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© Chris Byrne 2010

1924-1926: More Lean Times

This was to prove to be yet another very disappointing season for the City, with wins few and far between, and the 1st XI finding it very difficult to field a settled side.
The season started with an FA Cup tie, with City in the Extra Preliminary Round for the first time: at least it provided a victory - a 2-1 win over Newbury Town. Two weeks later, however, and the cup trail petered out, as Slough won 2-1 at the White House.
The Isthmian League fixtures began remarkably well with a draw and two wins in the first three matches, but there were then only two more wins before the end of December: a 3-2 triumph over local rivals Wycombe Wanderers in the League, and a victory in the annual Boxing Day meeting with London Caledonians.
Despite their poor form City were exempt until Round One of the Amateur Cup when the produced a very encouraging 2-1 win at Leytonstone on the first Saturday of the New Year, and followed up with a 4-2 defeat of Leyton – perhaps the corner had been turned? This proved not to be the case unfortunately, as a 9-1 trouncing by the University, their biggest defeat by the Blues for thirty years, was followed by an emphatic dismissal from the Amateur Cup by Barnet at the White House.
The remainder of the League season was fairly low-key though they did complete the double over bottom-markers Woking and finish with three wins and a draw in their last four games. They also had a good win over Evesham Town in a friendly at the White House in February, playing, by all accounts, very well against the side that had been Amateur Cup runners-up two seasons previously. Despite the strong run-in, City still completed the campaign in thirteenth position – with the worst defensive record, and for the third year in succession – and had to apply for re-election.
The Reserves had at least pulled themselves up to a mid-table position in the Isthmian Reserve Section – a big improvement on the previous season when they had finished rock-bottom with just seven points, having let in 104 goals in just 26 games. They also had a good run in the Oxfordshire Senior Cup, including a remarkable 7-5 extra-time win over Stone’s Athletic, and reached the final for the first time since the War. The Final against Cowley, who were rapidly proving to be a very strong local side at this time and had won the Cup on the previous three occasions, was held, as was generally the case at that time, at the White House and ended goalless. Two weeks later Cowley made it four Cups in a row as they beat City 1-0. At the start of May City put out their full side against Cowley in a friendly at the White House, and in front of an excellent crowd of over 4000 registered a 3-1 win.
Frank Hartley had continued to be City’s strongest player and had won another Amateur Cap, against South Africa in October, and been a reserve (the only amateur) for the full England side against Ireland in the same month. Six City players represented Oxfordshire in the SACC competition, though with little success as the County lost all its matches.

After two heavy defeats City bounced back in their third Isthmian League match of the ‘26/’26 season with a resounding 7-2 midweek win against Wycombe Wanderers, but the unpredictable fragility of the side surfaced again on the Saturday as they crashed 1-7 at London Caledonians.
The FA Cup now produced a brief interlude from league affairs as the side went out to Maidenhead after being held to a draw at The White House.
After several years of unexceptional results the Club had been informed that they would have to start in the Preliminary Round of the Amateur Cup, so, on September 26th, they joined the competition before Headington United, St Frideswide’s and Witney Town, among others, for the very first time. The journey to Banbury to play Stones’ Athletic however produced a very one-sided match as both Harry Wackett and Frank Hartley scored four goals in a 10-0 win.
The following week Tottenham Hotspur sent a reserve side, captained by ex-City player Charlie Walters, to Oxford for a friendly but a hat-trick from Edgar Holton and a goal from F Lebeter (who would score four goals in a very short career of just five games for the City) beat the professionals.
Interest was very high locally as the next round of the Amateur Cup had paired Oxford City with Headington United who were just beginning to make a name for themselves in Oxford. A crowd of around 3000 at the White House saw the City take the team from ‘up the hill’ comfortably in their stride as another ‘hat-trick plus one’ from Frank Hartley lead the home side to a 6-0 win.
Isthmian results were still poor, but the Amateur Cup matches kept interest alive as Morris Motors (by the skin of their teeth), Windsor & Eton and Newbury (after a draw) were beaten to take City back to the First Round again.
They were drawn away to Casuals at Kingston-on-Thames and went down 6-4 in a match that see-sawed both ways for ninety minutes. The Club, however, protested about the eligibility of some of the London side’s players, and the FA found that Casuals had, indeed, fielded four ineligible men and ordered the tie to be replayed in Oxford.
As was so often the case in January, the White House was submerged and so the fixture was moved to the University Rugby ground in Iffley Road, and Frank Adams finally settled the game in City’s favour during extra-time. The drama surrounding the tie wasn’t quite over though, as the Secretary had failed to inform the FA that the match was to be played at a venue “…other than their own”. Luckily for the Club, the FA finally decided that a fine, of two guineas, would suffice.
The Second Round draw was awaited with interest, but City’s chances did not look good when they found they had been drawn at home to Dulwich Hamlet: at this point City were bottom of the league and Hamlet were top and would go on to win the title. However, the hosts saved their best form of the season for the encounter and to everyone’s amazement ran out convincing 5-1 winners.
So enthusiastic were the City supporters that some were clearly a little overzealous in their celebrations, as the following week’s Oxford Chronicle reported: “…the committee would ask supporters not to leave the ground by climbing the boarding at the Marlborough Road End. One seat and four lengths of boarding were carried away as souvenirs of the Dulwich game. The return of the same would be much appreciated.
6456 watched the next tie against Leyton, but the Essex side proved too good and ran out 3-2 winners.
There were one or two good league victories after this to cheer the supporters, but not enough, and the Club yet again ended in penultimate position and had to be re-elected, along with Civil Service, at the AGM.
To everyone’s disappointment Fred Spiller was forced, through recurring injury problems, to retire during the season, though, on a positive note, Frank Hartley continued to gain international recognition. Additionally Archie Meeson played for the FA XI against the University, and Ben Brooker represented the Isthmian League on Boxing Day against the Corinthians.

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