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© Chris Byrne 2010

1926-1928: Lean Form Continues

As quite regularly happened in this period, the season kicked off with home and away derbies against Wycombe Wanderers: a narrow home win on the last Saturday in August, and a heavy away defeat the following Wednesday evening.
Having narrowly scraped past Cowley in the Extra Preliminary Round of the FA Cup, it was back to Wycombe again for the carried-over final of the previous season’s Oxford Hospital Cup: a draw. Involvement in the FA Cup was soon over for another year as they were beaten 4-1 at Windsor & Eton in a replay after the City had thrown away a three-goal lead in the original tie. There was some silverware won, however, when they were victorious in the replayed final of the Hospital Cup in their fourth meeting of the season with Wycombe in almost as many weeks.
There were three successive home wins in October, including a 7-1 thumping of the Casuals, who, along with Civil Service, had been finding it very hard to compete at this level since the Great War. Otherwise, results continued in the disappointing fashion of recent years. Perhaps the supporters were beginning to lose patience as a Mr J Smith (sic) had to be removed from the ground after striking a linesman!
In the run-up to Christmas the two Blue ‘towns’ met for the first time as Southern Amateur League Cambridge Town visited the White House. Much was made locally of the meeting, the Mayor of Oxford was introduced to the two sides before the match and, after the match, the Oxford City president, Frank Gray, entertained all the players and officials to a dinner. Cambridge won the match 3-1.
Despite their inconsistent form the Club were exempted until the First Round of the Amateur Cup, and had a comfortable victory over Blandford, from Dorset, at the start of January, with Fred Neale and Charles Starling, recently arrived West Bromwich Albion amateurs, contributing three of City’s six goals.
Joy was short-lived, however, as two weeks later a visit to east London saw them on the wrong end of an 8-0 scoreline, as eventual cup-winners Leyton handed out one of City’s worst ever defeats in the competition.
There was a single away win, at Tufnell Park, in the Isthmian League in mid-March, but this was the season’s final win.

There was an Easter Tour again, the first for a few years, with the Club heading for Romania, their longest trip yet. Though the social side of the tour was a great success, on the pitch City found their eastern European opponents to be ‘…generally very skilful’ and ended with three draws and two defeats. (The pennant presented by Juventus Bucharest before the match is shown to the left.)
Frank Hartley continued to shine for the Club and played for the Corinthians on one or two occasions, and was a reserve for England against Ireland in October. Archie Meeson was also picked as a reserve for England’s game against France, but had to pull out because of ‘flu.
The 1st XI surprised everyone by collecting a point from their final league match of the season against champions St Albans City, and that point was sufficient to save them from applying for re-election for the fifth consecutive year as it lifted them into twelfth place, above Casuals on goal average.

There had been much criticism of Mr Benson in the local press over the summer, with both letters and editorials expressing deepening concern about the stagnation of the Club. There was much pressure for the formation of a Supporters’ Club, which could help raise funds and also provide an ‘official channel’ for the Committee to hear the concerns of those who watched the teams play. The Committee were not in favour of the idea.
Continuing recent links with the Midlands club, the ’27-’28 season began with a friendly against West Bromwich Albion Colts, with City losing an entertaining affair 3-5, and then continuing in what had by now become the all-too-familiar fashion of playing some fairly dismal football and not picking up their first victory until the beginning of October. In this period there was a 0-8 defeat at champions St Albans, and a ‘...totally incompetent’ performance that brought a 9-1 dismissal from the FA Cup at Maidenhead.
With no exemption this year, it was back to the early rounds of the Amateur Cup in October. Morris Motors were unconvincingly overcome in the First Qualifying Round, and then Windsor & Eton were removed, rather more decisively, two weeks later.


In the Third Qualifier it looked very much as though a local upset was on the cards at the White House as Witney Town fought their way into a 3-1 lead at half-time. Whatever the ‘20’s version of the half-time tirade contained, it must have been impressive as City stormed back after the break and netted seven times in the last twenty-five minutes to run out 9-3 winners.
Having seen the West Oxfordshire’s side’s performance, Cowley, now a local force to be reckoned with, must have been hopeful of producing an upset in the final Qualifier. Excitement was high in the City and over 7200 turned out to see Cowley hold the City to a 1-1 draw at the White House, and a week later at the Sunnyside ground another packed crowd watched the two sides battle for ninety minutes without scoring. The following Wednesday afternoon a somewhat smaller audience waited for another close-run encounter at the White House, but must have been surprised when City turned on some dazzling form, as Frank Hartley, in his 202nd and final match for the club, scored two goals as the home side cantered to a 7-1 win.
After a long period of uncertainty, Frank Hartley finally signed professional for Tottenham Hotspur and made his debut for their 1st XI in mid-March. Alf Haynes also made the step up to the professional ranks around this time, signing for Arsenal, before moving on to Crystal Palace a little later, and Vince Matthews, who had left City a few years previously, was now playing for Sheffield United and had been given a full England trial.
Having reached the First Round of the Amateur Cup the hard way, City were drawn away at Wimbledon, who were now just beginning to make their mark in the Isthmian League (they would be champions three years later), and went down 1-3.
The end of February saw the team win three successive league matches, for the first time for several years, and then defeat a strong University side to make it four straight wins.
Archie Meeson continued his progress and represented the Isthmian League in goal against the Corinthians in March and then against the Royal Navy a few weeks later. He finally gained his first cap for England against Scotland at the very end of April.
It would seem that representative matches and competitions were a regular feature at the time, and the 6-4 defeat of Oxford Busmen by Exeter Busmen in a national competition attracted several column-inches in the Oxford Chronicle. As indeed did Charlie Walters, by now with Fulham, scoring ‘…a match winning 58 for Fulham against West Ham in the Evening News Cup’ (a cricket match, should you think the 58 might be a ‘typo’!)
There was a brief tour of Belgium at Easter, but, with an understrength party the results were not good, and then it was back to Oxford and a flurry of Isthmian matches. Having played several more Amateur Cup matches than most other Isthmian sides they had been left with quite a backlog of fixtures to be played midweek as the evenings grew lighter, and with six games (almost a quarter of the fixture list!) in the last 20 days of the season, hopes were not high of avoiding the need to seek re-election yet again.
The final Saturday of the season arrived with them needing to defeat Ilford, who, if they won, and other results went their way, might still be champions, and a good crowd cheered the City on to a 4-2 victory that leap-frogged them ahead of Civil Service and into twelfth position for the second successive season.

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