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Played in a mudbath

posted 4 Oct 2019, 06:25 by Roy McDonald   [ updated 4 Oct 2019, 06:26 ]

Memory Match; Stalybridge Celtic v Prescot Cables

FA Cup Third Qualifying round, 29th October 1932

In a previous feature I looked back at the occasion of the record attendance at Hope Street, for the F.A. Cup Preliminary round match against Ashton National, in September 1932. Here, I take up the story of the rest of Prescot Cables' FA Cup campaign in the 1932/33 season.

This article was printed in the programme for the Prescot Cables v Brighouse Town match on 28th September 2019.

After overcoming Ashton National, Cables were drawn away to the Liverpool I Zingari League outfit, Earle. Supporters who travelled to Woolton Road, Wavertree, were confident of a comfortable victory against the amateurs, but were surprised by the tenacity of their opponents. A single Hector Hodgson goal was enough for Cables to scrape home with a one – nil win.

In the second qualifying round, Cables had to travel again. This time their opponents were Droylsden, then of the Manchester League. Cables returned home with a 2 – 1 win, thanks to goals from Fred Rogers and Paddy Kane.

The draw for the third qualifying round meant that Cables had to travel, once more, to Stalybridge Celtic, of the Cheshire League.

It had been raining almost continually for a week prior to the game and it showed no signs of abating when the Prescot team arrived, late, after having lost their way in Manchester.

The Prescot Reporter’s football correspondent, “Leon” summed it up:

“Imagine a small field, on which rain has been pouring, practically incessantly, for a week. Imagine that, in that field are 50 cows, and that it is still raining. Imagine, also, that there is a drinking trough, the ground around which has been ploughed up by the beasts’ hooves, and that pools of water lie in various parts of the field. Fix that wretched picture in your mind’s eye, and then substitute goals for the trough and 22 footballers for the cows. Then you will have an idea, and an unexaggerated one, at that, of the distressing conditions under which Prescot Cables played Stalybridge Celtic.”

“Never in all my experience have I seen a football match played in such weather. Apart from the water-logged ground, rain and sleet, accompanied by an icy wind, and blowing at gale force, added to the discomfiture of players and spectators.”

It was soon obvious that good football on the Bower Fold quagmire was out of the question. The players were soaked through, shivering, and thoroughly disheartened, as they slipped and floundered in the oozing mud. As the game went on, they became exhausted and the ball was booted listlessly about. Throughout the match, players from both sides repeatedly asked the referee to abandon the tie, in view of the strength sapping conditions, but he would have none of it. Cables’ players requests being met with jeers and boos from the home supporters, who considered it to be bad sportsmanship.

Half time: Stalybridge Celtic 2, Prescot Cables 0

Shortly after the restart, Hodgson grabbed a goal for Prescot, but there was to be no come back.  Eventually, there were just fifteen players left on the field, - 7 for Cables and 8 for Stalybridge - the others having retired through exhaustion. Oakes grabbed a third goal for Celtic near the end. At this point, and with only two minutes remaining, the referee relented and stopped the game the game. It was later alleged that he said that he had done this because the Prescot players refused to continue. However, this was disputed as Prescot had clearly kicked off, again, after conceding the third goal.

As Stalybridge had just taken a 3-1 lead, the home crowd were, unsurprisingly, incensed at this decision, and surrounded the official, who required a police escort from the field.

Once safely back in the dressing room, the players were able to recover and take a hot bath. However, on getting into the bath, Prescot’s Fred Rogers collapsed and had to be attended to by the St John Ambulance Brigade, who were also called on to attend to other players from both sides.

Result: Stalybridge Celtic 3, Prescot Cables 1 (Match abandoned)

Stalybridge Celtic: Savage, Brown, Whittaker, Scholes, Turner, Bell, Clifford, Butler, Wright, Oakes, Stevenson

Prescot Cables: Jimmy Trill, Arthur Tarrant, Tommy O’Brien, Downey, Peter Burke, Paddy Kane, Joe Keegan, Billy Howard, Hector Hodgson, Bob Rogers, Jack Roscoe

Referee: Mr Bolton (Oldham)

After the match Prescot immediately lodged a protest, which was heard by the FA committee in Liverpool on the following Wednesday evening. After hearing evidence from the referee, a Stalybridge Celtic official and the Prescot secretary, Bob ‘Tebay’ Rogers, the committee decided that the game should be replayed, as the full 90 minutes had not been completed. Unbelievably, the replay was ordered to be replayed at Stalybridge on the following evening!

Hasty work was required by Mr Rogers to notify players by telephone and messages conveyed by motor car to players living in Wigan, Waterloo, Seaforth and Freshfield, be ready for the replay. However, although all the players reported fit, the effects of the first game had left their mark on several of them, and the football committee decided to rest some players and reorganise the team.  

Conditions were vastly improved for the replayed match and the ground was said to be looking quite fresh, in a gentle evening breeze, bearing few scars of the quagmire a few days earlier.

The early exchanges were all in Cables’ favour, and it was against the run of play when Celtic scored after 12 minutes. Cables dominated the rest of the first half but the Stalybridge goal led a charmed life, and it was something of an injustice when Celtic scored a second, two minutes before the interval.

Half time; Stalybridge Celtic 2, Prescot Cables 0

Stalybridge were dominant in the second half, and the tired Cables players were penned in their own half for practically the whole of the 45 minutes. Celtic added three more goals to their tally and thoroughly deserved their emphatic victory.

Final score:  Stalybridge Celtic 5, Prescot Cables 0

Stalybridge Celtic: Savage, Brown, Whittaker, Scholes, Turner, Bell, Clifford, Butler, Wright, Oakes, Stevenson

Prescot Cables: Trill, Tarrant, O’Brien, Naylor, Burke, Kane, Cherry, Howard, Hodgson, Downey, Roscoe

Referee: Mr Bolton (Oldham)

Stalybridge Celtic went on to reach the first round proper, but were hammered 8 – 2 at home to Hull City.