This First and Our Last feature is twisted around with the first article recalling Our Last match before the start of World War Two, and the second article looking at Our First game after the end of hostilities.

St Albans City 6-1 Bishop’s Stortford – Four Penalties Missed

1939 announcementThe threat of war was omnipresent in the latter part of the summer of 1939 and the prospect of the football season lasting for long was remote. It was against this background that St Albans City faced Hoddesdon Town at Clarence Park in the 1st Round of the Herts Charity Cup on 26th August. That game finished all square at 3-3, a week later, 2nd September, we were back at The Park to entertain Bishop’s Stortford in the Extra Preliminary Round of the F.A. Cup.

The game was only the second between the two clubs with us having ended Stortford’s interest in the Amateur Cup in the previous meeting in 1934. The 1939-40 campaign would have been our 26th playing season (formed in 1908, five years lost due to WWI) and we were due to begin our 17th season as members of the Isthmian League, Stortford, Hertfordshire’s second oldest club having been formed in 1874, were in Division One of the Spartan League.

City made three changes, all down the left side of the team, from the Hoddesdon game with L.Chaney, J.Stevens and Len Birkbeck making way for left-back Wally Cohen, long serving left-half Albert Martin, and left-sided winger Len Young. City took to the pitch in white shirts and black shorts while Stortford wore shirts of black and white stripes. The scheduled referee, E.Colledge of Watford was forced to withdraw with his place being filled by the St Albans referee J.A. McCormick.

Given the standing of the two clubs at this time, it was no great surprise that City won although the margin of 6-1 was at the top end of expectations. The Bishop’s, though, could claim mitigating circumstances for their heavy defeat. The were unable to field a number of First team players and arrived late at Clarence Park for the 3.30pm kick off. The attendance was just under a thousand.

Playing up the slope during the first half we were two goals to the good within the opening ten minutes with Dai Richards and Jack Braithwaite firing past the Stortford custodian. After that, the game slithered between farce and utopia for the Saints. The utopia came in the form of further goals from Richards, Len Young and Cohen who, direct from a free kick, gave City a five-goal lead at the interval.

Stortford rallied, briefly, after the break and pulled a goal back when R.Hall turned in a rebound after a shot by R.Bowen rebounded off an upright. Albert Martin completed the scoring with a fine drive from the edge of the box.

Aside from being our last game before the horror of war became reality, the match is memorable for a bizarre sequence of events that saw four penalties – including one twice-taken - missed. The first came when Bert Dyke was tripped in the York Road penalty area. George Martindale took the kick but saw his shot saved by Turnbull. Due to a Bishop’s defender encroaching into the penalty area, a retake was ordered and this time Martindale fired well wide. George had also missed two of the three previous penalties that he had taken for the club.

Next to try his luck from the penalty spot was Stortford right-back G.S. Clark who became the first player to have a penalty saved by City goalkeeper Cyril Longman. Braithwaite became the third player to miss from the penalty spot when his shot was saved by Turnbull.

The game was completed by the competition was not. War was declared the following day and the F.A. Cup was shut down until 1945. Five members of this City team returned to play for the club after the war.

St Albans City: Cyril Longman; George Martindale Wally Cohen; Jack Smith, Ron Wells, Albert Martin; Jack Braithwaite, Johnny W.Miller, Dai Richards, Bert Dyke, Len Young.

Bishop’s Stortford: AJ Turnbull; GS Clark, WG Hill; HJ Skerritt, AA Woods, RH White; R.Lambert, J.Polybank, R.Bowen, WJ Reed, RM Hall. 


St Albans City 3-3 Ilford 1st September 1945 

Organised amateur football was played during the war but clubs could struggle to put out a decent side depending on player availability. We had a high turnover of players during the war with 285 players being used in our 166 competitive games when we competed in the Herts & Middlesex League and various cups. Our first competitive match after the war was a disastrous 8-0 defeat away to Walthamstow Avenue as the Essex club began their first full season as members of the Isthmian League. This ‘Our First’ feature recalls the Saints first home game after peace returned to Europe. The war ended in Europe on 2nd May 1945 but the Japanese surrender in the east did not happen until 2nd September that year – one day after we played our first home league game of the season.

Our visitors on that day were Ilford, founder members of the Isthmian League in 1905. In the intervening years they had been crowned champions three times, runners up five times and twice winners of the Amateur Cup. Ilford had been runners up for each of the two seasons before the war but they made a disastrous start on their return to Clarence Park as City stormed into a three-goal lead within the opening 23 minutes.

City made three changes from the heavy defeat at Walthamstow with Sid Waring, Jock Ellison and S.Harmsworth making way for Wally Cohen, D.Pringle and A.Goodrich. Cohen was the only member of this XI who had also turned out for the club prior to the war. For Goodrich the Ilford match was his debut for the City while, Pringle, was making sole appearance in the First team.

Ilford FC programmeThe new-look St Albans City side could hardly have made a better start with Pringle taking just three minutes to open – and close – his account for the club when heading home from a free kick. On 20 minutes, Roy Dear – the son of Fred Dear who played a leading role in some of our glory years of the 1920s – teed up Holben for the second goal. Worse was to come three minutes later for Ilford when Holben marked his home debut with his second goal.

Ilford fought back strongly before the interval and only a series of good saves by Harry Valentine, including from a penalty by Parker, protected our seemingly healthy lead. Ilford’s pressure was rewarded early in the second half when Stringer reduced the deficit and Parker made amends for his earlier miss to add a second goal. St Albans held out until two minutes from time when a long shot from Parsons took a slight deflection and rose into the roof of Valentine’s goal. The return fixture at Ilford’s Lynn Road saw us go down 4-1 and Ilford returned to the Park in January 1946 to remove us from the Amateur Cup in the 1st Round.

Left: The programme cover from the return fixture with Ilford at Lynn Road.

Elsewhere in the knock-out competitions, the Herts Senior Cup brought little relief as victory at Welwyn Garden City was followed by a home defeat to R.E.M.E. In the Charity Cup Albert Jones scored a hat trick during a 7-3 win over Welwyn Garden City while Hitchin Town were seen off at the Park before a crowd of 3,600 saw us go down 4-0 in the final to Barnet at Underhill.

We got through 62 players during the course of the season (37 games) and did not use a higher number until 70 turned out in 50 games during the 2010/11 season. Jock Ellison appeared in more games than any other player (32) while our leading goalscorer, with nine, was left-winger R.Forsyth. A sergeant in the Royal Artillery, Forsyth was based at Hatfield but, after being demobilised in March 1946, returned to his native Scotland and was presented with a fountain pen by the football club. We finished the season just one place off the foot of the table, it was a feat that we repeated a year later but were safely re-elected on both occasions. Ilford finished seventh in the 14-club league.

St Albans City: Harry Valentine; Harry Burke, Wally Cohen; D.Pringle, Jim Blackman, Fred Chuck; A.R. Goodrich, Roy Dear, J.Holben, Hughie Evans, Bert Pipe.

Ilford: R.Mason: C.McGrillan, R.Ayrton: J.Parsons, R.Barron, R.Southcott; D.Albone, E.Stringer, R.Smith, C.Ward, E.Parker.