Friday 27 August 2021

Charlton's first Football League game

One hundred years ago today Charlton played their first match in the Football League, beating Exeter City 1-0.

The Western Morning News admitted that 'A word must be said in praise of Charlton Athletic, who gave an indication of great possibilities and should be a welcome addition to the Third Division.'

'The game cannot be described as a great game of football, but it was surprisingly good.  Taking all things into consideration, it was really gratifying to see the enthusiasm and energy displayed by both sides.  Every man of the twenty-two seemed all out to win from start to finish, and even Mr Small, the referee, who with his well-known green handkerchief with which he rubbed an injured man's face, wherever his injury occurred, seemed awfully keen on keeping the players up to concert pitch.'

The Western Times reported: 'For some sixteen years the Charlton people have kept their heads above water in a stronghold of professional football, and now that they have realised the height of their ambition the club have received a tremendous fillip.   There is any amount of enthusiasm.  The new ground is said to be in excellent condition - although footballers are suspicious of "new" grounds; there is to be a new stand capable of holding 4,000 spectators, and the total accommodation is to rise as the season progresses from 30,000 to 50,000, with plenty more room available if required.'

'The new ground has been built on an old chalk quarry, and it is very hard, rough and uneven as yet.   There is no regular stand, the plans having been held up by London County Council.  A small temporary erection did duty for the day.  The fact that Millwall were at home three miles away affected the game adversely, but even so, there were nine thousand people present when the teams fielded.   Charlton wore white shirts to obviate confusion.'

'Play was fast and very inspiring, and the crowd bubbled over with enthusiasm.   The crowd went wild with delight as Dowling took over from his inside forwards and, beating Mitton for speed, scored the opening goal with a shot that Fryer touched but could not stop.'   [It was the only goal he scored in 21 games for Charlton].

In the second half 'the attendance has increased to about 11,000, excluding the hundred or so who received a bird's eye view from the lip of the quarry.'  [Some reports give a figure of 12,000].   'Play continued very fast, and with not a pin to choose between the teams except that Charlton's trio of all experienced inside forwards were more dangerous in front of goal.'

'The match was contested at a gruelling pace and was surprisingly good, considering the state of the field.  Charlton are a very sound team, quick and resourceful four and aft, and with some very speedy forwards.'

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