The Original Reds

Chapter 8 – 1891/92

Not for the last time, Workington commenced the new season under a cloud. It seems strange to think now, but at this time the FA, both local and national, had a strict rule regarding the playing of organised football during the close season. In short, without seeking permission (which was rarely granted) no football could be played outside of the official season. 

Workington had applied to hold a five-a-side tournament on their ground during July, and, not surprisingly, permission was refused. Despite this, Workington, unwisely, went ahead with the tournament anyway. The FA took an extremely dim view of Workington’s naughtiness, and promptly applied a number of sanctions, including barring them from taking part in that season’s FA Cup competition.

Suitably chastised, Workington opened their season on the 3rd October with a 6-0 friendly home win against Cockermouth.

The Association League continued for a second season, but again in a rather haphazard way. Arlecdon and Frizington United decided not to take part, but Keswick, Chapel Bank and Moss Bay joined, making a total of six teams.

To add to the confusion, one local paper said that Arlecdon were still taking part (they weren’t!), and that Grasslot, Keekle and Wigton Harriers had also joined the league. Indeed, the same paper said that Workington’s 8-1 home friendly win against Wigton on the 24th October was in fact a league match!

The Reds first league match actually took place at Distington on the 14th November, with goals from Biltcliffe and Halton ensuring they got off to a winning start.

The team being:
Oliver: Biltcliffe, T. Brown, Croal, Dickinson, Guirdham, Halton, Harpwood, Lowes, McLuckie and W. Scott.

Interestingly, but not unusually, long standing goalkeeper Tom Brown played at full-back, allowing Oliver, a trialist, to play in goal. 

Only Phillips from the previous season’s side had left the club, whilst T. Dickinson, D. Durnion, E. Gardner and F. Winstone were recruited.

Further league victories followed, against Frizington Rovers (despite missing five senior players who were representing the county on the same day), Chapel Bank and Keswick, as the Reds ended the year top of the table and with a 100% record.

There was a hiccup at the beginning of January, with the visit to Keswick ending in a 2-1 (some sources say 2-0) loss, Workington’s only league defeat of the season. However, this blip was forgotten the following week when, on a snow-covered pitch, four goals each from Guirdham and Biltcliffe helped the Reds demolish Distington by no less than 13-0!

Workington had been drawn at home against Arlecdon in the first round of the County Cup but had a walk-over when they withdrew. This meant that they entered the tournament in the second round, having to travel to play Keswick, the only team to have beaten them in the league. History however didn’t repeat itself, and Workington eased into the semi-finals with a comfortable 4-0 win.

On the 13th February Reds dropped their only other league point that season, being held to a 3-3 draw by Frizington Rovers. A fortnight later the two teams were drawn to meet again, at Frizington, in the Cup semi-final.

It was at this stage of the season that the Reds suddenly had an injury crisis, and, for the semi-final, regulars Biltcliffe, Burrows, Kaye and McLuckie were absentees. Kaye and McLuckie were sadly suffering from long-term injuries that caused them to miss a large part of the season.

A makeshift side managed to force a replay by scraping a one all draw.

The replay took place at Workington the following week. The Reds side was still nowhere near full-strength, even including a clearly unfit Burrows, but managed to win, thanks to goals from Croal l and Guirdham, by the odd goal in three.

Workington, therefore, and against the odds, had reached their seventh successive County Cup Final, where they were to meet Moss Bay Exchange.

Moss Bay had only been in existence for just over two years, having been formed in November 1889, but had quickly established themselves as a decent, competitive, side, who were to go on and achieve a number of honours over the coming years. Despite this, Workington started as favourites to retain their stranglehold on the cup.

Strangely, the fixtures dictated that the two clubs were to meet three times on successive Saturdays in March, with the Cup Final on the 19th being sandwiched by two league fixtures.

On the 12th March two Guirdham goals gave the Reds a 2-0 home victory, which put them in good heart for the following week’s Final.

The cup final was variously described as taking place ‘near Banklands’ or ‘on a field behind Banklands’ in Workington. The Reds were still injury hit, and the side they put out, despite the return of Tom Biltcliffe, was nowhere near full strength. Sadly, injury prevented Kaye from continuing his record of having appeared in every cup final since the competition’s inception, leaving just Harpwood and Guirdham to maintain this achievement.

For the Final Workington lined up as follows:
T. Brown: H. Brown, J. Gardner, T. Dickinson, J. Harpwood, M. Brannon, D. Durnion, A. Guirdham, W. Croall, T. Biltcliffe and F. Winstone.

Workington started well and took the lead after fifteen minutes. However, Moss Bay equalised through Watts, and at half-time the teams were level at one-all. In the second half Workington’s defence simply collapsed, and, around the hour mark, Beattie, Kelsall and Watts again, all scored in quick succession to give Moss Bay an unexpected, but deserved, 4-1 lead. A late rally saw the Reds pull back two goals, but, at the final whistle, Moss Bay had won by 4-3. Workington’s run of five successive Cup Final victories, and 21 successive unbeaten matches, had therefore come to an end. It would take several years before they got their hands on the trophy again.

It was hardly a consolation, but the week after the Final, Workington went to Moss Bay for their final league match of the season and won.

So, despite losing their grip on the County Cup, Workington had retained the league championship, dropping just three points in their ten matches, and scoring thirty-six goals, whilst conceding just seven.

No less than nine Workington players received County honours during the season, with Tom Brown, Guirdham, Brannon, Harpwood, Lowes, Burrows, Dickinson, Hothy, Brown and Croall, all turning out in various representative matches for Cumberland against Cheshire, Northumberland and Lanarkshire.

As always, a number of friendlies were played during the season, with varying success. One interesting fixture was the one that took place on the 29th December against a ‘Mr Malone’s X1’, with the proceeds going to the Workington disaster fund. This was a fund that had been set up to provide for the dependants of those killed in the Preston Colliery disaster earlier that year.

A Workington side did appear in a second cup final that season, with the 2nd X1 having reached the final of the Cumberland Shield Tournament. However, they came up against another up and coming local side, Black Diamonds, and were hammered 7-0!

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