It may have gone under the radar but today is an anniversary of sorts. For it was 108 years ago, 9 September 1911, that Halifax Town played its first-ever match. The club had been formed following a public meeting at the Saddle Hotel on 23 May 1911, and since then, a committee had been formed and Joe McClelland appointed secretary-manager. He had worked hard to assemble a fine squad, yet for all his meticulous planning, he was forced into making hurried arrangements for the first match in the Yorkshire Combination to include at centre-half Clem Garforth, a player who would never feature for the club again but make a name for himself as a rugby player at Thrum Hall.
The fixtures couldn’t have given Town a harder opening match; away at reigning champions Bradford City Reserves at Valley Parade. But despite the huge task facing them, by half-time they were on the verge of pulling off a sensational win, having run in two goals without reply.
Covering the game for the Halifax Courier, as he would do until moving to the Yorkshire Post in February 1941, was reporter Tom T. Dickinson, known to all as Pioneer, and he noted Bill Redding’s opener as ‘worth going miles to see’. Street pushed the ball out to Jock Nixon who whipped it past full-back Pat Cassidy before serving Joe Chadbourne. The Town centre-forward, who had been elected skipper in the changing rooms before the match, gave a swift pass to Redding, who lashed the ball into the net in an instant, giving keeper Martin Spendiff no chance. And as if not satisfied with having one goal to his name, Redding then went on the grab a second just two minutes later, following a mistake by the City keeper.
The two-goal lead which Town carried into half-time put them in dreamland, of course, though it was always going to be a tall order to hang on to it. City came out for the second half fired up and had soon wiped out the deficit before turning the screw in the last twenty minutes, showing little mercy to the Town players who physically wilted as the game went on. In that period, the home side scored four more, with chief tormentor John Young finishing the game with five goals to his name.
Despite the scoreline, Town could take credit in defeat. According to Pioneer, Chadbourne had led the line well and he had been ably supported, at least in the first half, by Redding and Andy McGill. Nixon on the left wing was ‘outstanding’. But the side would lose their first home game to Scarborough seven days later before finding a winning formula. They would lead the table, briefly, towards the end of December before fading. For their part, Bradford City’s second string would canter to the title once more, though no one was surprised. Teams;
Bradford City Reserves: Spendiff, Boocock, Farren, Hampton, Peart, Graham, Bartlett, Fox, Young, Connolly, Seymour.
Halifax Town: Finch, Firth, Houldsworth, Street, Garforth, Morgan, Nixon, McGill, Chadbourne, Redding, Wild.
Halifax Town players and officials on the occasion of the first match, against Bradford City Reserves at Valley Parade; Back row (left-to right); Joe Midgley (trainer), Bert Firth, Harry Street, Clem Garforth, W. Midgley (director), Harry Finch, George Houldsworth, Charlie Morgan, Joe McClelland (secretary-manager). First row; Jock Nixon, A McGill, Joe Chadbourne, Bill Redding, George Wild.
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