In the latest of his Memory Match series, Simon Weatherill remembers the 3-0 away win at Hull City on 25th October 1947.
1947/48 was the second season of League Football after the Second World War. Darlington had finished the previous season, 1946/47, in 17th place in the Division Three North table and were looking to improve. They would have to do so with basically the same squad of players though as manager Bill Forrest had only made one significant signing during the summer, bringing in left winger Cliff Chadwick from Hull City.
The club made an inconsistent start to the 47/48 season. Their first four home games resulted in one draw and three defeats, and it was October 18th before they registered a home win, 3-1 against Accrington Stanley. Away from Feethams was a much happier story. Wins at Gateshead, York and Tranmere and a draw at Chester kept the Quakers safely away from the scrap at the foot of the table. By the time they visited Hull City on October 25th they were positioned 17th in the table with 10 points from their 12 games so far. Their opponents, Hull City, sat proudly on top of the table with 18 points from 13 games. Their excellent defensive record had taken them to the top on goal average – City only having conceded nine goals in the season so far. They were sure to provide stiff opposition as they were in a great run of form, 7 games unbeaten with 13 goals scored and two conceded.
City had won their latest game 1-0 at Gateshead on the previous Saturday and would make one change to their starting eleven to face the Quakers. New signing Jim Bloxham, signed from Atherton Colliery on the Friday, would make his debut on the right wing in place of Martin Reagan. Left winger Alan Daley had been doubtful due to an injury picked up at Gateshead but was fit to play. Darlington stuck with the same eleven that had beaten Accrington a week earlier. First choice full back John Eves was still unavailable with a septic toe, so Tom Kelly would continue at right back, with Robert Dodds deputising for Kelly at right half. Left winger Cliff Chadwick would be facing his old team mates.
An impressive crowd of 26,240 turned out at Boothferry Park, keen to see Hull City continue their good run and extend their lead at the top of the table, in what should be a comfortable home win for the league leaders. As expected, City made a strong start, but the Quakers defence stood firm. Their only early scare came when a clever pass by George Richardson played in Norman Moore, but he shot wide, across the goal. Darlington hit back and after a good run and cross by Jack Saunders, Tom Varty headed against the angle of upright and crossbar. Moments later, Varty went close again when he cut through the home defence and fired in a shot that brought City keeper Peter Atkinson to his knees. It was end to end stuff and Quakers’ Ken Bower went close when he beat two defenders and fired in a shot that deflected for a corner off Atkinson’s body as the keeper threw himself at the onrushing centre forward. The Quakers were now starting to take control of the game and put the home defence under severe pressure. Chadwick fired in a shot from out wide that was comfortably saved by Atkinson, then Dodds put in a fierce drive that went only just wide of the post. The Hull goal had another narrow escape when Chadwick nearly intercepted a back pass by Norman Fowler, but the home keeper just beat him to the ball and cleared. Robert Sinclair had the next possible chance from long range, but shot high over the bar.
Darlington eventually grabbed the lead that their enterprising play deserved after 35 minutes. Play progressed down the left wing as Varty played in Chadwick, who crossed into the box. Ken Bower beat Atkinson to the ball at the far post and cleverly worked it around the keeper and turned it into the net. Hull stormed back and Norman Tapken, in the Darlington goal, had his most serious work of the afternoon as he saved first from Berry and then Richardson. The Quakers had an injury scare at the end of the first half as Chadwick suffered a heavy challenge and had to be carried from the field. Half time – Hull City 0 Darlington 1.
The Darlington supporters in the crowd were relieved to see Chadwick resume in the second half in his usual position. With the wind at their backs, the Quakers were soon on the attack again. Bower had a shot blocked, then Varty put in a cross shot that flew just over the bar. Hull offered very little in attack and the Darlington defence had little difficulty in checking their efforts. On 71 minutes, the Quakers increased their lead. Chadwick took the ball down the left wing and centred to Sinclair, who fired in a shot that was blocked by Atkinson. The ball rebounded to Bower who drove it home for goal number two. Two minutes later Varty headed home brilliantly from a Sinclair cross to put the result beyond any doubt. The league leaders had been well beaten on their own ground and could have no complaints about the result.
The unexpected 3-0 victory lifted the Quakers up to 14th place in the table. They had now secured nine points from their first eight away games – already one more point than they had gained away from home in the whole of the previous season. The Quakers eventually finished the season in 16th place with 39 points from their 42 games, one place higher and three points better off than the previous year.
Hull City produced a 12 page programme for the 47/48 season, priced at 3d. The team line ups were on the centre pages.
Team v Hull City : 1 Norman Tapken 2 Tom Kelly 3 Joe Davison 4 Robert Dodds 5 Jack Saunders 6 Wilf Parsley 7 Robert Sinclair 8 Charlie Stubbs 9 Ken Bower 10 Tom Varty 11 Cliff Chadwick.