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© Chris Byrne 2010

1928-1930: Green Shoots of Improvement

Johnny Arnold (Southampton), Archie Meeson (Fulham) and Alf Haynes had all moved on into the professional game before the start of the season, and the side had something of a new look when they took on West Bromwich Albion Colts at the end of August in what was becoming a regular fixture.
The following week it was straight into the FA Cup in the Extra Preliminary Round – the only local side having to enter at this early stage of the competition. Edgar Holton’s goal salvaged a draw at the White House against RAF Uxbridge, but a rather weakened side put up a poor performance the following Wednesday in the replay and the services side went through 2-0.
The Isthmian League fixtures went predictably poorly, and it wasn’t until the start of November that the side registered its first win: a 5-3 home win over Clapton. This signalled something of a revival and, over the next few weeks up to Christmas, there were big wins against Leytonstone (6-2) and the fading Casuals (7-1) and an Amateur Cup win against Cambridge Town, after a replay.
Leytonstone revenged their league defeat when they returned to and ran out 3-0 winners in the Second Round Amateur Cup tie at the end of January.
After this setback, the side bagan to take on a more settled look and Isthmian points were gained with increasing regularity. Fifteen more points were picked up compared to the eight that had been collected up to the middle of January, and, though it may have only been a small overall improvement, it moved the club up to eleventh (out of fourteen) by the end of the season. Importantly, the team had begun to score goals again, and, in fact, only four Isthmian sides scored more than their 61. Unfortunately, only one side let in more than their 71.
There were wins in the Hospital Cup against Wycombe Wanderers (6-2) and, new to the competition, Swindon Corinthians (5-4) – the final was held over until the following season.
The Easter Tour was a brief affair, and the last for a couple of years, involving a three-day cross-Channel break to France where Le Havre (3-2) and Rouen (2-2) were played.
Rather paradoxically the Reserves had an excellent season in the Isthmian Reserve Section and finished runners-up after coping with end-of-season fixture congestion. In the absence of floodlights the 1920s’ approach to dealing with fixture backlog was slightly more drastic than that faced now. To catch up a little on their home fixtures, on the penultimate Saturday in April the Reserves took on Leytonstone Reserves at 2.45 and won 3-2 (half-time being just long enough to change ends), and then played Woking Reserves (k.o. 5.15) and won 3-1 – with four players featuring in both games! The effects of their efforts caught up with them two days later when they travelled up to London and lost 2-8 at runaway champions Dulwich Hamlet.
They also performed extremely well in the Oxfordshire Senior Cup beating Thame United, YMCA and then Morris Motors on their way to the Final where they easily overcame Bicester Town 5-1 to bring the Cup to the White House for the first time for seventeen years.

Ilford 1929

At the start of the next season Mr HR Owen was elected Honorary Secretary (with Teddy Tobin as his Assistant) and Fred Spiller, now finally having hung up his boots, was elected a Vice-President.
Tom Neate, the captain of the English Railwaymen’s XI, joined from Chippenham, and L Edwards and W Richardson joined briefly from Brentford amidst continued rumours that the Club might become a nursery for the Middlesex side.
There were no friendlies before the Isthmian League kicked off in August, for only the second time in its history, and City, for the first time in three years, began with a victory: an impressive 6-2 win against Ilford, with ‘Nipper’ Jones beginning his first of sixteen seasons in the 1st XI with a hat-trick.
Spared involvement until the Preliminary Round this season, there were two excellent wins in the FA Cup, 5-1 against Newbury Town and 5-3 against Uxbridge, before the run ground to a halt with a 2-1 loss at Athenian League Hampstead.
Monty Garland-Wells, who had played in an early trial for the Club, gained an Amateur Cap against Ireland in November, but his University matches kept him from playing in goal for the City until the following season.
There was no exemption in the Amateur Cup either this season and, although they comfortably beat Headington United 3-0 in the First Qualifier – the second meeting in this competition – they were demolished 7-2 at Slough in the next Round at the start of a bleak run that produced only one more win in the two months before the New Year.
The ‘30s began with a remarkable 9-5 win in a friendly against the RAMC and victory in the ’28-’29 Hospital Cup Final against Northampton Nomads, and generally results took a bit of an upturn at this point. with another six wins being registered in the League: sufficient to move the team up to ninth, their best finish for eight years.
The Reserves slipped a little from the high-point of the previous season, but still finished 5th in the Reserve Section and, for the second year in a row, reached the Oxfordshire Senior Cup Final to face Bicester Town again, but couldn’t repeat the previous year’s result and went down 0-2.
As an aside, football was a very different game then, as two quotes from reports in the local paper show.
In March, of the match against Nunhead the Oxford Times wrote; “…Oxford’s Smith and Mulley (the visitors’ keeper) collided, upon which the Nunhead man fell to the ground and lay writhing in the goalmouth. The referee, quite rightly it should be added, allowed play to continue and Guilfoyle netted for the home side.
While, before City’s final league match in April, the Oxford Mail reported: “…T.S. Jones (who had a Welsh International Trial during the season) is to be married on Wednesday, but this will certainly not interfere with his playing in the evening against Wimbledon.

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