The visit of Eastbourne Borough on October 7th 2023 turned our attention towards the seaside with the Our First and Our Last feature embracing City matches against coastal clubs at either end of the country.
OUR FIRST and OUR LAST
Hartlepools United v St Albans City – 13th December 1924
Our first seaside trip did not occur until our 362nd game when we headed north to face Hartlepools United (as they were called at that time) in the 6th
Round Qualifying of the F.A. Cup. This was the final season of the competition having two preliminary rounds, six qualifying rounds and four ‘proper’ rounds before the semi final. From 1925/26 the cup still had the two preliminary rounds but only four qualifying rounds and an increased six rounds ‘proper’ prior to the semi final.
Below: How the Daily Mirror broke the news of City being drawn away to Hartlepools United.
To reach this stage of the competition we had chalked up our first scalp of a Football League club with a 5-3 win at Clarence Park over Brentford at the end of November. Brentford were struggling in Third Division South and Hartlepools were doing little better in the North Division.
Being drawn so far from home was tough on the Saints and, after having a crowd of 8,825 for the visit of Brentford, we took a party of just 27 to Hartlepool and that included the players. Just two supporters were included in the official party but most of the players were greeted in Hartlepool by relatives and friends who boosted the support significantly.
The game took place on Saturday, 13th December 1924, City travelled north from Kings Cross on the Friday. Dinner was served on the train with York being reached at just after 11pm. The group spent the night at the Royal Station Hotel (now known as the Principal York Hotel).
The journey north was resumed on the Saturday morning with West Hartlepool reached at 11am, here the City party were met by officials from Hartlepools United. Some of the travellers took a stroll along the seafront before having lunch at the Grand Hotel in Swainson Street. After lunch it was time to head for Victoria Park, home of Hartlepools United.
City may have had virtually no support on the terraces but, at the ground, received telegrams and good luck messages from the likes of Barnet (who bowed out of the Cup with a 3-0 defeat at Exeter City that day), Dulwich Hamlet, City’s club doctor (J.W. Cleveland) and, bizarrely, the Ku Klux Klan. Fred Dear and Wilf Minter also received messages of support from fellow postal workers. The powerfully built Dear was a postman while Minter, along with his father, ran a grocery store that included a post office in Culver Road back in St Albans.
Hartlepools were hardly in the best of form at the time of our visit and a 1-0 defeat at Doncaster the previous weekend left them with a record of just three wins from their opening 16 league games. We, on the other hand, were the reigning Isthmian League champions and had won ten and lost just three of our opening 17 league and cup games that season. Sadly, on the day, the elements were against us. Hartlepools skipper Charlie Storer won the toss and elected to kick with a strong wind to the back of his team. Just before the interval rain arrived and by the time that the sides switched ends the wind had died down. The superior fitness of the professionals shone through in the second half and after taking the lead close to half time through Cook they added three more after the break through Cecil Hardy, Storer and Cook again. The attendance was 5,582 with gate receipts of £315 that were reduced after tax to £270. Hartlepools reward was an away tie with holders Newcastle United.
Hartlepools United: Billy Cowell; Allan, Ted Smith; Jack Jobson, Charlie Storer, Alf Young; Ernie Butler, T.P. Smith, Cook, Cecil Hardy, S.Hardy.
St Albans City: Cecil Cannon; Fred Holland, Sid Duller; Harold Figg, Percy Bird, Fred Hellicar; Fred Dear, George Biswell, Wilfred Minter, Redvers Miller, Wally Buckingham . Referee: Mr. G.W. Carver.
OUR FIRST and OUR LAST
Weymouth v St Albans City – 18th February 2023
Our most recent trip to the seaside occurred last February when we stopped off at Radipole Lane in Dorset, home of Weymouth. The attendance of 856 was a good deal lower than the 5,022 that attended our visit in 2006. On that occasion it was an Easter Monday (17th April) Conference South title showdown that Weymouth, aided by a couple of decisions that are regarded as questionable in this part of the world, won 3-2.
Seventeen years on and times have changed. Neither side was challenging for the league title although David Noble’s Saints had held a play-off position since early November. Weymouth’s fortunes were less promising. Fresh from relegation from the National League, Bobby Wilkinson’s Terras were just one place and three points above the bottom club in National League South. In their most recent outing Weymouth had lost away to our neighbours, Hemel Hempstead Town. For a side chasing promotion our form was the height of inconsistency as we headed south on the back of a 3-0 thumping at bottom side Hungerford Town and a scintillating 5-4 win away to fellow play-off hopefuls Worthing.
It was a cold, dank day when we arrived on the coast, a walk along the seafront was bracing and certainly brief as the wind was quick to chill the ol’ bones. The cold blast was also felt at the back of the excellent high main stand, a place on the calm of the terraces offered a more comfortable vantage point.
The football did little warm those present although there was just enough in the game to maintain interest throughout. The Terras had conceded goals in each of their previous ten outings. Having put five past Worthing the previous weekend, we were confident of extending their misery. As things turned out, home goalkeeper Zaki Oualah had to rely on insulated gloves to keep himself warm. Most of the action was centred on the visitors goal. Back between the sticks after missing 18 games due to a broken finger was Michael Johnson. His replacement during that time, Norwich City loanee Dylan Berry, was now the one sidelined with a finger injury. The return of MJ was fortunate timing for City. He is the possessor of an excellent record at saving penalties and on 67 minutes he was handed his latest test after Riccardo di Trolio was ridiculously penalised for alleged foul on Tom Bearwish. Facing a penalty was simply business as usual for MJ as he dived to his left to successfully parry Bradley Ash’s shot to safety. With that save, of the five most recent penalties that Michael had faced only one had resulted in a goal, and of the nine he had faced overall during his time with the club only four found the back of the net.
At the opposite end of the pitch, City captain Shaun Jeffers had a goal disallowed for a tight offside decision. The game duly ended goalless with both sides having mixed emotions about the outcome. For the Terras a point from a side in a play-off position was hardly a disaster but missing the penalty could be something they would rue come the final day of the season. A point for us on the road was acceptable but, against a side seemingly on course for a second successive relegation, many felt it to be a case two points of lost. Fortunately, though, results elsewhere saw us rise from sixth to fifth.
Opened in 1987 with a capacity of 10,000, Radipole Lane is a fine stadium with covered terracing on three sides and a high main stand that offers an excellent unobstructed view. From one corner of it, on a clear day, the coast can be spotted just above the golf course.
WEY: Zaki Oualah, Harry Kyprianou, Brendan Willson, Nathan Carlyle, David Sesay, Ahkeem Rose, Luke Nippard (Harvey Slade 84), Scott Rees (Matt Buse 84), Tom Bearwish Jamie Egan, Bradley Ash (Nathum Melvin-Lambert 70), unused subs: Xander McBurnie, Chris Francis.
SAC: Michael Johnson, Devante Stanley, Kyran Wiltshire (Munashe Sundire 90), Michael Clark, Ryan Blackman, Shaun Jeffers (Joe Neal 76), Chay Cooper (Glenn McConnell 76), Zane Banton, Joy Mukena, Tafari Moore, Riccardo Di Trolio, unused subs Callum Adebiyi, Huw Dawson.