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- On this day in 1890.....the first trouble at a game
“Luton v Wolverton L. & N.W. These clubs were drawn as opponents in the first round of the competition for the Kettering and District Charity Cup both being in what is termed the first division, and they met to try conclusions on Saturday. Luton had obtained choice of ground by ballot, and they, of course, elected to play at home. The Bury Park Meadow was accordingly fixed upon as the scene of operations. There was a very large attendance of spectators, the Wolverton players being accompanied to the town by a goodly number of partisans, while the home enthusiasts were tempted out by the brilliant nature of the weather. Unfortunately the fair promise at the outset was not fulfilled, for during the second portion of the game cold, drizzling rain fell almost continuously, and towards the end darkness partially obscured the operations of the players. Under such circumstances as these watching the game became the reverse of pleasant, but the most of those who lined the ropes manfully retained their positions to the end, and they were well rewarded, for towards the close the locals exhibited their best form. It was nearly half-an-hour after the advertised time when the teams faced each other in the following order:- Wolverton: W. Anderson, goal; J. Davis and S. Coles (captain), backs; J. Cashmere, W.H. Williams and W. Brown, half-backs; W. Barton, W. Sharp, C.J. Lawless (centre), D. Mahoney, T. Barton, forwards. Luton: T. Read, goal; A. Sanders, J.G. Saddington, backs; A.H. Taylor, J. Wright and A. Whitby, half-backs; W. Miller, J.C. Lomax, J.W. Dickson, H. Whitby and F.K. Whitby, forwards. As will be seen the Luton eleven was not nearly so strong as it might have been made, and as explained last week this was owing to the Harpenden representatives being unable to play. Luton lost the toss, and Dickson kicked off at 3.15. The ball was rapidly conveyed into the visitors’ territory, and in less than a minute after the start the home centre forward took a shot at goal, which was, however, ineffectual. The lines were not entirely cleared, for the ball remained close to the Wolverton goal, and the result of a sharp tussle there was that a corner fell to Luton. For a short space play play was entirely confined to the strangers’ territory, and a second corner was obtained, which was resultless. The most notable occurrence hereabouts was the unreliability of the Luton Umpire, who gave a couple of decisions which were palpably erroneous, but as one was in favour of the home team and the other for the opponents the mistakes were of little consequence. The scene of operations was thereafter transferred to the opposite end and the home backs were kept busily engaged for a brief space. A splendid kick at goal was credited to the visitors, but this was surpassed soon afterwards by one which one of the Luton forwards made, the sphere striking the crossbar and rebounding into play. The game at this period was extremely fast, and some good individual play was enthusiastically applauded by the onlookers, whose partisan shouts were often very amusing. Give and take was the order for some time, but at length the Lutonians recollected their role and again pressed their adversaries severely, two or three shots at goal being obtained. The ball thereafter travelled from end to end with great rapidity, and at length the Wolverton forwards and passing the half-backs obtained a position near the Luton goal. The home keeper left his post to relieve the backs, but he failed in his kick and the inevitable result followed. The visitors were thus credited with the first goal in the match, and a miserable point it was. At this stage Dickson, who had not been exhibiting particularly striking form, was transferred from the centre to the right wing and his place taken by H. Whitby. Shortly before half time Luton equalised. The ball was sent in from the wing in capital style and was headed through by Lomax. In the second half the home eleven scored a second time and it seemed as though victory was to rest with them, but the visitors played an extremely plucky game. An appeal for what was unmistakably and offside goal was promptly disallowed by the referee, but the delight of the supporters of the Wolverton men knew no bounds when their favourites secured a second point soon afterwards, this making the score two all. From this stage to the finish Luton played a sterling good game and experienced very hard luck, but despite their most strenuous endeavours they were unable to gain any further advantage, and when the referee’s whistle announced that the time limit had been reached it was found that the result was a draw - Luton 2 Wolverton 2. The play of both elevens was fairly good, and altogether the match was well worth seeing. The referee was Mr R. Cook of St. Albans, and the umpires were Mr R. Jacks (Wolverton) and Mr J. Long (Luton). Some of the Wolverton umpire’s decisions were undoubtably wrong, and his persistence roused the ire of the spectators, who manifested their disapproval in an unmistakable manner. He was hustled when leaving the field. Luton will now, of course, have to go to Wolverton in order that the tie may be decided”.
The Luton Times of the 14th November noted that “Some of the Luton spectators after the game mobbed the Wolverton umpire, Mr T. Jacks, and probably some proceedings will be taken. The Luton players and committee were not to blame for this and much regret that it happened”.
The Luton Reporter carried two letters from Wolverton supporters about the events after the game.
“Will you kindly allow me a little space to protest against the disgraceful and cowardly conduct of a portion of the Luton spectators towards the Wolverton football team, on Saturday last. The hooting and yelling while the play was on would have done credit to a pack of Zulus. When the game was ended some of the roughs commenced knocking our men down and beating them with sticks. The umpire and several of our players are covered with bruises, while a reporter had his clothes nearly torn off his back. Hoping such rowdyism will not occur again, I am yours truly, James Randall, Wolverton, November 10 1890”
The second letter -
“May I claim a few lines in your paper to protest against the abominable and outrageous conduct of the Luton spectators on Saturday after our match with the Town Club. The facts may not be unknown to you, but in case they are, I may inform you that our umpire, a fair a man as ever stepped on a football field, on leaving the ground was brutally assaulted, the reason being attributed that he did not give decisions in accordance with the spectators views. Even now he is unable to walk without pain, and if he had not taken to his heels his injuries would undoubtedly be more serious. Not only this but several of or players were in the endeavour to protect him, were roughly handled, and received cuts with sticks, our esteemed captain, Mr Coles, getting the worst. Several of our supporters faired badly, as well, at the hands of your townsmen. We do not blame the Luton Town committee for any of the proceedings, but we did not like the action of the players, for if they had only come to our assistance I firmly believe that the crowd would have disappeared. As soon as the referee whistled time they were off, though there were signs of a row brewing, and we were left to shift as best we could. I am sure the respectable townsmen deeply deplore this incident, but for the credit of the Town Club something must be done to prevent such an event occurring in the future - I remain, sir, yours faithfully, W.H. Williams, Hon. Sec. Wolverton L. and N.W. Railway F.C., Wolverton, November 12 1890”. W.H. Williams played the game at half back for Wolverton.
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