Matches postponed are aplenty throughout our history but games abandoned are a rarer breed. The terrible injury sustained by right-back Devante Stanley during the away game with Tonbridge Angels on 30th August 2021 led to the 14th abandonment of a St Albans City match but only the second due to injury. Devante suffered a break in both his tibia and fibula in his left leg in the 83rd minute at the Longmead Stadium, the accident happened just two days before his 26th birthday. City were leading 1-0 at the time that the game was abandoned through what would have been Jonny Goodard’s first goal for the club. Due to the game being abandoned, Jonny’s goal is erased from the records yet the Football Association still record the booking Devante picked up 16 minutes before his injury.
Prior to the Tonbridge match, our most recent postponement was at Lewes in October 2010. The game was a farce from early on and there were complaints that the game was only abandoned after half time so that refunds would not have to be issued. The game was goalless when time was called and the replayed match also failed to produce a goal. Below; Robert Walkley’s photo shows Lewes ‘keeper Rikki Banks peering into the gloom at The Dripping Pan, he wasn’t fooled by shouts of ‘it’s behind you.’
The abandonment of our League (AC Delco) Cup tie at Hungerford Town on 15th November 1988 was just one of four things to go wrong that night. Goals by Martin Gurney and Tony Kelly (before his move to Stoke City) put Doug Parkin’s Saints into a commanding position before fog, that had been getting thicker throughout the evening, caused the abandonment on 28 minutes. Just two minutes into the game Hungerford’s Dean Bailey was stretchered off with blood gushing from his head following a clash with Gurney. Prior to the game kicking off, the main road through the town had ground to a halt following a car crash that resulted in one vehicle being written off. That vehicle – the innocent one in the incident – was driven by City supporter Ray Stanton. Fortunately, Ray was not injured and neither were his passengers Terry Edwards and Terry’s dad Bill. There is more, the City team coach had a flat battery and had to be bump started. Apart from that, all went well. Gurney scored again in the re-match and was joined on the scoresheet by Andy Cox as City won 2-1.
Six years earlier, 2nd November 1982, and a miserable season that ended in relegation looked to be heading for better days when a Paul Mayles penalty put us ahead against Wembley at the Park. However, fog again intervened and the game was all done and dusted inside 20 minutes. This was Wembley’s 12th Isthmian League game of the season of which eight had been away from Vale Farm. City gave a debut to goalkeeper Rob Walker who, four months later, etched his name into our record books by becoming the first City goalkeeper to be sent off as we went down 5-2 at Lewes. Getting back to the Wembley game, the Lions won the replayed game 1-0 and had Ian ‘Spooner’ Whitehead in their line-up. During the course of the two previous seasons Spooner, as a City player, had converted 33 penalties and missed two. Sixteen of the penalties were awarded following fouls on Mayles.
Above: The City side that lost the rematch at home to Wembley.
Having been ‘robbed’ when in a good position in the games mentioned so far, fortune was on our side on 5th September 1977 when our Isthmian League game at Earlsmead against Harrow Borough was abandoned due to floodlight failure. We were 3-2 down (Whitehead penalty, Derek Brown) when the game was called off after, believe it or not, 90 minutes. It was the third time that the game had been stopped with the first delay coming as early as the 35th minute. That stoppage went on for 30 minutes, The game at Tonbridge was called off after 45 minutes of inactivity. It looked as though the game at Earlsmead was going to go the distance until it all went dark again on 88 minutes. Again the Harrow electrician restored power but just after the senior linesman had signalled that the 90 minutes were up – but before referee P. Phillips had blown for time – the lights went out for the third and final time. City manager Bob Murphy felt that the ‘farce’ should have been ended sometime earlier. One can’t help but feel a tad of sympathy for Harrow’s Paul Cerasoli who had scored a six-minute hat-trick. To add to Cerasoli’s frustration, City won 3-1 on our return to Earlsmead (Brown, Danny Johnson, Willie White).
The first City match to be abandoned through injury occurred on 3rd January 1977. It was an Isthmian League Division Two encounter against Aveley at Clarence Park . Conditions were difficult on a cold winter’s evening but the surface was playable. City led 4-3, courtesy of goals from Derek Brown, Keith King , Paul Fairclough and Nick O’Donoghue when Aveley goalkeeper, Joe O’Sullivan, suffered a shoulder injury. Just a couple of minutes remained. Referee J.D. Jackson declared that the freezing pitch had become unplayable and called the game off. City manager John Clark claimed that the referee had been conned. Aveley returned to the Park five weeks later for the rearranged game and had O’Sullivan in their ranks, the Essex side won 3-1 with Brown again scoring for the City. The following month, March, John Clark was shown the door at the Clarence Park .
Going back four years before the Aveley match (23rd January 1973) and fog, the most frequent cause of our abandonments, led to the players leaving early during a Hitchin Centenary Cup semi-final replay at home to Hitchin Town. The Canaries were two goals to the good, courtesy of a brace from new signing from Herts County League side Rolls Royce Engines, Derek Brown, when the game ended early in the second half. We played the opening ten minutes with just nine men due to the late arrival of Alan Droy and Alan Hunter. Hitchin returned to the Park on the 13th February but could not replicate their earlier success and were beaten by goals from Wilf France and Les Burgess . City played Loughborough Colleges in the final (own goal & Roy Butler) with Mickey Hunter’s Saints going down to a shock 3-2 defeat. The competition had been held over from the 1971-72 season. Of 30 home games played during the 1972-73 season, this was just one of seven wins for the City.
Just a couple of weeks before the Hitchin game and we had another wasted evening as our Isthmian League encounter with Walthamstow Avenue was terminated after 76 goalless minutes at a dark Green Pond Road. Due to heavy rain, the match had been in doubt but, instead of thick mud causing the abandonment, it was faulty floodlights that brought the entertainment to a conclusion. City secretary Dick East complained that the match, due to the state of the pitch, should never have started and appealed for the scoreline to stand; something that was never going to happen. When the game was replayed in February still no goals could be found. In the Avenue side were two future Saints, full-back Roger Redman and the enterprising Alan Carrington. The City goalkeeper hidden by the crease on the team sheet is future manager Doug Parkin . Future City assistant manager Roy Butler led the attack, he finished as our second highest goalscorer that season. Top of the list of goal scorers was the more erratic than enigmatic Denis Gill who scored eight times in 33 games before heading off to Enfield.
One has to go back to the 1950s to find the next abandoned game, 17th January 1959 against Harpenden Town. This one was again caused by floodlights, or a lack of them to be precise. Clarence Park was still five years away from having lights installed and once our Herts Senior Cup 3rd Round tie against the Harps went to extra time an early termination was likely. The game was finally called off ten minutes into extra time with the sides locked at 3-3 (Clive Greenwood, Denis Hall 2). Scribbling on his programme, our then club historian Derek Christmas said, “City were very lucky to have another chance.” The match was replayed the following Saturday at the Harps Rothamsted Park home, Greenwood and Ron Wood scored in our 2-1 win. This time Derek’s notes stated, “Bit better. Wood missed at least six goals.” At this time Harpenden were members of the South Midlands League.
Rain, a vast amount of it, caused our FA Cup 2nd Round Qualifying tie at home to Cheshunt to be abandoned at half time on 4thOctober 1958. City were trailing to the London League side 2-1 (Barry Darvill) when referee W. Franklin of Hemel Hempstead called the game off. Heavy rain had fallen throughout the first half and when there was a cloudburst just before half time there was little chance of the game restarting. The rain was accompanied by thunder and lightning. Somewhat embarrassingly, City lost the replayed tie at the Park the following Thursday with Roger Figg and Ron Wood scoring in a 3-2 defeat. The two boys seen wading their way across the pitch in the photo are Brendon and Anthony Bird of 5 Battlefield Road. To the right in the photo is the old tea chalet that was outside the football ground. Running the chalet at this time were members of the Manners family. Built just after the turn of the 20th century, the chalet was gone by the end of the 1960s.
Fog intervened once more on 25th November 1950 when our Isthmian League match with Romford at Brooklands was ended eight minutes before the scheduled half time. It had been a foggy afternoon in Essex but, twenty minutes before the 2.30pm kick off, wind cleared the mist significantly enough for the game to commence without too many problems. A crowd of 2,000 flowed into the ground but within five minutes of the start the fog descended once more. Eddie Scott put City ahead but after 37 minutes his effort was deemed to have been in vain. Ernie Evans scored his only goal for the club when we returned to Brooklands on 3rd February but Romford ran out 2-1 winners.
We return to Clarence Park for the next abandoned game when City were leading 3-0 against Bushey United in the 1st Round of the A.F.A. Senior Cup on 7th December 1935. Bushey were members of the Eastern Section of the Second Division of the Spartan League. Fog was the principal cause of the game being abandoned on 75 minutes but, as the notes in the programme for the replay two weeks later make clear, outside forces also came into play. “The first game was farcical. Players were eerie figures flitting about in the fog. Mr J. Matthews, who is the referee again today, did his best to get the game over, but, with the steam from the passing trains adding to the difficulties, he had no alternative but to abandon the game when 15 minutes remained for play.” The City goal scorers were Charlie Bunce and Sid Bidewell 2. One of the linesmen for the first meeting was none other W.H. ‘Billy’ Minter. Bushey managed to get a goal upon their return but also shipped eleven (Bunce 3, Bidewell 2, Percy Higgins 2, David Rand 2, Ken Baldwin, George Gray). City captain Bunce was our top goal scorer for the season with 46 in just 36 games.
Our first league game to be terminated early was an Isthmian League tussle with Leytonstone at Clarence Park on 14thJanuary 1933, with fog once more forcing the game to be abandoned. The most sustained period of success in our history had come to a close some four years earlier and the club now faced the very real threat of having to seek re-election to the League should we finish in the bottom two. At the time that fog swirled around the Park, City led 3-1 courtesy of goals from Harold Figg and Bill Nurton 2. A group of supporters were angered by the abandonment and swarmed around the entrance to the dressing rooms demanding a refund, the game had been cut short twenty minutes from time. As the crowd refused to budge the club contacted the police and reinforcements were duly sent. Fortunately, committee member E. Gwynne persuaded the crowd to leave, without refunds, and the police were not required to intervene. Leytonstone returned to fulfil the game on 4th March and then retired to east London with both points from a 2-0 win. City though, did finish the season in 11th place in the 14-club single Division Isthmian League and avoided having to seek re-election.
The first match in the history of St Albans City to be abandoned took place in west London on 4thJanuary 1913 as City faced Shepherds Bush at Loftus Road in the 1st Round of the Amateur Cup. A crowd of around 1,200 piled in for the 2.30pm kick off. After 90 minutes the sides were level at 1-1 with Ernest Grimsdell scoring City’s equaliser from the penalty spot following a foul on Archie Michell. (Michell later emigrated to Toronto and became the head of police). The game went into extra time but, with the light fading, it was evident that the game would not run for the full extra 30 minutes. Sure enough, at the end of the first 15 minutes of extra time, when Shepherds Bush were leading 2-1, the game was abandoned. The match was replayed at Clarence Park the following Saturday, kick off 2.15pm, where a goal by future FA Cup finalist (with Wolverhampton Wanderers) George Edmonds secured a 1-0 City win. The let-off that the fading light at Loftus Road provided was fully capitalised upon as City went on to enjoy their first significant run in the Amateur Cup. A goal by Leslie Hosier, the first player to make 100 appearances for the club, accounted for Tufnell Park in the 2ndRound. City caused a sensation in the 3rd Round when gaining a draw away to the holders, Stockton. A crowd of 6,000 at the Victoria Ground saw W. Clark score City’s goal while a new record attendance of 2,912 attended the replay at Clarence Park . Trailing 2-1 at the interval, City ousted the holders with goals from Edmonds, Grimsdell (penalty) and an own goal. Stockton had offered City £75 to switch the replay to the Victoria Ground, the offer was politely refused. The run ended in the quarter final stage with a 4-1 defeat (Dicky Hammond) to Bromley at Hayes Lane. Had it not been for bad light back at the start of the year then City’s first serious attempt at winning the national knock-out competition may have been delayed for several more years.
|2021-22||Injury (Devante Stanley) (83mins)||Sat||Aug||30||NLS||Tonbridge Angels||Longmead Stadium||(A)||1||-||0||Goddard J|
|2009-10||Fog (46 mins)||Wed||Oct||28||CS||Lewes||Dripping Pan||(A)||0||-||0||-|
|1988-89||Fog (25 mins)||Tue||Nov||15||LC2||Hungerford Town||Bulpit Lane||(A)||2||-||0||Gurney M||Kelly T|
|1982-83||Fog (18 mins)||Tue||Nov||2||IL1||WEMBLEY||Clarence Park||(H)||1||-||0||Mayles (p)|
|1977-78||Floodlight Failure (88 mins)||Mon||Sep||5||IL1||Harrow Borough||Earlsmead||(A)||2||-||3||Whitehead I (p)||Brown D|
|1976-77||Injury (Joe O'Sullivan) (88 mins)||Mon||Jan||2||IL1||AVELEY||Clarence Park||(H)||4||-||3||Brown D||King K||Faitclough P||O'Donoghue N|
|1972-73||Fog (49 mins)||Tue||Jan||23||HIC||HITCHIN TOWN||Clarence Park||(H)||0||-||2||-|
|1972-73||Floodlight Failure (76 mins)||Tue||Dec||19||IL||Walthamstow Avenue||Green Pond Road||(A)||0||-||0||-|
|1958-59||Bad Light (110 mins)||Sat||Oct||4||FAC2q||HARPENDEN TOWN||Clarence Park||(H)||3||-||3||Greenwood C||Hall D|
|1958-59||Rain (45 mins)||Sat||Oct||4||FAC2q||CHESHUNT||Clarence Park||(H)||1||-||2||Darvill B|
|1950-51||Fog (37 mins)||Sat||Nov||25||IL||Romford||Brooklands||(A)||1||-||0||Scott E|
|1935-36||Fog (75 mins)||Sat||Dec||7||AFA||BUSHEY UNITED||Clarence Park||(H)||3||-||0||Bunce C||Bidewell S (2)|
|1932-33||Fog (65 mins)||Sat||Jan||14||IL||LEYTONSTONE||Clarence Park||(H)||3||-||1||Figg H||Nurton A (2)|
|1912-13||Bad Light (105 mins)||Sat||Jan||4||AC1||Shepherds Bush||Loftus Road||(A)||1||-||2||Grimsdell E (p)|