3rd Div Champs 11: No April Fools
Feature by Gary Broughton
Updated Friday, 15th June 2007
Matches 33-35: A tough trip on the east coast at Grimsby was to be followed by a derby double against Accrington Stanley.Hopes were not high for this game, especially once player-manager Dave Wilson was forced to rule himself out with a leg injury. The preparations took another knock when George, due to replace him and make his first senior start, was taken ill on the morning of the game, and Hoad had to travel across the 100 mile plus journey at short notice.
Nelson regrouped and took up the running, but disaster struck while on the attack. Eddleston burst forward and passed to Hoad, who was tackled heavily by Affleck. The late Nelson replacement fell awkwardly on his back, and had to be carried off by the trainer, and so Nelson were down to ten men.
Birds almost ended up the same way when he bravely came out and smothered at the feet of Miller, who had been clean through. The home forwards swarmed around, attempting to dispossess him, but relief belatedly came with the award of a free-kick.
Despite the apparent bad luck leading up to, and at the start of, the game, the Blues took the lead on 14 minutes as Broadhead placed a free-kick perfectly for Wolstenholme to rise above Atter and plant a header firmly into the net.
Buoyed by this, Nelson attacked again, and from the second of two quick corners soon after, it was Braidwood who was able to head home and send the visitors two up.
Grimsby responded and went on the attack, but were kept splendidly at bay by the Nelson defence. Rigg especially was in outstanding form, and with Hoad returning to the field just before half-time having been absent for half an hour, the Blues amazingly went in at the break feeling pretty confident.
As expected, the Mariners took a hold of the game in the second half and pressed forward as Nelson made the decision to adopt a more defensive make-up. This was more understandable with the realisation that Hoad was still injured and effectively playing the second half as nothing more than a spectator.
When the home side did manage to find a way through, they found Birds in inspired form, the Nelson stopper saving well from both Bradford and McKenna. Even when they won a penalty for a handball by Crawshaw, Birds kept out the resultant kick from Carmichael, quickly receiving hearty congratulations from his colleagues.
Once this chance had gone, Grimsby visibly weakened, and from then on Nelson held out comfortably to take a welcome two points - it was their first win for almost a month.
After the four winless games, it had been a fantastic effort by Nelson. Braidwood, Broadhead, Steele and Rigg had all played almost to their best, and the two Burnley directors who had travelled to watch the latter would have gone away suitably impressed. The forwards also gave a great account defensively as the team effectively fought with ten men for eighty minutes of the match.
|Match 33 summary: Saturday 7th April 1923|
|Grimsby: J.T. Atter, H. Millar, G. Affleck, J. Bradford, C. Deacey, J.R. Cook, W. Ritchie, F.C. McKenna, J. Carmichael, J. Miller, W.W. Kettle|
|Nelson: Joseph BIRDS, John STEELE, Clement RIGG, John BLACK, Ernie BRAIDWOOD, Jimmy BROADHEAD, Sid HOAD, Arthur WOLSTENHOLME, Joe EDDLESTON, Dick CRAWSHAW, Bob HUTCHINSON|
With their closest rivals Bradford, Chesterfield and Walsall all on the road, the Blues felt confident they could keep at least the three point cushion they had opened back up at the top of the table.
But Stanley should have made their task so much harder by taking the lead in the very first minute! Metcalfe burst through on goal, and with only Birds to beat he unaccountably shot wide from just six yards out.
Nelson did not heed the warning however, and in the very next move Stanley surged forward once more. This time Hosker found the target with a hot drive, but Birds clawed the ball around the post to concede a corner. And from that corner by Helliwell, Metcalfe headed just wide with Birds stranded.
Then, on five minutes, injury disaster struck just like in the last game. Steele's leg gave way under him, and, while he did not leave the field, he had to be moved to outside right. Black moved back to right half, and the returning Wilson took up a place at full back as Nelson were forced into a major re-shuffle.
Nelson finally began to show something in attack. The troubled Steele almost scored with an intended cross which whistled just past the upright, while Crawshaw shot feably at the keeper when well placed. But Stanley came back, and great play on the right wing from Bradburn led to a superb ball into Hosker, who had the easiest of tasks to give the visitors the lead.
Luckily for a lethargic Nelson, they almost immediately equalised. Hutchinson played in a corner from which Crawshaw was able to force the ball home, and the Seedhillites were back on level terms. Shortly after Hutchinson saw an effort saved by Floyd, preventing the home side taking an undeserved lead.
Stanley almost scored at the start of the second. Birds was carelessly dispossessed while bouncing the ball in his area, and only a deperate goalline clearance from Wilson saved his side.
At the other end, Eddleston wasted a great chance when choosing to shoot too early, while Birds redeemed himself by producing a brilliant save to deny Stanley's Helliwell.
The game seemed to be going against Nelson, and for the second game in a row they found themselves a man short when Wilson had to be carried off the field with a nasty looking strain. The versatile Black moved to full back and slotted in superbly.
Yet, out of the blue, and with just seven minutes remaining, Nelson stole a winner. From a second successive Wolstenholme corner, the forward sprayed a long ball across and found Broadhead, who met the ball with his head and guided it like a rocket past the helpless Floyd.
There was still time for a chance for Hosker at the other end, but to sum up the away side's lack of bite in the penalty area the ball somehow failed to find the net with a goal looking odds-on. Nelson held on, and Black received a rapturous ovation for his outstanding effort at the full time whistle, having played in three different positions during the ninety minutes.
Apart from Black, Rigg and Wolstenholme, it had been a very poor performance from the Blues - with many questioning why the already injured Steele had been selected to play - but somehow they had managed to squeeze home and grab another vital two points. The same doubters, however, were sure Nelson couldn't play so bad in the return match and were looking on it in a positive mood.
|Match 34 summary: Saturday 14th April 1923|
|Nelson: Joseph BIRDS, John STEELE, Clement RIGG, David Wilson, Ernie BRAIDWOOD, Jimmy BROADHEAD, John BLACK, Arthur WOLSTENHOLME, Joe EDDLESTON, Dick CRAWSHAW, Bob HUTCHINSON|
|Accrington Stanley: P. Floyd, S. Puddlewell, J. Donnelly, A.W. Crawshaw, S. Challinor, W. Entwistle, R. Bradburn, A. Metcalfe, T. Smelt, J. Hosker, T. Helliwell|
Over 3,000 Blues supporters travelled to Peel Park for the return derby match with Accrington, but the absence of Steele and Wilson, along with a boisterous wind, meant it wasn't going to be easy for the visitors.
And it was to prove a costly decision for the home side, as from that corner Braidwood headed Nelson into the lead. It was the Blues' fourth successive goal from a corner, with the last three having come against Stanley.
Nelson continued to press, and Crawshaw and Eddleston were both foiled by Floyd. More corners followed before half-time, but there was little further threat on the home goal. The game reached half-time, and all wondered if Nelson were going to pay for not taking full advantage of the wind.
However, the second half failed to pan out anything like the masses expected. While Stanley certainly saw more of the ball, they frequently lost possession.
They did give Nelson one scare when Metcalfe headed a chance against the bar, though Nelson themselves struck the angle of post and bar soon afterwards.
Accrington became more disorganised as their frustration to grab an equaliser grew, and the Blues defence coped admirably with what was a relatively average attack through to full time. As the whistle blew the Nelson contingent danced about in jubilant mood.
The indifferent form seen throughout March was now a distant memory, and a return of six points out of six had left the Seedhill outfit on the verge of title glory.
|Match 35 summary: Saturday 21st April 1923|
|Accrington Stanley: P. Floyd, J. Donnelly, G. Page, S. Puddlewell, S. Challinor, W. Entwistle, W.H. Ward, A. Metcalfe, T. Smelt, J. Hosker, T. Helliwell|
|Nelson: Joseph BIRDS, John BLACK, Clement RIGG, Mike McCULLOCH, Ernie BRAIDWOOD, Jimmy BROADHEAD, Sid HOAD, Arthur WOLSTENHOLME, Joe EDDLESTON, Dick CRAWSHAW, Bob HUTCHINSON|