Chapter 3 – 1886/87
There was a change of captaincy for the new season, with Kaye taking over from Holmes who stepped down after leading the Reds in their first two seasons. A number of new players were recruited, although the majority who had been with the club since the start were retained. This included the pioneer Fred Hayes who retained his place in Workington’s forward line.
Workington were playing their home games in Schoose Close. This was far removed from being a ground as we know it today, being no more than a field marked out with a pitch! There were no stands, no perimeter fencing, and the players got changed nearby. There was also a noticeable slope from one end of the pitch to another, and this was to cause a number of issues as will be seen.
Although the majority of fixtures continued to be friendlies, the Reds, still smarting from what they saw as the previous season’s injustice, were again included in the draw for the County Cup. Frizington and Keswick had joined the previous season’s entrants, bringing the total of participants to seven. The Association had also invited Millom, Maryport and Whitehaven to enter, indicating how the game was beginning to expand across the County.
In the first round Workington were drawn at home against Distington, and, in a match played on the 18th December, strolled into the semi-finals by winning 5-0.
The semi-finals saw Workington drawn at home against Keswick, with the match taking place on the 12th February. It is fair to say that the game wasn’t without incident! Workington were clear favourites, only having lost once all season. However, playing downhill in the first half, Keswick shocked the Reds by building up a 3-0 half-time lead. It was apparently clear to everybody however that the second goal had been punched in. Even the Keswick ‘scorer’ admitted it. The only person who didn’t see it was the referee who, to much consternation, awarded the goal. The Reds were on the wrong end of another decision in the second half, with the referee disallowing them what appeared to be a perfectly good goal. Despite these setbacks Workington scored four legitimate second-half goals to cap an incredible fight back and win 4-3.
That however wasn’t the end of the matter. Keswick, not being able to accept defeat, appealed that, despite them getting the benefit of all the decisions, and having the same forty-five minutes of playing downhill as the Reds, the ground favoured Workington due to its slope! This wouldn’t be the last appeal on this basis by a beaten team, but on this occasion a County Association Committee meeting on the 5th March dismissed the appeal.
This paved the way for Workington to gain revenge, as their opponents in the final were, once again, Carlisle.
The Final was scheduled to take place on the 19th March, and was to be held on the Workington Cricket Ground, home of the Workington Rugby Club. This hardly seems like a neutral venue, but Carlisle raised no objection. The pitch was said to be ‘in poor condition and greasy’, but this clearly didn’t worry the Reds. As it turns out this was the most one-sided final in the history of the competition with Workington, four nil up at half-time, romping home by a score of 8-0. It could have been worse for Carlisle as the Reds, yet again, had what appeared to be another perfectly good goal by Botham disallowed. No matter, Workington had got both their revenge, and the club’s first piece of silverware.
To show how one-sided the match was, a contemporary report on the game concluded by saying;
‘….the game concluding in favour of Workington by eight goals and a disputed goal to nothing. The visitors were outclassed at every point, and the Workingtonians were continually peppering the city goal’.
The team that won the cup for Workington lined up as follows;
H. Harrison: A. Guirdham, H. Taylor: W. Leek, H. Brown, L. Kay (captain): T. Botham, F. Hayes, A. Morewood, T. Biltcliffe and J. Harpwood, with the goals being scored by Harpwood (4), Botham (2), Biltcliffe and Morewood.
Apart from the Cup triumph, Workington also played a full season of friendly matches, losing just once, in the first match of the season, 4-3 at Distington.
Friendly fixtures were actually fairly fluid affairs, with games being cancelled at short notice, and opponents and venues being changed frequently. Additionally, sometimes teams either didn’t turn up, or simply sent a telegram on the day of the match to say they couldn’t raise a side! The duration of games was also subject to the conditions. On the 6th November the match at Frizington for instance was played over just thirty-five minutes each way due to the rain.
Despite now being seen as the strongest side in the County, Workington weren’t immune from sometimes struggling to raise a full team. When they travelled to Wigton in late November they only arrived with nine men, and had to enlist the help of two locals.
For the first time Workington played a team from outside of the area when they entertained Scottish side Solway Rovers. Matches such as these were to become a regular feature of forthcoming seasons. Another interesting fixture was a match against the Workington Rugby Club. Despite fielding their regular side, the Reds only won 3-2, which shows that in those days the codes were not that far apart, with many players taking part in games under both sets of rules.
The County Association again fielded a representative team, against Furness on the 28th April, and it contained no less than five Workington players; Guirdham, Kaye, Biltcliffe, Harpwood and Morewood.
So, after being in existence for just three years, Workington had started winning trophies, and had established themselves as the premier club in the county. They were indeed a big fish, albeit in a very small pool.
Unfortunately, even where the team line-ups were noted, many goal scorers were not recorded.