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© Chris Byrne 2010



The problems of the previous year continued. At the AGM Peter Poirrette stepped down after several years as Treasurer having reported that without the extra income raised by the fine run in the FA Cup the finances would have looked very sorry indeed. Bob Bates withdrew his nomination for the position when Ted Wheelock’s bid for the position of Secretary was just beaten off by A.J. McGowan with whom Mr Bates felt unable to work. These issues would take a while to settle.
On the field John Fisher appointed John Woodley as captain to succeed Steve Morton but otherwise would start out with a squad not significantly changed from that of the previous season.
The two pre-season friendlies, a 2-0 defeat of near neighbours Abingdon Town, and a 3-1win over Southern League Basingstoke Town, proved encouraging and the team got the league season underway in great fashion with a 5-1 win at Barking. In fact by the end of August they had won 4 matches and scored fifteen goals, whilst through September and October City kept pace with the leaders and by the end of October they lay fourth behind Wycombe, Hendon and unbeaten Sutton United. But performances were uneven: excellent victories on the road, such as the 6-0 romp against Corinthian-Casuals at Tooting & Mitcham’s Sandy Lane, were followed by inept home displays. Amid all these ups and downs there was one notable landmark when, on October 23rd in the away match against Dulwich Hamlet, and after some weeks in the ‘nervous nineties’, John Woodley finally scored his 400th goal for the club in a 4-2 victory.
The new month brought with it a respite from the league programme as City entered the FA Cup at the Fourth Qualifying Round stage on November 6th: though I’m sure none would have suspected what would transpire over the next seventeen days. City were drawn to play a team from the Midland Combination, Alvechurch, about which little was known except that they had fought their way through the earlier rounds of the Cup scoring eleven goals without conceding.

City were quickly two goals down to their hosts, and many feared the worst, but two goals either side of half-time from Bob McRea and Eric Metcalfe ensured a replay on the Tuesday night at the White House. Tommy Eales scored in the third minute to calm the home supporters, but it was the Worcestershire team’s turn to stage a comeback, and the game ended 1-1 after extra time. So a second replay the following week beckoned, not all that unusual in those days, and City returned briefly to league action on the Saturday, with an eminently forgettable 0-0 draw against Walthamstow Avenue. Monday the 15th saw the two cup battlers assemble at Birmingham City’s ground for a third match and this time Alvechurch took an early lead only for Alan Goucher to restore equality just after half-time to complete the scoring for the evening. So, on to the Manor on Wednesday 17th to see if the sides could decide who would play at Aldershot on the coming Saturday in the next round. They couldn’t: 0-0 this time. The First Round match was postponed with City and Alvechurch returning to the Manor on the Saturday for the fourth replay: again 0-0 after extra time. Finally on Monday November 22nd at Villa Park a solitary goal by Alvechurch’s Bobby Hope in the 18th minute put them through to meet Aldershot: they lost 2-4.
So an FA Cup record was set that, unless the rules change again, will never be beaten. The two teams had played through eleven hours of football to reach a decision, beating the previous record, set in 1955 by Bury and Stoke City, by 98 minutes. A total of 12095 spectators watched the six matches and though the players were undoubtedly worn out, the club was certainly happy. As Press Secretary Ray Barlow said, “... this has been a real bonanza for us”: about £1000 was added to the City’s coffers.
As interesting and historic as the cup-tie might have been, it took a toll on the team and league form continued to tumble. The following Saturday a very jaded XI were crushed 8-0 by a rampant St Albans side; and a week later Corinthian-Casuals notched up only their second win of the season with a 1-0 victory at the White House when the local press were moved to report that, “... City were pathetic”. The poor form continued and City entered the New Year on the back of a 1-4 home loss to the old Boxing Day rivals Wycombe Wanderers and without a win in 19 games.
The other issue concerning the committee and fans as 1971 drew to a close was the ‘disappearance’ of previous season’s captain Steve Morton: a veteran of more than 600 games for City. He had apparently moved to Hampshire League Alton Town ... but without the manager being informed!
The opening game of 1972 saw a visit to Bromley in the First Round of the Amateur Cup and two goals from Tommy Eales and a good defensive display gave City a 2-1 win to cheer the travelling supporters: but they struggled to beat Northway by the same score the following week in the Second Round of the Senior Cup.
Hopes were high for another Amateur Cup run, but Leatherhead, losing semi-finalists the previous season, proved far too strong and only a fine performance by keeper Peter Harris saved the home club from a bigger beating as the Athenian Leaguers ran out 3-0 victors.
League form continued to be poor and they had to wait until February 26th and a 4-0 defeat of Tooting & Mitcham for their first home win since the first week in October, and until the last home fixture of the season in mid-May for the next White House victory, by the same score against the Amateur Cup winners Hendon.
Performances in the Midweek Floodlit League were equally poor and it wasn’t until the start of May that their second win of the season, against Marlow, took them off the bottom of that league and above Wokingham.
A comfortable 3-0 win over Hellenic champions Witney Town sealed a place in the Senior Cup Final where they were rather flattered by the 3-1 defeat of Thame United. A more positive result was the 4-0 victory over Oxford United Reserves in the final of the previous season’s Smith Memorial Trophy.
Worries over the club’s finances continued, and various methods of fund-raising were discussed. A disappointingly attended meeting in April was told that each match cost £150; rent/rates were £750 per year and general ‘expenses’ were around £100 per week. With entrance charges at 25p for adults and 15p for “OAPs and Boys”, crowds of around 800 were needed to break even, but gates were generally below 150, and the previous home game against Hitchin had attracted 71 paying customers. A sponsored walk was organised for early the next season; and almost 1000 letters were to be sent to local businesses asking them to become ‘patrons’ at a cost of £5 per annum for which an ‘entrance card’ would be issued: by July this venture had attracted a meagre fourteen responses.
A London businessman, Barry East, drew up and presented to the Isthmian League a Four-Year Plan for the league and the main points of this were accepted by the clubs by a majority of 20-1 at a meeting in April. The main points were the presentation of a pennant or a trophy to the league champion – no tangible reward for winning the Isthmian League had ever been awarded before; and the institution of a second division from the start of the 1973-4 season. These moves were ratified in June at the AGM.
The Whitsun Tour was reintroduced, and the team visited Germany for two matches. They lost, 5-4, to the last kick of the game to Second Division Darmstadt 1898 E.V. in front of a large crowd; and then went down 4-2 at Weisbaden the following day.
Locally Oxford Boys reached the final of the English Schools Trophy for the third time in their history, having played 14 matches, and, after so many close matches in earlier rounds, there was considerable disappointment when they eventually lost 6-1 on aggregate to Chelmsford in May.

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