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Whitstable Town FC - Gravesend Match 1957

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The Record Attendance
Whitstable  v Gravesend - 1957
by Ian Johnson


On Saturday 19th October 1957 Whitstable played Gravesend & Northfleet in the FA Cup Third qualifying round, the furthest Whitstable had at that time reached in the cup.

There was a lot of excitement in the town in anticipation of the game and the Whitstable Times reported that at least 1,000 Gravesend supporters were expected to attend. One special train arranged by the Gravesend Supporters’ Association had already been fully booked, and second one put on. Whitstable’s previous attendance record of 2,500 – for the Kent Amateur Cup semi-final between Whitstable and Bromley in 1950-51, was expected to be broken.

Gravesend was one of the biggest clubs outside the football league at that time and were high in the Southern League table. The previous Saturday, they had drawn away to the then league leaders Weymouth. Gravesend’s manager was Lionel Smith, who had played for Arsenal as a defender, with a short spell at Watford before he became Gravesend’s manager in 1955. The Gravesend team included a number of ex-league players, including Jimmy Logie, a Scottish cap who had had a long and distinguished career as a forward at Arsenal, another forward Jimmy Scarth, ex-Tottenham Hotspur and Gillingham, who while with Gillingham scored what is still the fastest-ever hat-trick in league history, in two minutes v Leyton Orient in 1952, Jimmy Robertson, an ex-Arsenal and Brentford winger, and Arthur Shaw, a wing-half with a league career with Brentford, Arsenal, and Watford. In those days, and up until 1962, there was a maximum wage which meant that prominent non-league clubs could compete for top league players stepping down to a lower level on equal terms with lower league clubs.

Whitstable had more or less their regular team selected by player-manager Len Henson, although Henson himself was said to be recovering from flu and not fit. The only surprise was that he decided to give a first-team debut to a new signing, Tony Tozer, a left-winger had only played in one reserve match since joining the club.

I wish I could say I remember all that happened in the game. Because of the big crowd. my Dad and I could not get our usual places up against the railing, and my Dad had to help me up to sit on the wall backing on to the cricket ground, near the corner by the cricket pavilion. So my view of the game was somewhat restricted. I remember Jimmy Robertson, the rather portly Gravesend left-winger, as he was playing up and down the touchline near us, and I remember being thrilled to spot Jimmy Logie, the biggest star of the Gravesend team, when he had the ball.

The Whitstable Times reports that nearly all the Whitstable players acquitted themselves well against the vastly superior opposition, especially the hard-working wing-halves O’Donoghue and Blizzard. Frank Cox made a good job of holding Scarth for most of the game. The weakest link was Tozer, who was said to have wasted most of the balls he received.

Gravesend scored after 15 minutes through inside-left Thomas, who netted from a rebound after a shot from Logie cannoned off the bar. Whitstable had some good chances, and some bad luck with near misses before Thomas scored again in the 61st minute, when Whitstable’s keeper Barnes and centre-half Howell went for the same ball in confusion, giving Thomas an easy tap-in.  Centre-forward Eric Day scored the third with a solo run after 73 minutes.

After their 3-0 win at Whitstable, Gravesend were surprisingly beaten in the last qualifying round by Guildford City. After drawing at Guildford, they lost the replay 0-1 at home. However, they finished the season as Southern League champions.

Whitstable were bottom of the Kent League table at the time, but that game must have inspired them, as they finished that season…next to bottom. As we can see from Dave’s table, Chatham finished at the bottom.

The crowd was said to total 2,500, but was also said to have beaten the previous record, which was also 2,500. Maybe the club knew the exact totals, but only gave the totals to the nearest hundred!

It was to be 1988 before Whitstable again went as far as this in the FA Cup!

 

Ian Johnson


Match Details

   

Result: Whitstable... 0 Gravesend & Northfleet... 3 (Thomas 15, 61, Day 73)
Whitstable: Barnes, Howe, Cox, O’Donoghue, Howell, Blizzard, Austin, Kelly, Bertchin, German, Tozer
Gravesend & Northfleet: Heathcote, Carson, McDonald, Shaw, English, Bridge, Scarth, Logie, Day, Thomas, Robertson.

 


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