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© Chris Byrne 2010

1937-1939: Two Poor Seasons

The season began horrendously with three successive defeats with no goals scored and nineteen conceded! So it was something of a surprise when a hat-trick from Reg Smith gave the team a 3-2 victory over Wycombe Wanderers just a week after a 7-0 humiliation at Loakes Park.
There was no consistent improvement in form though, and the 4-2 loss at Morris Motors in the FA Cup drew David & Goliath headlines in the press, but, in truth, the side was badly in need of some new blood and would find the season extremely tough.
There were back-to-back victories in October against Wimbledon and Woking, but there were only seven league wins in total that season and only 35 goals scored, their lowest total since before the Great War. And a side struggling to find a semblance of the form shown a few seasons was hit hard by the loss of the goal-scoring talents of Dick Bull when he moved away from Oxford in January - only three more wins were registered before the end of April, and one of those was against a weak, touring side from Bristol University.
Moor Green gained revenge for their earlier defeat at the White House when then sides met again in the AFA Invitation Cup, winning 3-0 on their home ground, and the Amateur Cup produced a daunting trip for the City in January when they had to make the journey to East Anglia to play Holt United of the Norfolk & Suffolk League. The weather conditions proved to be awful and the pitch in poor condition and the City subsided to a 2-0 defeat in front of a crowd of under 1500 (very poor for those days). The gate receipts were insufficient to cover the match costs, and City’s share of the loss on the match was just over £6 – a disappointing day out in every respect.
With the Club’s Isthmian fixtures completed by mid-April some friendlies were organised to extend the season slightly, but the visits of Golders Green (who would change their name to Hendon the following season), Northfleet United (as yet unlinked with Gravesend) and Banbury Spencer were watched by smaller than usual crowds and failed to produce any wins.
The Reserves had an equally poor season, winning only four games, but did manage to lift themselves off the bottom of the Reserve Section table by collecting one more point than a particularly inept Wycombe Wanderers Reserve side. Playing as poorly as they were, and with constant changes to the side, there was little surprise locally when they were easily dispatched, 7-4, from the Senior Cup in Round One by Osberton Radiators. What did come as something of a surprise was that they won the Oxfordshire Charity Cup, beating Bicester Town 4-1 in the Final, for their first success in this competition for thirty years.
The one bright spot was the progress of the Colts XI, containing future 1st XI stars Alf Jefferies and Ralph Martin, which won the majority of its games and claimed the Oxfordshire Minor Cup with a 4-1 win over Quarry Nomads.

Dulwich Hamlet 38

The hopes entertained by the Club and its supporters that a good start would be made to the new season were completely shattered by the first Isthmian match of the season at the White House when Wimbledon were hardly tested as they ran up an 8-3 win. Any residual confidence ebbed away from the side’s play and, by the end of the year, the team’s Isthmian record was P14, W0, D4, L10. Not surprisingly, they propped up the table.
The team fared no better in the national competitions falling at the first hurdle in both: to Banbury Spencer in the FA Cup and at Slough in the Amateur Cup.
Even the weather seemed to be against the Club, and both holiday matches, against Swindon Victoria and West Norwood, had to be cancelled as Oxford saw a White Christmas.
The New Year brought a remarkable run of three league victories to raise hopes and the grapevine was alive with rumours from London that the Isthmian, Athenian, Spartan and London Leagues were considering some form of amalgamation. Any discussions were, however, short-lived and it would be more than thirty years before the Isthmian League again considered links with other south-eastern leagues.
The team returned to losing ways in the league, and, though they did score ten against another below-par Bristol University side, only won one more Isthmian fixture to finish the season with just four victories, their lowest ever tally. Surprisingly Tufnell Park and London Caledonians fared even worse and the Club remarkably managed to avoid having to apply for re-election thanks to a marginally better goal average than Tufnell Park.
Paradoxically, while the 1st XI were performing so badly, the Reserves improved markedly on the previous season and won more games than they lost, and also, for the first time in several years, made progress in the Senior Cup. They recorded comfortable away wins at Old Oxford Citizens (Old Boys of Oxford High School) and Osberton Radiators by 6-2 and 7-0 respectively to reach the semi-final of the competition where they lost by the only goal of the game to Headington United on Morris Motor’s ground.
The Colts again had an impressive season and got through to the final of the Minor Cup in which they beat Cold Arbour 1-0, but lost the shield and medals when the O.F.A. deemed that four of the winning side were classed as seniors.
The two friendlies that had been snowed off in December were rearranged for the end of April, and brought the side two wins. In the Swindon Victoria match Reg Saw netted seven of the City goals in the 9-1 win and this would remain a record for individual goal-scoring for many years to come.
And so the curtain came down on the footballing exploits of the Club for the last time before the outbreak of war.

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