A new Vassall, dull and polio. Season 1900-01

The Yeovil Cricket club proved too good for the Casuals in July 1900 in a match arranged to raise funds for both on the West Hendford Cricket ground. The shared Somerset Senior Cup on display in front of the Pavilion before being returned to the jewellery shop window. 

The Casuals chasing 133 never came close as they were bowled out for 50! Ernie Sercombe top scoring with 14.

Come the AGM in August it became apparent why the club were raising funds, any way they could. Although the club had shown a profit of £34 pounds, the financial report showed match revenue was down on previous seasons. Something that was not just a Casuals's problem. Wells City, their old foes had collapsed financially and in doubt whether they could afford another season - they did though! Radstock, Midsomer Norton and Paulton all reporting major financial strife. 

Cut backs had to be made, the 'B' team would no longer have their travelling expenses paid for. The players of all three teams, A, B and first were all to pay a shilling toward the cost of their shirts. Times were definitely hard and a good season on the field with matching revenue was called for. Would they get it though? 

It started with a Somerset league match against  Glastonbury, dropping the 'Avalon Rovers' part of their name from the year before. Unfortunately due to an accident of the match referee, and no official replacement being found, the two sides played a friendly instead. A match that the Casuals easily won 4-0, to start the season of nicely. 

The opening side being :

Cook, Wright, Luffman, E. Arnold, H. Arnold, T. Stone, Hawkins, L. Vassall, Wyatt, Hann, Beare

The stand out performance against Glastonbury was that of Leonard Vassall, making his first appearances in a Yeovil shirt, apart from some pre-season friendlies where he had already impressed. Leonard being another of the Vassall footballing dynasty, Henry, Harvey and of course Gilbert all wearing the Casuals shirt before him. Leonard was just eighteen, with incredible speed and shot, he would go onto make a great contribution over the next couple of seasons. Leonard's son Harvey, later went into become an Olympian, although being profoundly deaf. Leonard Vassall died in 1941, the same year as his brother Gilbert. 

Leonard Vassall in 1912

Wright in defence was from Yorkshire. The previous season saw two or three non-Yeovilian players, such as aptly named Yeoman from Sheffield. It seems all migrating to the town to take up positions in the ever growing Gloving industry. 

A couple of meaningless friendlies took place after Glastonbury. The only interest being that Ernest Sheldon, one of the best players in the county was appearing for the Casuals. A native of Wells and a player for quite some time for them. It appears that Sheldon played for the Glovers, as the press had started to call them, until November 1900.

Yeovil's second attempt at the 'English Cup' started on the 20th October 1900, still without a league match being played. As with the previous season Street were the opponents , this time at home. The game strangely described as an 'equal affair' although Yeovil ran out winners by 6-1. Sheldon from Wells scoring a couple. 

Finally a League match was played, when Glastonbury returned to play their postponed match from the month before. Yeovil, as they seemed to do each season started off like a house on fire, Leonard Vassall on the scoresheet in a 4-0 victory. Setting them up for the second qualifying round of the English Cup - away to Weymouth. 

Weymouth had been going backwards since the days when they would boast at their AGM about teams not travelling to Weymouth because they'd know they would lose. However, we're still a force to be reckoned with. Yeovil won the toss and decided to attack the 'water end' in front of 550 spectators, no doubt a good many from Yeovil travelling also. 

Weymouth found themselves 3-0 up early in the second half which spurred Yeovil on. Two quick goals from Leonard Vassall and Ernest Sheldon, saw Weymouth on the back foot alas Yeovil attacked. On the counter though Weymouth scored through Porter. Again it spurred Yeovil, who a couple of minutes later had made it 4-3 through Beare. Try as they might, Yeovil could not find the equaliser and excited the English cup. 

A week later and another away trip in a national competition, this time to Trowbridge in the FA Amateur Cup, a match described as "dull and uninteresting" yet saw the Casuals return happily with a 3-0  win. This setting then up two weeks later with a home match to Weymouth, and a chance for revenge for their English cup exit. 

A trip to Bristol was the prize in the next round - played a week later. This time against Bedminster St Francis, at Ashton Gate, Bristol. As per usual Bristol was not to the liking to the Casuals in front of a small but vocal and aggressive crowd, the Casuals were humiliated 7-1. It was Bedminster St Francis first and only season. They disbanded a few months later without finishing their league matches. 

The season was fast becoming one of those dull seasons where nobody seemed to care and just wanted the season to finish, and it was only December. Laying mid-table in both the Dorset and Somerset leagues. Christmas came, again an away defeat this time to 4-1 Bournemouth in another match described with the word of the season 'dull'. Although one exception the rule being a 6-2 win on Boxing day at home to Bournemouth Wanderers. Gilbert Vassall playing alongside his brother Leonard to great affect as Leonard scored two. 

The year came to a disappointing end away to the old enemy, Weymouth. The night before the game incredible downfalls and gale forced winds, had caused damage to Pen Mill, where match advertising hoardings, also designed to block people watching without paying, were blown down! This was nothing in comparison to when the team arrived at Weymouth the following day. The Recreation ground resembled a muddy pond with water all over the pitch. They played - Yeovil lost a farce of a game 4-0 after taking a weakened side. 

To say the season wasn't going well would be putting it mildly, January continued the slide with defeats at Street and and a draw at Glastonbury. The Street game again being played in a raging storm attended by few and won by Street 2-1 with a goal blown in by the hurricane straight from a corner. 

A word of words had broken out on the media after Yeovil had complained that Dorchester had twice cancelled a Dorset league fixture. The Dorset club proclaiming it was the 'Pot calling the kettle black'. They had a point Yeovil had twice cancelled matches with Poole through other match commitments. 

At this stage of the season, Yeovil found themselves in the bottom three of both Dorset and Somerset leagues. A visit to top of the Somerset league Paulton Rovers, was not what was needed. The Glovers were ripped apart by Paulton's quick passing and were 5-0 at half time. Paulton took their foot of the pedal in the second half and only added two more to the total. The 7-0 defeat putting Yeovil into the bottom two. 

Defeat after defeat followed with the Pen Mill faithful having enough and turning up in small numbers for matches. Those that did turned on the referee Mr Bradbury from Bridgwater, when Paulton came to complete the double over the Glovers. Complaining of his biased decisions and inability to stop Paulton's tough tactics, they verbally abused him to the end. Although the referee himself had to write to the Western Gazette to condon their report of the match. Arguing that the report he was giving a police escort was to totally false and wished them to retract the slander with an apology! 

Enfield football club, came to Pen Mill on Easter Monday, April 1901 for a touring friendly. A large crowd gathered in a sunny afternoon to see Yeovil win 9-0 with Big Bob Wyatt finding some form scoring six. It was the Glovers first victory since Boxing day! 

As in the previous season the Enfield massacre seemed to be the springboard to a good end of season. A visit by Bristol East who were going for top spot in the Somerset league, ended in a 0-0 draw. A match watched by a large gathering who ended up having to be restrained by the police, after heavy handed tactics by the Bristolians had seen the Pen Mill hero Gilbert Vassall tripped whilst on the attack. Resulting in him discolating his elbow. Yeovil now down to ten men held firm. The numbers ending equal when a Bristol defender kicking out, ending up with his marching orders. 

Victories followed though, against Dorchester played on a Thursday afternoon. Taking full advantage of half day closing. A 3-1 victory being recorded. Then two days later again at home against high flying Street. A 3-0 victory saving from the embarrasment of the wooden spoon. Leonard Vassall continuing his form with two goals. 

The following Thursday Bridgwater came for the last Somerset league game of the season. A dead rubber between the bottom two teams. Bridgwater had so far managed a perfect record in the league, nine matches and nine defeats scoring just two goals all season. Yeovil happily didn't spoil that record, winning 10-0 with five goals in each half. Gard, a product of the B team helping himself to four goals. 

The following Monday afternoon the  Dorset League was completed with a defeat in Weymouth against Whiteheads Athletic, the Torpedo factory. A match looking like a 2-2 until the Torpedo team fired one in the last minute! Yeovil finishing the Dorset league fourth from top, or fourth from bottom, depending how you wanted to look at it. 

Ultimately it was to be Yeovil's last season in the Dorset league, the league refusing the club entry for the following season as a result of cancellations and putting priority to Somerset league matches. A new league would have to be found! 

It has been by Yeovil standards a disappointing season though. It did end up happy for one though. Ex-Casual player George Sumsion had travelled to Gloversville, USA and married Ms. Fanny Dodge. They produced one son, Reginald, who tragically died from one of the early  polio vaccinations. 

George and Fanny Sumsion with their son, Reginald 

So, a sad ending to a disappointing season. Things could only get better, couldn't they? 

Happy days. 



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