 and also Amateur Cup semi-finalists. To reach that stage of the competition they beat St Albans City 3-1 in a replayed 3rd Round tie at Champion Hill following a 2-2 draw at Clarence Park. That replay attracted an official gate on 10,888 but it is believed that the true figure was in excess of 14,000 after thousands of City supporters battered their way into the ground after arriving by train to find the gates to the ground closed.
The two FA Cup ties later in the year attracted smaller, but still impressive, attendances of 5,215 at Clarence Park and 4,060 for the midweek replay.
Dulwich’s superior standing in the game, the Isthmian League being higher ranked than the Athenian League, would have made them slight favourites going into the tie. St Albans, however, were very much a club on the way up and in the two games leading up to the Amateur Cup match had run in seven goals; four at Hampstead Town (now Hendon) and three away to Luton Clarence. Minter was in fine fettle having netted a hat-trick in both games.
City took to the pitch in navy blue and gold striped shirts, white shorts and, predominantly, blue socks. Dulwich wore a changed kit of white shirts, black shorts and black socks and provided formidable opposition. In Edgar Kail they had a forward who not only made 20 appearances for the England Amateur team (eight goals) but also three appearances for the full England side. Goalkeeper Ernest Coleman was another England Amateur international who made the last of his four appearances for his country just four days before the game against St Albans.
Coleman’s quality was soon tested as City went onto the attack from the start and it was very much against the run of play when Hamlet gained a controversial lead. Harold Figg tackled Sid Nicol and then ran the ball out of play for an anticipated goal kick. Referee P.H. Rolfe had other ideas and presented the visitors with a corner kick that A.E. Hunt swung into the penalty area for Kail to volley home on seven minutes.
Once ahead Hamlet struggled to seriously test Innes Tennent again in the City goal but the New Zealand-born goalkeeper was left helpless when a shot by Nicol struck the crossbar.
Coleman, on the other hand, had been called into action four times before Kail opened the scoring. City’s best chance fell to Bertie Butcher but the long serving stalwart fired over the top. Butcher made his City debut in September 1919 and played what was thought to be his final (93rd) game in November 1923. But after his playing days were over Bertie served the club as trainer (pretty much the man with the towel and sponge to treat injured players during games) and committee member. Due to a player shortage on 29th January 1949, more than 25 years after his last game for the cub, he donned the City colours one more time as City went down 4-1 to Corinthian Casuals at Chiswick.
Either side of the interval City were refused a penalty, firstly for handball and secondly for a foul on Minter. Attacking down the slope towards the Hatfield Road goal in the second half St Albans struck the crossbar through Minter.
City continued to dominate but when the equaliser arrived, on 80 minutes, it was even more controversial than the effort that presented Hamlet with their early lead. The build up to the goal owed much to the brothers Miller. H.S. (Harold Stanley) Miller won the vital corner and Redvers Miller provided the cross from the set piece that pulled the two sides level. The replay turned out to be Harold’s final game for the club before he joined Charlton Athletic. After 20 games for the Addicks he, following a £l,500 transfer, began a 16-year association with Chelsea where he scored 44 times in 365 games, he also gained one England cap.
Redvers Buller Miller, despite playing in 29 of City’s 33 matches that season, was only included for the game due to the Miller’s other brother, Harold Edward ‘Ted’ Miller, turning out for Watford that day.
Putting all of that side-story of the Miller clan to one side, Dulwich protested strongly that the ball had gone straight into the net without touching another player and, as the Laws of the Game stood at that time, the goal should not stand. After consulting with the linesman closest to the incident, Mr J.W. Hankin from Surrey, Mr Rolfe disallowed the goal but was then encouraged by the City players to have a word with the linesman on the opposite side of the pitch. He, Mr W. Dyes of Hertfordshire, claimed to have to a clear view of what happened had no problem in awarding the goal. The ball had, in fact, struck City captain George Meagher in the face and rebounded into the net.
Fortuitous or not City were deservedly level but could not force a second goal in the short time remaining and the two sides reconvened at Champion Hill the following Wednesday for the right to play Clapton in the 5th Round Qualifying.
St Albans City: W.Tennent; F.Holland, W.Field; H.Figg, P.Bird, G.Meagher; P.Pierce, B.Butcher,
W.Minter, H.S.Miller, R.Miller.
Dulwich Hamlet: E.H.Coleman; A.Brooker, T.R.Goodliffe; F.Sivewright, R.Jonas, F.Young;
J.Shillabeer, E.Kail, W.J.Davis, S.Nicol, A.E.Hunt.
Referee: Mr P.H. Rolfe.