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York City - 1922 - 1958: The Early Years

For nearly 30 years, York City played in Division 3 (North), rarely threatening promotion but building up a cup giant killing reputation

York was one of the later places to take to football; rugby had already been established for over 45 years before York City were formed in 1922. An earlier York City floundered during the early years of The Great War.

Formed in 1922, City applied for Football League membership before they'd played a game. They were told to go away and establish a club before coming back.

A home was found at Fulfordgate, delays in building the ground meant City's first 2 home games were played at Rowntrees' Mill Crux ground.

In those non league days, City never achieves a finish higher than comfortable mid table. The early years did seea cup reputation built. As a non league side, City won 5 ties in 1926 to reach Round 2.

6 seasons in the Midland League followed before election to Division 3 (North) in 1929, a league that was to be City's home for nearly 30 years.

City's first season as a League club saw City draw away to top flight Newcastle in Round 3 of the FA Cup only to lose the home replay. City suffered a similar fate a season later, losing a Round 3 cup replay to top flight Sheffield United.

By 1932, Fulfordgate was deemed not fit for purpose. City moved to Bootham Crescent, its city centre location being deemed more suitable than the spacious out of town Fulfordgate. The ground was built in under 4 months.

1938 saw an FA Cup quarter final against Huddersfield, watched by an all time ground record crowd of 28,123. It was the fourth consecutive round in which a new ground record had been set. City suffered a narrow 2-1 defeat in the replay.

1948 was a landmark year in City's history. The freehold of Boothanm Crescent was bought. A celebration dinner was held at the Station Hotel.

The next big run was 1955 when City held the mighty (at the time) Newcastle to a semi-final draw and narrowly went down in the replay, hampered by being reduced to 10 players through injury in the days before substitutes were allowed.

In the league, City held steady, rarely threatening promotion. 1954/5 being the best season, but a fixture backlog caused by the cup run saw City's promotion challenge peter out in late April. Come 1958 and the end of regional football, City's 13th place confined them to be founder members of Division 4.

Those early days were marked by financial prudence, the club living within its means, despite generally running a small overdraft. The post war boom saw a surge in attendances and consequently a profitable period for City, allowing the club to buy Bootham Crescent and then the 1955 FA Cup run further adding to the coffers.

Equally, the suppporters played a huge role in the City's fortunes. From the 1920s when Supporters' Club members' wifes knitted socks for the players when money was tight, through the 1930s when much of the labour required to build Bootham Crescent was provided free of charge from SC members and into the 1950s when the SC set up its Auxilary Branch dedicated to fund raising.

Memory Match

In the latest of his Memory Match series, Darlington fan Simon Weatherill looks back to Darlington's away game at York City on 26th February 1949.

The late 1940s were a boom time for professional football in England. Attendances reached record levels in the 1947/48 season, these record figures were smashed again the following year. 1948/49 still holds the record for the biggest attendance figures ever. Over five million people watched Division 3 North games over the course of the season, at an average of 10,833 per game!

Darlington began the 48/49 season in fine style with four straight victories to take them to the top of the table. They opened with two home wins, 3-0 v Accrington Stanley and 2-0 v Hartlepools. Then they followed that up with two away wins at Rochdale (4-3) and then the return fixture at Hartlepools (1-0). Albert Quinn, a new signing from Sunderland, scored 5 goals in those opening 4 games. Not a bad start to his Darlington career.

The good form continued and the Quakers remained towards the top of the table although by February, Hull City and Rotherham had started to pull away at the top and a gap had developed to the rest of the division.

As Darlington prepared for their away game at York City on February 26th, they sat in third place in the league with 35 points from 29 games. Rotherham were top with 42 from 28 and Hull sat second with 40 from 25. York sat just behind the Quakers, in 7th place with 30 points from 28 games (two points for a win in those days).

Darlington had beaten Crewe 4-1 at Feethams on the previous Saturday and so named an unchanged eleven to face York. The Minstermen had also won their previous game, 3-2 at Hartlepools but were forced into one change. Right half Ron Spence had an ankle injury and was replaced by Bert Brenen.

A crowd of 10,586 (paying receipts of £720) crammed into Bootham Crescent to see the game kick off in bright sunshine.

York started with a blustery wind behind them but it was Darlington, playing with short, accurate passing who looked the more dangerous and were first to threaten. Right winger Jim Turney cleverly beat two defenders and played in a dangerous cross but none of his team mates were there to meet it. Alf Patrick then headed just wide of the Darlington goal from a George Ivey cross, but the Quakers broke away and took the lead in the 12th minute. Tom Varty played in Albert Quinn down the left wing and he made his way to the by-line before pulling the ball back to Jim Turney who scored with a clever header. A couple of minutes later Turney went close again with another good effort but this time he was just too high. Darlington kept up the pressure and on 15 minutes they increased their lead. Quinn was the provider again, this time collecting the ball from Tommy Ward before crossing to the far post where the ball was met by Ken Bower who drove it into the net.

Two minutes later York were back in the game with a goal of their own. They were awarded a free kick for handball and Brenen swung it into the goalmouth where after a brief scramble it was stabbed home by Alf Patrick. Using the strong wind to their advantage York began to exert some pressure. They had three corners in quick succession, then Dunn was forced into a superb save from Tom Hindle. Dunn was quickly called into action again when he saved at close range from Ivey, then just before half time York came close to an equaliser when Alf Patrick headed just over after a cross by Sid Storey.

Half time: York City 1 Darlington 2.

The second half started with end to end football and both sides having chances. Matt Patrick made a good run for the home side, in which he beat two men but then he was stopped by Ernie Price, who cleared his lines well. Turney and Bower then threatened for the Quakers but they were stopped by home full back John Simpson. In a breakaway, Alf Patrick shot just wide of the Darlington post then at the other end Varty hesitated when well placed in the York area and allowed Simpson to intercept. In the 65th minute the Quakers increased their lead with a superb goal by Quinn. Ward had possession on the right and played a high cross into the goalmouth. Home centre half Tom Gale failed to clear, and the ball fell to Quinn with his back to goal. He swivelled around on his right foot and lashed the ball home with his left. On 77 minutes Darlington scored a fourth goal after Simpson had handled in the box. Quinn firing home the penalty. Three minutes later it was five, as Ward fired a terrific shot towards goal, that was punched away by home keeper Matt Middleton, but the ball fell to Bower who steered it back past him into the net. York threw men forward in the closing stages and were rewarded with a consolation goal when Matt Patrick fired home in the 82nd minute to make the final score: York City 2 Darlington 5.

The win kept the Quakers in third place, and they continued to have a good season. They eventually finished in fourth place with 46 points, 4 points behind Doncaster Rovers in third, but both sides were well adrift of Hull and Rotherham. City’s form tailed off, losing their final 5 games to finish 14th.

Hull eventually winning the one and only promotion spot with 65 points. The 48/49 season proved to be the best ever season for attendances at Feethams. The record attendance for a Division 3N game at the ground was broken three times. On October 9th, 14,590 saw a 2-0 victory over Rotherham. Then on October 23rd, 15,326 saw a 1-5 defeat by Doncaster, and on March 12th the record was broken again when 17,978 saw a narrow 0-1 home defeat by eventual champions Hull City. The average Darlington home gate for the season was an amazing 10,235.

York City produced an 8 page programme priced at 2d. Mostly adverts, with very little reading material, the team line-ups are on the centre pages.

York: Jeff Pears, Harry Brigham, John Simpson, Bert Brenen, Tommy Gale, Billy Allen, Matt Patrick, Tom Hindle, Alf Patrick, Sid Storey, George Ivey.

Darlington: Billy Dunn, Roy Brown, Joe Davison, Ernie Price, Tom Kelly, Wilf Parsley, Jim Turney, Tommy Ward, Ken Bower, Albert Quinn, Tom Varty.