Killie came a calling on Saturday and 6.500 supporters turned out to see a replay of the Scottish Cup Final.
Rovers – Shortt; Kiernan and Ford; Wilson, Duncan, and Black; Ribchester, Ja White, White, Watson, and Hillhouse.
Kilmarnock – Blair; Hamilton and Gibson; Bagan, Short, and Neave; McNaught, Smith, McNaught, Smith, McLean, Culley, and Houston.
Rovers would be playing their third match in four days. Shortt, Ford, Wilson, Ribchester, White and Hillhouse played in all three matches. Penman, Kiernan, Duncan, Black, Ja White and Watson played two matches. Melville, Blue and Bell were the softies who played only one match.
‘Immediately after the opening of hostilities McLean scored for the visitors, which was a rather disconcerting start for the ground team’. The ground team is a term strange to our ears but is the home (ground) team. Hillhouse tested Blair before a series of Killie corners ‘threatened disaster to the Rovers, but with luck they succeeded in averting danger’. Rovers took over for a time, Watson and Hillhouse trying hard to secure the equaliser but ‘half-time was called with Rovers in the undeserved minority of 1 goal to nil’.
Not surpisingly, ‘the second portion showed Rovers less aggressive, and their play did not impress the crowd as favourably as in the opening stages’. ‘Chances went abegging’ before Culley headed in a cross to secure the points for the visitors and a 0-2 finish.
‘It was the end of a strenuous week into which four games had been crushed by the Rovers and it might be charitable to leave it at that. All the same…..the Rovers attack lacks much…..The spate of ginger-play that carried the Rovers to the Scottish final has been dissipated, to the evident chagrin of their keen and expectant followers’.
With this defeat and the news that Accies beat Ayr United 2-1 Rovers could not now avoid last place.
The leg weary Rovers players could rest till Wednesday when Third Lanark would be the visitors.
Last match of the season and miserable weather kept the crowd down. Rovers were looking for revenge for a 1-0 defeat in Glasgow. Having played last on Saturday, Rovers would be relatively fresh for this match.
Rovers – Shortt; Keirnan and Ford; Melville, Duncan, and Wilson; Ribchester, Ja White, White, Blue, and Hillhouse.
Third Lanark – Turnball; McCormack and McGowan; J. Walker, McAndrew, and Hendry; Murray, Bennie, Allan, F. Walker and Flannigan.
‘Consistent pressure resulted in Hillhouse beating McCormack with his head, and running close in on the touch line he squared across the goal-mouth for John White to put the finishing touch on the ball’. Good start for Rovers but ‘shortly after Duncan hurt his ankle and had to retire for the rest of the game. Wilson went to centre-half and Blue fell back to the half-back line’. Rovers defence took time to settle and Bennie equalised from a corner. Play was fast and interesting. Turnball fumbled Ribchester’s cross and John White went close then John White scraped the post with an effort. The ten men were keeping at it and got their reward when Ribchester crossed for John White to give Rovers a 2-1 half time lead.
‘On crossing over they were still a man short but despite that handicap they were playing exceptionally well…..Blue was easily the best man on view, his tricky work and distributive play being a treat to watch…..it was no surprise when Ribchester banged in a ball which struck McCormack and glided into the net.’ Four minutes from time, Allan was brought down by Melville and a penalty was awarded. McCormack shot over the bar ‘whereupon the referee, to the amazement of the spectators, gave him the kick over again. He converted his second effort successfully’. Rovers held on for a 3-2 win.
Rovers win stopped Thirds, described in the report as the Warriors, taking seventh place finishing a point behind Airdrieonians, Rovers finished one point behind Hamilton’.
A tumultuous season had come to a finish. I was going to write some sort of summary but the Coatbridge Express summary of the season printed on 12 May covers the season really well, using some quaint expressions along the way, so I will finish with that word for word on 12 May.
So, probably last entry from me in this thread. Hope you have enjoyed the reports of the matches and other issues as they have come up. The reporting of football by 1920 had come along a lot, 1880 you get a score line and not much more, 1920 recognisable match reports. You do get the feeling that football was the uppity sport that was vying with cricket for popularity, some reporters were more cricket fans and you can sense their frustration with football. I was going to write up a summary of the season but the entry below from the Coatbridge Express covers a tumultuous season very well. I will add a few comments at the end. The Coatbridge Express article is as it was entered in the newspaper, the only change I made was to break up the two hefty paragraphs into shorter, hopefully more readable paragraphs, enjoy.
WINDING UP AFFAIRS
Apart from a few miscellaneous games here and there in the name of Love football is now in Chrysalis and will remain so till the middle of August when the cry will go forth to players of the greatest game on earth to up and at it again.
Meantime it is good to think that we have had a fairly merry season here-about. As a matter of fact season 1919-1920 will be handed on in history as the “greatest ever” for Coatbridge – for the making of the Albion Rovers members of the First Division of the League, for the leasing of Cliftonhill and the laying out of what will be a great ground; for the Rovers travelling the length of the Scottish and Lanarkshire Cup finals, and the loss of both.
Their playing and paying progress to the Scottish final was their spate-time of an otherwise mediocre season as a playing concern. It was absolutely phenomenal, and no club in Scotland was in more need of a great lift of dollars.
Leaving aside these ties the Rovers were not what could be called a great success in a playing sense. It would have been a miracle had such been the case. So to speak, at a moment’s notice, the Rovers were called to the League; had to face the leasing and making of a new home, and to do what they could in the way of signing-on players after all the other Leaguers had been into the markets and made their choice.
Thus it is not surprising to find that out of a long programme of 57 games played they won only 18, lost 26, and drew 13. In goals they scored 68, lost 89, and were unfortunate enough to be to be the lowest of five at the wrong end of the League that were only divided by five points – Hibernian, Raith Rovers, Falkirk, Hamilton Academials, and Albion Rovers.
Taking all the circumstances into account, the Rovers, in their first flights among the Scottish football aristocracy, did wonderfully well and absolutely redeemed themselves in their great fight for the national championship – the Scottish Cup.
In money matters no provincial club did so well. The Scottish ties were to them a veritable El Dorado. They have now a fine home (still in the making), and it remains with the Company to demonstrate with the advent of a new season that the League made no mistake when they elected the Albion Rovers to the First Division.
I mean in a playing sense, for it is only success on the battlefields that will proclaim that. So it is for the Rovers managers to be up and doing, as I have no doubt they are, with a view to placing on the field next season men who will win renown for Coatbridge in first-class football.
A few points.
The end of the Winter football season and the start of the Summer cricket season, and then the start of the new football season and the tail end of the cricket season overlap, and you often find in reports that a player is playing in the other sport.
Looking back over Rovers history does anyone want to disagree with 'As a matter of fact season 1919-1920 will be handed on in history as the “greatest ever” for Coatbridge'?
Rovers being elected to the First Division is a story in itself, which I covered in a match day programme, Stirling Albion, 04/01/1920. An attempted quick summary follows. Cowdenbeath won Division Two, 1913-14, unfortunately for Cowdenbeath, this was before automatic promotion, so Cowdenbeath were to play in Division Two the following season. Cowdenbeath again won the 1914-15 Division Two. The Great War had started on the 28th of July, 1914. The Scottish Cup was cancelled for 1914-15, and did not start again until 1919-20. League football for Division One continued as normal, Division two was dropped from 1915-16 and did not start up again until season 1921-22. Rovers joined up with other reasonably local teams to play in the Western League to tide them over till the war was over; 1915-16 season, Rovers finished 5th, 1916-17, Rovers finished 7th, behind Champions Clydebank, 1917-18, Rovers were Western League Champions, 1918-19, Rovers were runners up. At the end of season 1916-17, Aberdeen, Dundee and Raith Rovers were asked to withdraw from the First Division at the end of the season because of war time travel difficulties. To keep an even number of teams in League One, Clydebank were elected to the league and were still there ahead of 1919-20. Rovers held a 14th of February, 1920, meeting to form a Limited Company with a view to new ground and ‘further advancement in footballing circles’. Aberdeen, Dundee and Raith Rovers were coming back into the league, Clydebank were to retain their place, so the Scottish League (Division One) was to increase in numbers by one club. Cowdenbeath and Rovers were both proposed. The vote was held, the result was 10-10, East clubs voted for Cowdenbeath, West clubs voted for Rovers. The Chairman of the League, Mr Tom Hart of St Mirren, used his casting vote in favour of Rovers. Rovers would in Division One in season 1919-20!
Rovers played a lot of matches, due to so many cup replays, and due to having to play in the Qualifying Cup, 57 in total. By way of contrast, Rangers even playing Rovers three times, played only 50 matches. The mad rush leading up to the cup final and at the end of the season left the Rovers players leg weary, last in the league and, beaten in the final.
Did you notice Rovers ‘great fight for the national championship – the Scottish Cup’, the league was not felt to be more prominent than the cup as yet.
Think the most important comment was about Rovers getting voted into the League long after all the other teams had been out and got their choice of players. When you think of that, Rovers and their late selection of players did remarkably well to make the cup final and almost avoid last place.
Please get me the no. for forums anonymous!
I've thoroughly enjoyed it all, as I'm really into the history of Albion Rovers. A big Thank you, Brian, for what must have been a huge amount of time finding these newspaper articles. Robin probably mentions The Coatbridge Express in his book but I was unaware of their existence. Having said that, I have access to The British Newspaper Archive, so I'll trawl through that to see if there's anything else of interest, at any time in Rovers History.