Thursday, August 12, 2010


First taste of competitive football

Before the start of the 1894-95 season, Headington played a couple of friendlies, both against teams they were due to face in the forthcoming City Junior League competition. On 6 October Headington played against St Peter-le-Bailey, a side representing the church on New Inn Hall Street and which is now the chapel of St Peter's College. According to the report, reproduced below, Headington were unable to field a full side and, unsurprisingly, lost 2-0.

If you have images disabled, the text reads:

ST. PETER-LE-BAILEY v. HEADINGTON.- The Oxonians secured a victory on Saturday last by two goals to nil over the Headingtonians, who were not fully represented.

The following week Headington played at Cowley St John, suffering a demoralising 7-0 defeat, despite the Headington goalie receiving special plaudits for his performance. The Jackson's Oxford Journal report is fairly damning (apologies for the green highlighting):

It reads:
COWLEY ST. JOHN v. HEADINGTON.- Played at Cowley on Saturday, and ended in a win for the Saints by seven goals to nil. The Headington goal-keeper played a good game for his side, and saved them from further loss. The Saints' goal was never in jeopardy, and only one goal kick was taken.

The City Junior League was due to commence the following week, on 21 October 1894, but as the Jackson's Oxford Journal explains, Headington weren't involved:

The relevant passage reads:
To-morrow the City Junior competition commences; we find the whole of the Clubs, excepting Headington, who have a bye, owing to an odd number of Clubs having entered, are engaged...
Interestingly, the age-old problem of finding enough match officials was evident 116 years ago, much as it remains today.

In fact, Headington had to wait until 17 November before they saw their first competitive action. The opponents were Clarendon Press and the venue was supposed to have been at their ground. Clarendon Press is the former name of Oxford University Press, founded in 1672 and based in Jericho, and it remains an imprint name of the OUP. However, because the Press's ground in Osney was flooded, the game was switched to Headington's ground at Wootten's Field, which formed part of the Headington Manor estate and which has now been built over by Stephen Road. Sadly, our lads' introduction to competitive football wasn't a happy one, as they went down 4-0. Despite the visitors having most of the possession and all of the chances, the score remained 0-0 at half-time, but after the break Headington conceded a goal. They came back into the game, but conceded three more. Headington's founder, Dr Hitchings, was singled out for special mention as one of the pick of the home side.

One game in and bottom of the league!

Headington's next game was the following week, and was another dismal home defeat, this time to St Barnabas, also from Jericho. The church side won 6-0,  but it appears not to have been recorded as a league game:

This can be seen in the next league table, two weeks later, when Jackson's Oxford Journal reports Headington's first competitive victory:

The report reads:
HEADINGTON v. WANDERERS 2ND.- This League match was played at Osney on Saturday last, resulting in a win for Headington by two goals to one.

Note that the updated table doesn't include College Servants' 2nd. This is because they had scratched their opening two games and then withdrew from the competition.

In our next history post we'll complete this first season and then look further ahead.

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