The 1889-90 season was to be a watershed in the history of the first St. Albans club as, at the fourth time of trying, the Saints reached the final of the Herts County Cup. Unfortunately, the bid to win the cup was not successful and the achievement of getting to the final was more than a touch controversial.

William Goode SlightWilliam Goode SlightThe campaign kicked off with a positive AGM, chaired by James Dickson at the Crystal Palace on 9th September. The treasurer proudly proclaimed that the debt of £40 of three years earlier had now been overturned into a profit of 4s 1d. Committee member R.M. Pratt successfully proposed that latticework be laid around the pitch perimeter for spectators to stand on. Strangely, it was also agreed, on the proposition of joint-club secretary, James Robert Ball, that no season tickets be issued. The meeting elected the mayor, Cllr R. Gibb, to be club president with Sandford Moore voted in as captain for a third year and Horace Paul as sub-captain. Richard Cook was elected joint-club secretary, along with Ball, for the ninth successive year but this was to be the final term in which he would hold the position.

Once the season got underway the County Cup, this time consisting of eight sides, took centre stage as the controversy of the 1887-88 season resurfaced with St. Albans again at the heart of the row. Apsley made their first visit to St. Albans to contest the 1st Round on 14th December. The Saints progress to the next stage was seldom in doubt and on the back of a hat-trick from Moore the Citizens went through 5-2 in some ease. The only bad news to afflict the team that day was a serious injury sustained late in the game by Alfred Miskin; it later transpired that he had splintered his shoulder. Miskin scored one of the goals that day but his injury kept him out of the side until the following November. At the opposite end of the injury scale, William Slight (left) made his first appearance since November 1888 following a lay off through injury.


Moore leads Saints off after disputed ‘no goal’

In the semi-final, on 22nd February, the Saints travelled to the Endowed School at Bushey to face a Watford Rovers side featuring three of the Sargent brothers including the free-scoring Fred. Rovers were very much the favourites having already beaten St. Albans 5-0 and 12-0 earlier in the season, the latter game coming less than a month before the County Cup clash and was the heaviest reversal suffered by the original St. Albans club.

The tie ended at 2-2 in the most dramatic of circumstances with two contrasting versions as to what actually happened. One fact that was agreed upon is what caused the ensuing furore, viz, with the scores level St. Albans, through Dickson, believed they had scored the winning goal. The St. Albans umpire (linesman) Mr White had no hesitation in awarding the goal but referee Mr A. Corben, from the London Caledonians club, queried it with his second umpire, Mr F.C. Conway, of Harrow Town, who declared no goal. The referee went with Mr Conway’s opinion, which is where the reports differ. One report, later discredited, alleged that St. Albans supporters invaded the pitch once the goal was disallowed thus leaving the referee with no option but to abandon the match. However, correspondence between the two clubs confirms that this was not the case. The truth, though, is not a great deal more palatable for it is certain that as soon as the goal was disallowed Sandford Moore, the St. Albans captain and scorer of one of the goals, led his side from the pitch.

At a meeting of the Hertfordshire F.A. on 26th February, at the Bedford Head Hotel, St. Albans, despite believing they had scored a perfectly legitimate third goal, did not claim to have won the tie but, also, were not punished for walking off. The Association compromised by setting a replay date of 8th March, at Hitchin. This, however, was not the end of the saga as just two days before the replay Rovers notified St. Albans that they, to avoid any further ill feeling between the two clubs, had withdrawn from the competition. While this may well have been a genuine and honourable gesture, Watford’s reasoning was treated with a touch of scepticism in St. Albans, as it was believed that Rovers could be without several of their leading players for the trip to Hitchin. But whatever the true nature of the Rovers decision the path was now clear for St. Albans to take their place in the final.

EMM Mike SharpErnest Michael ‘Mike’ Mannock SharpThe aftermath of the cup controversy left St. Albans without a game between 22nd February and the 19th March when, on the latter date, they faced a St. George’s side at the school grounds in Harpenden. Leading the school attack was Sandford Moore. Knowledge of the opposition came in handy for the St. George’s music master as he scored a hat-trick against his Albanian colleagues whom he was hoping to lead to county cup glory, the school side won 4-2. Moore was back in the St. Albans line-up three days later as the Saints prepared to face the formidable Hoddesdon. Clearly Hoddesdon were in no mood to surrender their hold on the cup lightly and demolished Hitchin in some style in their semi-final with an emphatic 10-3 win at Presdales.

 Hoddesdon returned to Presdales, Ware, to contest the final on 22nd March. Despite being on the receiving end of another H.C. Newbery hat-trick the Saints, with Moore scoring twice, held the favourites to a 3-3 draw. Ernest Michael ‘Mike’ Mannock Sharp (right) scored the other goal. St. Albans hopes of lifting the trophy for the first time hinged on strengthening a defence that had not played well at Ware. The plans, however, were shot to pieces through a succession of unfortunate incidents that weakened their XI for the replay at Hitchin on 5th April. Hod Paul, in his sixth season with the club, was ruled out for the rest of the season after breaking a rib when playing for Luton Town one day before the replay. The now veteran defender Cecil Henry Aylen was called in for only his third game of the season to replace Lieut Bigge who had ricked a knee ten minutes from the end of the drawn game. Another absentee from the replay was William Goode Slight who sustained an injury following an accident on a bicycle while two other changes were made with Bentley and H.C. Fowler also missing from the first game.

Hoddesdon take the cup

Hoddesdon were again favourites and this time they made no mistake with a 5-0 rout, including another brace from H.C. Newbery, although up until the first goal, on 28 minutes, the Saints more than held their own but could not penetrate the formidable Hoddesdon back line. One St. Albans player who sat out both matches was George Humphrey. He was in the third of his four seasons with the Saints but was also on the books of Luton. On the day of the first semi-final tie with Hoddesdon he was wanted by the Hatters to play in a cup-tie against Kettering. It was a tough choice for him to make and in the end he was the unfortunate loser as, in an effort not to upset anyone, he elected not to play for either club. Somewhat ironically both St. Albans and Luton drew. Hoddesdon’s victory in the replay confirmed their position as the major force in Hertfordshire football but it was to be the clubs final Herts County Cup success not only during the 1800s but also throughout the 20th century.

Late starts, early exits

The season had started on 21st September with a 3-2 win over Spartan Rovers at the Grammar School Recreation Ground in weather described as unfavourable. An improvement in the weather the following Saturday attracted a larger crowd for the visit of Clapton, by this time the east London club was already twelve years old.

St. Albans certainly courted problems in the County Cup but it was not the only time during the 1889-90 season when they encountered controversy. A home friendly with Edmonton on 12th October, that was drawn 3-3, ended five minutes early with the Saints marching off after having an appeal for 'hands' in front of goal rejected. The game also got off to an unusual start as a number of spectators were invited to play due to a shortage of players in the home ranks.

The following Saturday saw St. Albans stay on the pitch until the official end of the game but the match itself, a 4-1 win over West Ham, kicked off at 4.30pm when it had been scheduled for 3.20pm. West Ham are no relation to the latter-day West Ham United.

The influence of the Sharpe family on St. Albans football at this time was never more evident than on 2nd November when three members of that family played for the St. Albans 2nd XI against Watford Rovers whilst two more played against Rovers First team on the same day. It was not a great day for the Sharpe clan though as the First team went down 2-0 at Colney Butts Meadow, Watford, and the 2nd XI 3-0 at the Grammar School Ground. The Herts Advertiser listed the players as Sharp but at least four are likely to have been the Sharpe tribe with an ‘e’ on the end.

‘Match of the season’

The second away game of the season was at Dallow Lane against Luton Town on 23rd November. The game finished all square at 1-1 courtesy of a late equaliser by Sandford Moore.  The Luton Recorded stated that, ‘in the opinion of some it may be regarded at the match of the season.’ St. Albans had about 100 of their own supporters at the game who had travelled to Luton via the Midland Railway Station on the 2.28pm train.

On the final Saturday of the month visitors Croxley were crushed 10-0 at the Grammar School Ground, some records give the score as 9-0 plus one disputed. Not for the first time this season the game was blighted by a late kick off, 45 minutes after the designated time, and play was abandoned five minutes from time when it was virtually impossible to decipher where the players were in the deepening winter gloom.

The Apsley game in the county cup was the only one played during December until two matches took place on Boxing Day. A small crowd saw a weakened side go down 2-0 to Bowes Park in the morning, 11am, while a much larger attendance made for a lively time in the afternoon, 2.30pm, when Old Salwey were beaten 3-1. The Herts Advertiser reported, ‘While the match was in progress considerable feeling was expressed by the onlookers, which ended with a slight disturbance as the teams were leaving the ground at the termination of the game.’ Two players featured in both games. John William Sharpe senior went in goal for the first game and then switched to inside-right in the afternoon, while Tom Spicer moved from half-back in the morning to his more familiar position of goalkeeper after lunch.

The year ended with a six-goal rout of the Eagle Football Club on 28th December, this was another match when the kick-off time was nothing more than a suggestion and the local patrons were kept waiting for the delayed start.

The New Year, 1890, kicked off with a 3-2 win over St Mary’s Watford. The game was on the Grammar School Ground but was switched from one of the two pitches to the other due to frost.

Hadley paid their first visit to St. Albans since December 1884 on the 4th January but could not match their earlier success and went down to a 5-1 defeat, the score being unchanged from half time. E. Beenham opened the scoring and thought that he had added a second ten minutes from time only for Hadley to dispute it on the grounds of offside. St. Albans refused to stand down and without a compromise being reached the two sides departed from the scene prematurely.

Watford Rovers run riot

Just one other game was played during the month with Watford Rovers visiting the Grammar School Ground on the 25th. St. Albans fielded far from their strongest XI and paid the full price as Rovers handed their hosts the biggest defeat, 12-0, of their 23-year history. J.A. Brown and Walter Coles bagged four apiece and only good work by goalkeeper Tom Spicer denied Fred Sargent from scoring more than a single goal.

The thrashing received by Watford Rovers was followed up with a 5-2 reversal at home to London Vulcans but a return to winning ways was made on the 12th February with a 6-0 victory over Aldenham Grammar School at Holywell Hill. J.H. Gill became the latest member of St. Georges School to turn out for the Saints but it was a fellow Georgian, Sandford Moore, who grabbed the headlines with his second and final hat-trick of the season.

Ten days later the Saints played their second competitive game of the season when facing Watford Rovers in the Herts Senior Cup. After the bickering with Watford and the Final of the county cup against Hoddesdon were out the way the season closed with two games on Easter Monday, 7th April.

In the morning St. Albans suffered a heavy defeat during a first meeting with Crouch End that resulted in a 7-1 thrashing. The Saints fortunes picked up in the afternoon but not by a great deal as visitors Darfield brought the curtain down with a 2-1 win at the Grammar School ground. St. Albans were a man short at the kick-off but, F.J. Cook, who had played at full-back for Crouch End in the morning, kindly filled in at half-back to complete the Saints XI. Spicer played in both games, as did E Beenham who was also joined by his brother G. Beenham for the morning game.

St. Albans won ten of the twenty-four games played by the First team during the season with Moore, once again, the top scorer.

Hertfordshire played three county matches during the season although, for the second consecutive season, none were at St. Albans. After kicking off with a 2-1 win over Huntingdonshire on 25th January the county went down a 6-3 defeat to Surrey at Colney Butts, Watford on 5th March, and a 5-0 drubbing to Middlesex at Richmond on 19th March. No current St. Albans players made it into the Hertfordshire teams but at least seven of those that appeared in the three games played for the Saints at some time in their careers. On a similar theme, ten occasional St. Albans players turned out for Watford in their three FA Cup ties against Swindon Town (won 5-3, att 300), Schorne College (won 2-1) and Swifts (lost 5-2, att 2,000). Schorne College was based in North Marston, near to Aylesbury, while Swifts were from Slough.

The Bedford Head Hotel, where the Hertfordshire Football Association held its meetings at this time, was at 236 Tottenham Court Road. The building is said to have opened in 1776 and sometime during the mid 1800s was named 'The Italian' before changing its name to the Bedford Head Hotel. The hotel closed in 1941 later becoming a bank and from 1984 it has been a Fullers pub.

1889-90 Season Line-Ups

Sep 21 Fr SPARTAN ROVERS (H) W 3 - 2 Johnson EJ Sharp EM Long T Bennett CW Paul H Myers LB Miskin A (1) Stanley SM (1) Sharpe JW snr (1) Sharpe JW Hanbury EP
Sep 28 Fr CLAPTON (H) D 4 - 4 Johnson EJ Long T Humphrey G Bennett CW Paul H Looker HW Ford FGJ Dickson JW (1) Moore SFP (1) Weatherhead JC Stanley SM (2)
Oct 4 Fr GROVE HOUSE (H) W 2 - 1 Sharp W Aylen CH Humphrey G Bennett CW Paul H Sharp EM Miskin A Long T Moore SFP (1) McFie WM (1) Sharpe JW
Oct 12 Fr EDMONTON (H) D 3 - 3 Spicer T Long T Mantle E Wright E Mardall H Smith T Miskin A Lloyd J Sharpe JW (2) Satchell E Dickson JW (1)
Oct 19 Fr WEST HAM (H) W 4 - 1 Spicer T Humphrey G Sharp EM Smith T Paul H Looker HW Miskin A (1) Sharp W Sharpe JW (1) Satchell E (1) Beenham E (1)
Nov 2 Fr Watford Rovers (A) L 0 - 5 Spicer T Mantle E Beenham E Fowler ER Sharp W Looker HW McFie WM Hunter P Sharpe JW Miskin A Brierley A
Nov 9 Fr PHOENIX (H) L 1 - 2 Spicer T Bigge GO Mantle E Sharp EM Paul H Smith T Miskin A Sharpe JW (1) Sharp W McFie WM Beenham E
Nov 23 Fr Luton Town (A) D 1 - 1 Spicer T Long T Humphrey G Son EJ Paul H Sharp EM Miskin A Sharpe JW snr Moore SFP (1) Bigge GO Narburgh S
Nov 30 Fr CROXLEY (H) W 10 - 0 Johnson EJ Humphrey G Long T Smith T Miskin H Paul H Miskin A Sharp JW snr (4) Sharpe JW (1) Bigge GO (4) Beenham E (1)
Dec 14 HSC1 APSLEY (H) W 5 - 2 Spicer T Humphrey G Aylen CH Bennett CW Paul H Slight WG Miskin A (1) Dickson JW (1) Moore SFP (3) Sharpe JW snr Sharpe JW
Dec 26 Fr BOWES PARK (H) L 0 - 2 Sharpe JW snr Ellery H Johnson H Newell W Mantle E Spicer T Everett H Rumball AG Sharpe JW Welch C Wright E
Dec 26 Fr OLD SALWEY (H) W 3 - 1 Spicer T Johnson EJ Ellery H Mantle E Paul H Sharp EM Dickson JW Sharpe JW snr Sharpe JW Rumball AG Beenham E
Dec 28 Fr EAGLES (H) W 6 - 0 Spicer T Hoy AE Johnson EJ Smith T Paul H Mantle E Sharp EM Sharpe JW snr Sharpe JW (3) Rumball AG Beenham E (1)
Jan 4 Fr ST MARY'S WATFORD (H) W 3 - 2 Spicer T Ellery H Everett JJ Constable Paul H (2) Smith T Sharp EM Sharpe JW snr Sharpe JW Mantle E Beenham E (1)
Jan 11 Fr HADLEY (H) W 5 - 1 Spicer T Humphrey G Johnson EJ Looker HW Everett JJ Smith T Dickson JW Sharp EM Sharpe JW Beenham E (1) Hartley G
Jan 25 Fr WATFORD ROVERS (H) L 0 - 12 Spicer T Hoy AE Long T Sharp EM Paul H Johnson EJ Sharp W Looker LM Sharpe JW Sharpe EN Beenham E
Feb 8 Fr LONDON VULCANS (H) L 2 - 5
Feb 12 Fr ALDENHAM GRAMMAR SCHOOL (H) W 6 - 0 Spicer T Humphrey G Gill JH Looker HW Paul H Sharp EM Whitby F (1) Whitby H Moore SFP (3) Stanley SM (1) Fowler HC
Feb 22 HSCsf Watford Rovers+ (A) D 2 - 2 Spicer T Long T Humphrey G Sharp EM Paul H Looker HW Fowler HC Dickson JW (1) Moore SFP (1) Sharpe JW Mantle E
Mar 19 Fr St. George's School (A) L 2 - 4 Reed T Humphrey G Johnson H Sharp EM Sharp Slight WG Looker E Martin A (1) Bentley Sharp W
Mar 22 HSCf Hoddesdon (A) D 3 - 3 Johnson EJ Long T Bigge GO Paul H Bennett CW Slight WG Dickson JW Fowler HC Moore SFP (2) Sharpe JW Sharp EM (1)
Apr 5 HSCfr Hoddesdon (A) L 0 - 5 Johnson EJ Aylen CH Long T Bennett CW Arnold EW Sharp EM Dickson JW Mantle E Moore SFP Sharpe JW Stone AW
Apr 7 Fr CROUCH END (H) L 1 - 7 Spicer T Johnson EJ Ellery H Smith T Mantle E Miskin H Sharp EM (1) Fowler HC Hanbury EP Beenham E Beenham G
Apr 7 Fr DARFIELD (H) L 1 - 2 Spicer T Humphrey G Long T Satchell E Sharp W Cook FJ Dickson JW Beenham E Sharpe JW McFie WM Marchant
HSCsf Watford scratched from the replay

1889-90 Appearances & Goals

Cecil Hugh Aylen 3
E Beenham 11 5
G Beenham 1
Charles William Bennett 6
Bentley 1
Lieut GO Bigge 4 4
A Brierley 1
Constable 1
FJ Cook 1
James William Dickson 9 4
H Ellery 4
H Everett 1
JJ Everett 2
FGJ Ford 1
HC Fowler 4
ER Fowler 1
JH Gill 1
EP Hanbury 2
George Hartley 1
AE Hoy 2
George Humphrey 11
F Hunter 1
EJ Johnson 10
H Johnson 2
J Lloyd 1
T Long 11
E Looker 1
HW Looker 6
LM Looker 1
E Mantle 10
Marchant 1
H Mardall 1
A Martin 1 1
WM McFie 4 1
Alfred Miskin 9 3
H Miskin 2
Sandford Ffolliott Pierpoint Moore 8 12
LB Myers 1
S Narburgh 1
W Newell 1
Horace 'Hod' Paul 15 2
T Reed 1
AG Rumball 3
E Satchell 3 1
Sharp 1
Ernest Michael Mannock Sharp 16 2
W Sharp 7
Ernest Northern Sharpe 1
John William Sharpe jun 18 8
John William Sharpe sen 7 5
William Goode Slight 3
T Smith 8
EJ Son 1
T Spicer 16
Sidney Margetts Stanley 3 4
AW Stone 1
JC Weatherhead 1
C Welch 1
F Whitby 1 1
H Whitby 1
E Wright 2
Unknown Scorers 14