#TBT: ‘Wonder Workers’ Eliminate Champs (2/21/1926)

Photo: The Providence Journal

Photo: The Providence Journal

Welcome to this week’s edition of “Throwback Thursday,” where we take a trip back in time to spotlight some of the clubs that made their mark on the New England soccer landscape over the past century.

This week, we venture back to a second round U.S. Open Cup replay between the reigning American Soccer League champion Fall River Marksmen and Boston F.C., also known as the “Wonder Workers,” back on Feb. 21, 1926 at Mark’s Stadium. The Evening Herald (Fall River, Mass.) previewed the match in this fashion on Feb. 18, 1926: “Boston Team’s Chances Boosted By Their Splendid Showing of Last Sunday but Marksmen are Picked to Win.”

Note: The information provided in the following game report was drawn from the Feb. 23, 1926 edition of The Evening Herald.

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February 21, 1926

CHAMPIONS OUT OF NATIONAL CUP

‘WONDER WORKERS’ ELIMINATE CHAMPS

Crowd of 11,384 Sees Marksmen Go Down to Defeat at Hands of Boston Aggregation. Jinx Still Follows Champs.

TIVERTON, R.I. – Boston F.C. reinforced the sentiment that goals are what matter in soccer game, and how they are scored matter little so long as you get the jump on the other fellow when the whistle sounds, as the Hubmen grabbed a 3 to 2 win over the Marksmen at Mark’s Stadium in Sunday afternoon.

On a pitch similarly sloppy to the one played upon a week before in Boston – where the clubs settled for a 1 to 1 draw – the Wonder Workers grabbed goals from Johnny Ballantyne, Tommy Fleming and Alex McNab. The champs scored from Harold Brittan and Bill McPherson.

The Marksmen entered the match heavy favorites by virtue of their league form, but that did little to deter the plucky Boston aggregation, who sent vast majority of record crowd into a noticeably state of disappointment after the final whistle blew on the second round tie.

The win will give Boston a date with J & P Coats for the Cup semifinals, the winner of which will earn Eastern final honors.

Boston Took the Chances

Even though Boston’s forwards were razzed for their supposed wild shooting by the partisan crowd throughout, credit is due to them for making the most of the opportunities they were afforded. Three of those wild shots found their way into the Marksmen net.

The team with the breaks came away with the win. Fall River did not get as many breaks, even though they carried seventy per cent of the offensive chances during the game. The fine defensive work of Boston did well to stifle their opponents, even if their shots carried barrels of ill luck. Brittan, Frank McKenna, Tommy Croft, Tec White and Dougie Campbell all fought to the last ditch, but they did not show the superb form often display in league competition.

In short, they couldn’t find the kind of real openings found by their opponents, and when they did, they either messed them up or hit the crossbar or a defender blocked the opportunity to put the sphere into the goal.

Left Dangerous Men Open

Say what you will about the Fall River forward line, but their defensive teammates weren’t exactly stellar by any stretch of the imagination. Far too much leeway was given to Fleming, a player who never turned down a shot he didn’t like, no matter how far from goal it came, as well as McNab

Fleming, nicknamed “Whitey,” puts a lot of English on the ball, making the trajectory of the ball hard for a goalkeeper to read. While he takes some abuse for some rather wild misses, if you gave him five shots, he’d sink three. Much like he did in last Sunday’s 1 to 1 draw, when he was given the chance, he was rewarded for on one of his wicked shots.

As for McNab, he led the attacks on the Fall River net early and often, and managed to score. He also factored into the final tally when he sent a flag kick into the air for Ballantyne, who beat Findlay Kerr on the shot.

A Fighting Team

Fall River entered the match with its classic “never-say-die” attitude, but it received an unwelcome jolt when Boston piled up its three scores only 32 minutes into the proceedings. It was incomprehensible to believe that a club as good as the Marksmen were for the past four years could find themselves staring at a three-goal deficit – and so quickly.

They grabbed one back just before the half, then fought like demons in the second half, pressing relentlessly against the Hubmen. Golden chances were there for the taking, but the hosts simply could not make good on them.

Yet, there was no quit in the Marksmen on this afternoon. With their backs against the wall, they uncovered a second goal right before the conclusion, courtesy of McPherson, who converted a penalty after John McArthur carelessly handled the ball in a tight scrimmage inside the box. It wasn’t necessary for him to do so, but it mattered little with full time knocking on the door.

Have Something on the Champs

While it was evident that Boston had played the better brand of football in the first half, it’s safe to say that they have had something on the champs for quite some time.

Just as they did in last Sunday’s clash, the Hubmen seemed to get the jump on their foes from Fall River, earning a respectable 1 to 1 draw. This time, they adopted a defensive approach to the proceedings, and were keen to waste time whenever possible. Whether it was kicking the ball out of bounds, or employing any trick to delay the game, it was all fair game for the Hubmen. Of course, this is not a new development in the game.

Nevertheless, it was apparent that the Woodsies had cast a jinx over the Marksmen, a jinx that has haunted them even in league play, with last year’s cup tie qualifying as another recent example.

Johnny Ballantyne Out

Johnny Ballantyne was once again banished from the game after employing some unsavory tactics in the second half. Twenty-five minutes into the second stanza, he kicked Fryer from a seated position, and referee Oates immediately waived him off. He was allowed into the lineup this week even though he was booted from last Sunday’s tie, but this time around, it’s unlikely Ballantyne will return for at least another month after his second dismissal.

Record Crowd

The 11,384 that showed for Sunday’s contest was a splendid sight by any measure, even if it did not overshadow the 14,375 present for a second round Cup replay against J & P Coats three years ago. Even though conditions were favorable for an entertaining game, the muddy conditions handicapped both sides.

Marksmen defender Ned Tate could certainly speak to the rugged state of the pitch. In the first half, he attempted to guide the ball beyond the goal line, only to see it stop short in a muddy crevice.

Panicked, the defender hurried to clear it away, but the ball dropped with a thud  before gently rolling to Flemming, his eyes widened at the gift presented to him. Needing no second invitation to take a shot, he unleashed a drive that scurried its way into the net to give the guests the first of their three goals.

Photo: The Evening Herald (Fall River, Mass.)

Photo: The Evening Herald (Fall River, Mass.)

Weather Suitable

The weather was suitable for many in the stands, even if the mud betrayed the players. The sloppy conditions inhibited any ideas of combination play or individual displays, as a player would often find himself overrunning the sphere due to the poor state of the pitch.

Brittan Scores

Brittan’s goal just before the half was one of the prettiest pieces of work seen all game, with help from Tommy Croft and Campbell. The genesis of the strike started with Croft, who gained possession and found Brittan going forward. The peerless leader of the Fall River attack then sent it to Campbell, who then sent it right back to Brittan with an opening before him. The striker fought off McArthur, but there was little he could do against the strong attacker, whose drive evaded Tommy Steel to give the hosts a sliver of hope despite the trio of goals scored by Boston beforehand.

Recognizing the hard work put into the play by Croft and Campbell, Brittan immediately sought them out in order to shake their hands in gratitude.

Some of the Bad Breaks

The crowd knew it would not be an easy match only a minute into it after McKenna drove a hard shot that Steel, who initially appeared to have little chance of stopping, came up with the ball.

Minutes later, Croft and White collaborated to find McKenna inside with a wide open chance in front of him. But the shot deflected off of Tommy McMillan’s leg for a corner kick.

Another case of rotten luck transpired when Croft tried to find Campbell on a through ball in the attacking third. But the mud slowed the exchange considerably, and leaving Campbell to face a pair of Boston defender who closed in quickly.

Meanwhile, McNab also found himself the victim of hijinx when he tried to go down the right wing on a solo play. But he was simply too fast for the ball, and had to check up to recover it as the threat dissipated.

McPherson Hurt

McPherson was hurt in a struggle with Ballantyne, and it appeared his afternoon was done as he walked off the pitch. But he rallied back, and assisted Tate in the second half to plug the defense.

Brittan Should Have Scored

In the 20th minute, Brittan found a gift-wrapped chance to get one for the hosts. He fired a low drive on frame that Steel smothered, and came up short minutes later when he mis-timed his header from a Campbell cross, the sphere straying away from frame.

Brittan fought his way to a cross from McKenna before the half, but McMillan arrived to snuff out the opportunity. Even so, it appeared that it was just a matter of time before he’d find the back of the net.

Another Score

Ballantyne collected a throw in and immediately raced toward goal before firing away. But the wayward path found McNab, who was curiously unmarked, and he did the only thing he could think of: take a shot, which found its way into the net, still spinning when Kerr picked it out.

Steel a Real Help

Luck favored the guests again in the second half, with Steel the greatest beneficiary. The diminuative keeper stopped shots from McKenna, White and Campbell. Then again, Campbell and White also threw away chances of their own, a sign that Lady Luck was dancing with the Wonder Workers.

Boston Stalling

Boston started its stalling tactics at this stage, raising a howl from the crowd. Referee Oates initially allowed it to transpire, but became more attentive to it as the game progressed. In one bold display, Mickey Hamill deliberately fouled Brittan on a dangerous run. Brittan responded by throwing Hamill into the mud. Even so, Oates called a foul on Brittan instead.

Rough Play Started

While players became entangled in one fracas after another late in the game, it was clear that Fall River’s hopes were fading fast. Boston had resorted to a five-man backline, and corner after corner was cleared away.

Tate was tested by Fleming and Blair, but managed to thwart both with some physical defending. Meanwhile, Hughie Coyles fouled McNab when it was not necessary.

Ballantyne Banished

McMillan fouled White just outside the area, and was warned by the referee. But Ballantyne was sent to the clubhouse by Oates after deliberately kicking Fryer after the latter attempt the hedge his progress in a rather rough fashion.

Tate took a tough knock when a hard Fleming ripped a shot that hit the Fall River defender in the head, knocking him to the ground. He recovered, and Oates inspected the ball to see if a new one was needed. Hamill attempted to prevent a new ball from being introduced,  but it stayed for the duration.

After McPherson’s penalty strike, Fall River’s search for an equalizer was short lived, as the whistle blew and the dejected fans filed out of the stadium.

The summary.

Fall River Boston
Kerr, g Steel,g
Tate, rfb McMillan, rfb
Martin, lfb McArthur, lfb
McPherson, rhbMcIntyre, rhb
Fryer, chb Hamill, chb
Coyle, lhb B. Ballantyne, lhb
Campbell, orw McNab, orw
Croft, irw Galloway, irw
Brittan, cf Blair, cf
White, ilw J. Ballantyne, ilw
McKenna, olw Fleming, olw

Goals by – Fleming, McNab and J. Ballantyne for Boston; Brittan and McPherson (penalty) for Fall River. Referee – Oates of Philadelphia. Neutral linesman – Carrigan and Ritchie of Boston.

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About Brian O'Connell

Brian O'Connell serves as editor and staff writer at New England Soccer Today. He's also the Revolution beat writer for ESPNBoston.com, and is Officer at Large for the North American Soccer Reporters. He regularly contributes to The Associated Press, and has been featured on MLSSoccer.com & RevsNet.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianOConnell21 or contact him via e-mail at BOConnell21@aol.com