Meldreth and Melbourn and District Football Club, 1899
A brief history of football in Cambridgeshire is recorded elsewhere on this site. It contains a section on the ‘early years’ of football in Meldreth and summarises some of the matches played two decades earlier, at the turn of the century, by a joint Meldreth and Melbourn side. The Cambridge Daily News of Monday 2nd October 1899 carried a number of reports of local football matches, amongst them Royston v. Ashwell and Cambridge St. Mary’s v. Long Melford. But tucked away in the columns is an enthusiastic – if sometimes curiously-phrased – account of a significant moment in Meldreth’s sporting history – what may have been the first ever match to be played by Meldreth and Melbourn District FC.
Meldreth and Melbourn and District FC v Cambridge St. Mary’s Reserves
‘The manner in which Mr A. J. Batteau of Meldreth has set football in motion in that district is deserving of all praise. Despite a considerable amount of pessimism he has formulated a club under the title of Meldreth and Melbourn and District FC, and the new club promises to have a successful career and to make itself felt even in this, its first season. On Saturday the newly-instituted club received a visit from Cambridge St. Mary’s Reserves and the way in which the homesters performed must have been a pleasant surprise to the club’s supporters. All who witnessed the match agreed that the best team won and, after a little more practice, the new club will doubtless prove a hard nut.
The Saints won the toss and kicked off with the wind behind them. Within two minutes the home custodian’s services were called into requisition but there was an entire absence of combinations from both sides in the initial stages of the game. The visitors had a trifle the best of matters. Wright, receiving from Jaggard, put in a magnificent long shot but Harrup saved with conspicuous ability and Elbourn transferred the sphere to more neutral territory. Not to be denied, the visiting forwards paid a return visit to the home goal almost immediately and looked like scoring when the backs relieved and Fordham put in a fine run up the left wing, but he neutralised his own efforts by prematurely and recklessly kicking the ball behind. Then St. Mary’s forced a corner. The ball was well centred but Wright headed over the crossbar. From the kick off the Meldreth men went away with a rush, carrying all before them. A corner followed and the ball was effectually headed away by Jaggard. One of the hottest bits of the match followed. The visiting forwards made a series of bombardments at their opponents’ goal when close up but Harrup performed in a marvellous manner, and successfully negotiated shot after shot until at length the Melbourn backs relieved. Following this the home team had a look in, Coote being conspicuous. Huggins put in a good run on the left wing but his final effort was ill-judged and nothing came of it. The game proceeded in interesting fashion. Coote repelled a terrific shot sent in by George, who was rendering sterling aid and another rush was ended by Walker, of whom several of the visitors fell foul due to the fact that the captain was more accustomed to Rugby than Association.
The Saints opened their account from a penalty kick. The foul took place close in goal and Hodges had no difficulty in netting the ball. This roused the opposing combination and from this point they had considerably the best of the exchange, the weight and pace telling materially upon the visitors. Half-time arrived with the score unaltered. After the interval the homesters played more together and the greater part of the play was in their opponents’ quarters. A foul was given against Walker at a time when Everitt looked dangerous. Bacon put in a brilliant shot but found Smith at home. The ball was got away at the expense of a corner and Meldreth had hard luck in not scoring. After a hot encounter in the mouth of the visitors’ goal Fordham beat Smith and thus the score was equalised, amid the plaudits of the onlookers. Encouraged by their success the homesters continued to press and continually kept the Saints on the defensive. Within three minutes Facon gave Meldreth the lead by landing the ball into the net from a long fast shot.
Raper, who worked hard during the second half of the game, put in a capital centre from a difficult angle but was poorly supported and the Saints cleared. A moment later the same player received from Huggins and again found the net but this time he was ruled off-side. So the game proceeded and at the call of time the score was still
Melbourn and Meldreth … 2 goals; Saints Reserves …1 goal
MELBOURN AND MELDRETH: Harrup (goal), Watson, Elbourn, Coote, Walker (capt.). Disbrey, E. Fordham, Facon, Raper, Burtenshaw and Huggins
ST. MARY’S RESERVES: H. Smith (goal), W. Jaggard and Mason (backs), H. Everett, H. Hall and J. George (half-backs), A. Hicks, A.J. Wright, H. Hodges (centre), A. Smith and Surrey (forwards).’
Meldreth and Melbourn and District FC v Ashwell
A fortnight later, on 16th October 1899, the same newspaper carried a report of Melbourn, Meldreth and District’s match against Ashwell. This time things did not go quite so well:
‘Splendid weather prevailed for this match which was played on the ground of the former club on Saturday afternoon, before a good attendance. The home team have been playing up so well for this, their first season, that it was fully expected that they would render a good account of themselves on Saturday but so wretched a display was given by the “Blues” that the faintest hopes of the home partisans in this direction were shattered into the ground. The game had only been in progress a few minutes when it became evident that the visitors were more than a match for their opponents.
MELBOURN, MELDRETH AND DISTRICT: Harrup (goal), Elbourn and Watson (backs), Coote, Banks and Woodham, (half-backs), Ward and Woodcock (right wing), Disbrey (centre), Facon and Huggins (left wing).
ASHWELL: Worboys (goal), Moss and Chote (backs), Hyder, Fordham and Hyde (half-backs), Angell and Bailey ( right wing), Lawmon (centre), Adams and Haylock (left wing).
Ashwell kicked off and at once took up the aggressive, breaking through the home defence from a scrum in front of goal. Adams notched the first success for Ashwell after the game had been in progress a minute or so. Still continuing to hold the upper hand, the visitors forced four corners in quick succession and, from the latter, a smart piece of all-round passing enabled Bailey to increase the lead from a difficult shot which should, however, have been saved by the “Blues'” custodian. At this stage the homesters showed to better advantage and Facon, obtaining possession of the ball, made a smart burst up the ground where a good bout of passing by the left wing enabled them to force a corner. Although the ball was nicely placed the visiting backs transferred and Fordham making a splendid rush broke through the home backs and for a time invaded the home territory, the goalkeeper being called upon repeatedly to save. From a free-kick the “Blues” took the play to midfield, but so badly was the ball mulled(?) by the forwards that Coote, who had been playing a sterling game, repelled the attack. . Transferring the play the visitors attacked strongly and Adams , on the left wing, cleverly evading Watson, passed to Haylock who neatly centred and Lawmon added another goal. From now till half-time the visitors showed decided superiority. Confining the play in the home quarter, Adams, from a corner kick, headed the ball through. Soon after this it became evident that the “Blues” were beaten at every point, as owing to lack of combination, not to mention the dribbling tactics which were resorted to too frequently, the visitors had matters all their own way, and just before the interval Adams increased their lead with a nice low shot. For a foul the homesters were given a free kick but such poor use was made of the opportunity when matters were in their own hands, that the visiting backs broke up the onslaught. A capital bout of passing by the forwards enabled them to invade the “Blues'” territory and Adams again placed the ball through but the point (goal) was disallowed for off-side. The whistle blew with the visitors pressing and the half time score was Ashwell 5 – Melbourn and Meldreth nil.
On re-starting, the game was for some time of a give-and-take character, the homesters ultimately having the better of the play. Owing to a lack of judgement in passing, however, they enabled the visiting backs to break up their attack and Fordham, getting possession, neatly passed to Hyder who, in turn passed to the forwards and Adams took a shot at goal, the ball passing just over the bar. Bailey shortly afterwards notched the sixth … and the same player, soon after this, increased the score by a clinking shot from a difficult angle which beat the home custodian completely. Soon after this time was called with the score:
Ashwell … 7 goals; Melbourn, Meldreth and District … nil’
For further information, please see the history of Meldreth’s own football club, which was founded in 1921.