Giant killing, Carnival and eclipses 1924-25

 One would expect after the fine season before  a feeling of happiness was around the club in the summer of 1924, far from it. A reported loss of nearly £250.00 had put a dampener on the success. Southern league football was proving to be a costly exercise. One of the main contributeries to being in the red was of course travelling expenses. At away matches the home club were mandated to pay 20% of the gate to the away side to cover travel cost. However with travelling to Wales and playing  sometimes in front of a couple of hundred it did not go anywhere near covering Yeovil's cost. In stark contrast to the Welsh teams coming to Yeovil playing in front of large crowds. Club secretary Ernest Sercombe travelled to the Southern League AGM and pleaded for a rule change. In a vote on the matter, the change in the rule was voted against, all the Welsh clubs without doubt voting to keep the status quo. 

George Fox was reappointed the Chairman of the club, his nominaters remarking that nobody had filled the chair better. George Fox being one of the owners of the still many Glove manufacturers in the town. A committed Liberal and a member of the party George took interested in many social issues in the town. 

George Fox in 1926

Despite previously having the best season in the club's history, fee paying membership of the supporters club was also in decline. With supporters preferring just to attend social events, which they did in numbers. A novel idea for fund raising had been the 'Penny on the ball' scheme. Where for a penny supporters could be put their name into a hat and the winner would have the chance to purchase the match ball for a shilling after the match. Much disgust had been raised the previous season when twice supporters club committee members had won! 

Many of the Southern League championship winning team had been signed on again, C. Warren decided to return to the Midlands and sign for Walsall. Additional signings being Ernest Hyman from Welton Rovers, later to become a tragic iconic figure in the club's history, he signed along with his cousin Harry Edwards, whose brother was already at the club. Also signing was young sixteen year old Harry Scott from Torquay, who had scored against the Glovers the previous season. As an enticement for signing all three were giving employment at Petters Ltd. 

A few days before the season started Manager Jack Gregory was riding his motor bike with two passengers in a side car. Whilst passing the Mermaid Hotel, he swerved into a wall to miss a parked car, thankfully all were OK,. One just hoped it wasn't to be an omen for the season ahead. 

Exeter City Reserves kicked off the 1924-25, at Huish. Huish had undergone some more changes during the summer with the Grandstand again being extended, now holding 1000. Also the banking behind the goals had been terraced with railway sleepers. 3300 turned up to see a Harry Pidgeon goal just before half time, win it for Yeovil. Yeovil keeping with mostly the same side that brought success the season before. The side for the opening match being :

Vallis, Day, Watts, Abbott, Gallon, Gregory, Gardner, Pidgeon, Scott, Hayward  Wilson 

With Scott and Hayward as the forwards it was a case of the sorcerer and his apprentice, Hayward now 37 and young Harry Scott still just 16 years old. Scotchman Andrew Wilson playing at outside left, has a varied career, starting of at Alloa Athletic before heading down south with Plymouth Argyle. Wilson would be with the club for the next four seasons. 

Andrew Wilson

A week later at Bristol, the Glovers defence put on a congratulatory performance assisting in a fine 2-0, watched with a good away support from South Somerset. The following Thursday afternoon, young Harry Scott, showed those gathered why he was considered one of the hottest young talents around, scoring a hat trick in a 7-1 victory over Llanelly at Huish. Hayward also getting off the mark for the season with a brace. The fine start came crashing down just two days later when Torquay United took the points in an exciting and fast game, scoring ten minutes before the end to make it 2-1.

Five days later, the trip to Peterborough was made. With Yeovil winning the Western section of the Southern League the season before, they entered into the play off with the Eastern section winners, Peterborough and Fletton FC. A toss of a coin in the summer choosing the venue. The Glovers, travelled to London the night before the match before travelling to Peterborough for lunch at the picturesque Crown Hotel. However within an hour of finishing their lunch they were kicking off at London Road. With heavy stomachs the Glovers sluggishly fell to a 3-1 defeat. 

When the draw came out for the preliminary round of the FA Cup, the players of  Westbury United probably hoped that lightening couldn't strike twice. The previous season seeing the Glovers run out 12-1 against the Wiltshire side in the same competition. Rain fell down in biblical proportions for the whole of the match, ensuring the Huish pitch was mostly waterlogged. Wilson, having picked up an injury at Peterborough was unable to play, so volunteered to be the linesman. The atmosphere was best summed up in the preamble to the match report. 

'It was difficult to realise on Saturday afternoon as one sat in the somewhat draughty stand on the Huish ground that one was witnessing the first qualifying round of the English Cup contest. Rain had fallen in torrents, and it was still coming down in sheets when Yeovil and Petters United and Westbury United took the field to do battle together. The match and score was suggestive of water polo than football. No one on the ground looked really happy and even above the noise of the rain on the stand roof could be heard that peruliar squelch of the rainfilled boots of the linesman as he paced the side of the water logged field. The stand was fairly well filled. but naturally enough there were very few spectators in the open spaces, only the most enthusiustic football follower being able to stand the deluge which fell. The most entertaining incident of the whole game was the mishap to a solitary spectator whose umbrella was blown inside out.'

As for the match, Westbury faired three goals better than the previous season only losing 9-1. Sixteen year old Harry Scott highlighting his scoring prowess by scoring six- three in each half. The Glovers followed it up with a mini tour of Wales playing Barry and Llanelli in the Southern League, only returning with one point. 

Another relatively easy match had been handed to the Glovers in the next round of the FA Cup with another home tie, this time with Clevedon. Surprisingly Player Manager Jack Gregory decided a new forward line was called for and despite his nine goals in e in eight games, Harry Scott was dropped along with Wilson , and replaced with the Edward Brothers, Tom and Harry. They decided to have their own private family goal competition, Tom scoring a hat trick and Harry scoring a brace in a comfortable 5-1 win. Not since the days of the Vassell brothers  Gilbert and Leonard, in the early 1900s, had brothers both scored for Yeovil in the same match. 

Before the next round, away to Warminster, Yeovil travelled by train to Torquay. Young Harold Scott determined to score against his old side. Unfortunately a clash of heads left player manager Jack Gregory with a gaping wound on his forehead and had to be rushed to hospital to have the wound stitched. With further injuries to Abbot and Watts, Yeovil fell apart, returning by train to South Somerset on the back of a 3-0 defeat. A week later in the 2nd qualifying round of the FA Cup, foes of old in Warminster were visited. A match that less than 20 years before would have been seen as a hard place to go, was now visited with Warminster looking to perform a giant killing act. Alas, Johnny Hayward was on form scoring a hat trick in an easy 3-1 victory. 

The third qualifying round gave the Glovers a tricky away match against Taunton United. Surprisingly before the cup match and with both sides with a free Saturday a friendly match was organised between the two teams at Huish, a week before the cup tie. A 5-1 win for the Glovers, gave them full confidence that a victory could be achieved in Taunton a week later. Over a 1000 Yeovil fans had invaded the county town tansported by a football special from Pen Mill and a fleet of charabancs. With the rain hammering down, the Glovers fans filled the pubs before making their way to the ground. There they found the referee Mr Bargese from Wiltshire, knee deep in water, as he declared the match was to be abandoned and to be played on the following Thursday afternoon - half day closing. Thursday or not, still over 2000 spectated the Glovers earning a hard fought victory. Taunton taking the lead one nil held on to half time. With Tom Edwards equalising midway through the second half, the match looked set for a reply, until with just two minutes remaining Pidgeon scored to send the Yeovil fans in raptures. The prize a home tie against league side Bournemouth and Boscombe. 

Two weeks later, Bournemouth and Boscombe, arrived at Huish.  The Cherries had been a league club just a couple of seasons and now competed in the newly formed Division Three South. 'Should be a walkover' is how the Bournemouth media described the match in the build up. They were in for a shock, in front of the biggest atrendance to date at Huish 5500, Yeovil were 1-0 up inside thirty seconds. Tommy Edwards firing in from long range. It shocked Bournemouth into attacking, leaving their defence exposed to Yeovil's fast attacking play. After twenty minutes it was 2-0, Johnny Hayward firing in from close range. The attacks were relentless, five minutes later, after a melee in the box Hayward made  3-0, the melee resulting in Saxton in the Boscombe defence being out cold and stretchered from the field. Boscombe pulled one back just before the break . Defensively, the Glovers held strong, although Stan Abbott received a bad arm injury which resulted in him playing in great pain. Midwag through the second half Boscombe pulled another back, it wasn't enough. When referee Mr Welsh from Stoke blew his final whistle, it meant that Yeovil had achieved their first ever Giant killing act. It wouldn't be their last! One result of the high crowd as they excitedly left the ground was the crush it caused which luckily resulted in nobody being serious hurt. 

The cup run continued two weeks later, when the club played for the first time in the 1st round proper. Again another home game this time against Bristol Rovers. Again a record crowd, 6500 including many from Bristol who made their themselves heard. A pitch that was sodden after days of heavy rain, made decent play difficult, Rovers feeling the ire of the crowd after hard tackles that the referee allowed to go unpunished. Yeovil took the lead after thirty minutes through man of the match Gardiner, only for Rovers to equalise just a minute later, through Whatmore. Again Yeovil took the game to Rovers and again Yeovil took the lead after fifty minutes with hero Johnny Hayward scoring after a goalmouth scramble. Not long after it was 2-2. After a strong tackle Yeovil's Harry Edwards was taken off not to return. The 11 v 10, soon became 11 v 9 as again an unpunished tackle saw Watts removed from the field. Rovers took full advantage, scoring twice more with Yeovil left with the 'what might have been' feeling. However, even the Bristol press writing that the best footballing team lost and the tactics of Rovers were against the good name of Bristol foot all. Also the Bristol press noting the shape of the Huish pitch. 

'..... The peculiarities of the pitch at Huish, it has a slope from one far corner flag to the lower one. It was a handicap to Rovers as it is to all visiting teams and in this the Somerset side have an advantage of their knowledge of its idiosyncrasies.' 

Bristol Rovers 1924-25

Christmas approached with the club voicing disappointment at the crowd numbers at Huish after their great cup success. Something that would be a recurring theme throughout the club's history. On Christmas morning a fair number had opened their presents and headed straight down to Weymouth to see the Glovers in action. Their Christmas beong throughly ruined as the Terras ran out 4-1 winners on a sodden pitch made worse by the constant rain in the first half. A day later, some recompense was given when the Glovers beat Taunton United in front of 3500 at Huish with young Radford, up from the reserves scoring. The crowd swelled with the GWR putting on special trains to Yeovil for the 'Somerset derby'. The Glovers made it three games in three days, with virtual the same players, entered the wooden dressing rooms to play the amateur team from Essex, Chelmsford City. A sparse crowd witnessing Hayward scoring a hat trick in a 6-3 victory.

1925  didn't start well, with a weakened side Yeovil headed to South Wales to take on high flying Mid-Rhonda. The Glovers were met with a pitch flooded in many areas. Two barrels of sand distributed in one goal mouth and bore holes made to drain the water away. They were two down at half time, and with the trains not prepared to wait after the match, the sides just change ends at half time. Four more Welsh goals before the end and the Glovers were on the train home thirty minutes after the final whistle. 

History was made on the 24th January 1925 against Bristol Rovers reserves at home. Great excitement had grown throughout the the country for the solar eclipse. The eclipse was to be seen during the match. Alas with rain and clouds all around not a thing was seen apart from it getting a little dark. The disappointment was made up with the Glovers gaining a little revenge over Rovers (first team) by dismissing their reserves back to Bristol 2-1.

Thinks started to get heated when the Chairman, decided to use the local press to voice the club's dissatisfaction in attendance figures, some attendances reaching as low as 1300. Mr Farr, warned that unless numbers didn't pick up it would be cost cutting and inferior football in an inferior league. The supporters were quick to respond the following week with letters to the local media. Their bone of contentions were admission at 1 Shilling was too expensive, some even questioned wether some of the money was lining the directors's pockets. 

Results were not picking up, an away 1-0 defeat to Taunton United being severely criticised and of course much jubilation in the County Town as they recorded their first victory over their Somerset rivals in front of a record crowd. After a defeat at home to Cardiff City reserves, the Glovers found themselves in the bottom half of the table. A stark contrast to the all conquering side of the year before. Some supporters again taking to the press to question the players commitment in certain games. 

After a mix bag of results Easter arrived with the club hyperbolically labelled it 'A carnival of football' with four matches being played in five days. Two wins and two draws . Yeovil turned up first at Bath with young Harry Scott, unfortunately young Harry somehow had forgotten his boots, resulting in a quick shopping trip in the city centre. The new boots worked, Harry scoring Yeovil's only goal in a 1-1 draw

Sixteen year old Harry Scott 

Scott was also in the scoresheet the next day in front of Weymouth in front of over 3000, in a 2-0. With the score at 0-0 at half time, Hayward scored with a spectacular shot early in the second half, then set up Scott a few minutes later. The match being played in a hot tempered and heated environment. Bath made the journey two days later and returned back on a 2-0 defeat. The ' Carnival' was completed a day later with the visit of Swindon Town Reserves, a match played in rain and thunderstorms, with the pitch being heavy. The tired legs of the Yeovil players held out for a tame 0-0 draw. The result pushing the Glovers just into the top half. Four days later a trip to Wales against Bridgend saw the Glovers 2-0 up before conceding three in a ten minute spell. Despite crawling back to 3-3 poor goalkeeping by the usually trustful Jack Vallis gave the Welshmen a 6-3 victory. 

The idiosyncratic nature of football if the period when a full strength Yeovil side travelled to Beaminster in Dorset to play a friendly against the amateurs, just two days before a Southern League match again in Wales against Newport County reserves . The Dorset sides keeper Collins putting on such a fine display despite Yeovil winning 2-1, that Yeovil signed him at the end of the season. 

After an embarrassing 5-0 defeat against Swansea Town reserves. The season came to an end with a tame and boring 0-0 against Newport Country reserves. watched by poor attendance. Leaving the club half way at the finish in the league. 

Silverware was coming to Huish though, a fine season in the Western League saw Yeovil pip Weymouth to the title. Young Ernest Hyman scoring the only goal at Radstock to send the title to Huish. 

Happy days! 


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