This featured encounter saw the Saints renew battle with Worthing, for whom the 2022-23 season was their first in National League South. Our ‘Tales of Park Life’ feature today goes all the way back to 13th March 1937 when we faced Worthing, then of the Sussex County League, in the semi-final of the Amateur Football Alliance Senior Cup. The game was played at Wimbledon’s Plough Lane ground in front of a crowd of 2,342.
During 22 years in the County League, Worthing won the league title on seven occasions and only twice finished in the bottom half of the table. The 1936-37 campaign saw them settle in third place, it was one of 15 top three finishes during those 22 years. Worthing also proved to be doughty cup fighters this season. Their early season form saw them progress through to the 1st Round Proper of the F.A. Cup for the first time where they went down 4-3 away to Yeovil & Petters United (who changed their name to Yeovil Town in 1946).
Worthing: simply the Best
City had progressed through four Rounds of the A.F.A. Cup to face Worthing with 17 goals being scored in wins over Southgate Olympic, Old Carthusians, Civil Service and Bristol University. Plough Lane was familiar territory for the Saints as we had played Wimbledon there 15 times in Isthmian League matches by the time of this cup tie. Our record, though, was not impressive with City returning home with both points just once.
On a sunny, windy day in south London, City began promisingly and had far the better of the opening 45 minutes but were to rue a number of missed chances, especially when Duffield crossed for Best to score the only goal of the game for Worthing (below) after six minutes.
The south coast cub took the honours after the break and but for an outstanding display by City goalkeeper Don Wallage our defeat would have been more substantial than one goal. Don was singled out for praise during speeches given during the post match dinner attended by both teams and club officials.
City during 1936-37
Overall, the 1936-37 season had not been a memorable one for the club but the opportunity of making a fourth appearance in the final of the A.F.A. Senior Cup would have raised the spirits. We finished 12th in the then 14-team, single Division Isthmian League, it was, at the time, our equal lowest position since joining the league in 1923.
Our F.A. Cup run was brief with wins over Old Lyonians and Leavesden being followed by a crushing 4-0 defeat in the 2nd Round Qualifying to Athenian League side Golders Greens (later Hendon) at Claremont Road. That match attracted a gate of 3,000 with 600 making the short journey from St Albans.
Our Amateur Cup adventure was even less fruitful than the F.A. Cup with Harwich & Parkeston winning 4-1 at Clarence Park in the 3rd Round Qualifying. Although this game was the first played by the ‘City’ club against Harwich, the team from the Essex coast had played at Clarence Park in the 1st Round of the Amateur Cup against the original St Albans club on 2nd November 1895. A goal by Walter Gittings secured victory for the Saints on that occasion.
In the local cup competitions we fell in the semi-final to Apsley (later Hemel Hempstead Town) and Barnet respectively in the Herts Senior and Herts Charity cups.
Our top appearance maker for the season was skipper George Martindale (right), he appeared in 38 of our 40 games, while Ken Baldwin, with 14 goals in 37 games, was the Saints leading goalscorer. For the first time since 1908-09, not a single player scored a hat-trick.
Several players gained representative honours during the season. Left-back Sid Hammond was part of a Football Association XI that defeated Oxford University 5-1, five years earlier Hammond picked up an amateur international cap for England whilst with the Manchester-based club Northern Nomads.
City players aid county success
Hertfordshire won the Southern Counties Amateur Championship with victory over Devon in the final held at Barnstaple. George Martindale, Arthur Skitt (left) and Ken Baldwin all played in the final, fellow Saint George Gray also made one appearance in the competition.
As for Worthing, they went on to make the first of three appearances in the final of the Amateur Football Alliance Senior Cup but had a disastrous time against Eastern Counties League side Harwich & Parkeston who hammered them 7-1 at Bromley’s Hayes Lane ground. Worthing also suffered defeat in their other two appearances in the final, both against Cambridge Town.
St Albans City: D.Wallage, G.Martindale, A.Skitt, B.Crownshaw, R.Wells, S.Hammond, G.Gray, A.Jenkins, H.Buswell, K.Baldwin, R.Christopher.
Worthing: C.Hobden, L.Beeston, P.Warner, R.Blanch, J.Langridge, J.Duffield, R.Varndell, S.best, J.Thorlby, V.Humphries, R.Ockenden.
Referee: A.E. Kimber (Petts Wood).