Southern League (Division One)
Team: Collins, Archer, Newlands, Bowman, Hitch, Downing, Hamilton, Milward, Murphy, Blackwood, Wilson
After recording a 3-1 win at Brighton the previous week, Rangers then took on Portsmouth on 19th December 1903. The following match report appeared later that day:
‘Played at Kensal Rise, the weather was anything but pleasant. Rain began to fall at two o’clock, by which time there were about 5,000 people on the ground. The turf was terribly heavy and holding.
Portsmouth turned out as advertised, and the Rangers had their full strength, with the exception that Freeman was away from the half-back line.
Originally it was arranged that the kick-off should be 2.30, but this was altered to 2.15. The visitors were late in reaching Waterloo, and in consequence had to proceed to the scene of operations via the Underground and minus their lunch.
Referee G. Farrant had charge of the players, Buick lost the toss and Wheldon kicked-off against the wind and rain.
The start was sensational, as, after Wheldon and Cunliffe had worked the ball down the right, the Rangers came away on the left, and from a throw-in by Downing, Hitch obtained possession and beat Reilly all-ends-up with a fast, rising shot.
On resuming, S. Smith broke away, but Bowman charged his centre, and transferred to Blackwood, who went clean through and easily defeated Reilly at close quarters. Play had only been in progress two minutes.
Needless to say, the Rangers’ double success put the spectators on good terms with themselves, and there were already cries of: “Make it a dozen.”
Portsmouth were nothing daunted by these unexpected disasters which had befallen them.
Their forwards tried desperately to improve matters, and S. Smith sent across a dangerous centre, which Wheldon was too slow to profit by.
Murray was given offside to a neat pass by Cunliffe, and a minute later Collins easily saved from W. Smith.
Rangers were having slightly the best of matters, the wind giving them a decided advantage. Still the football was not brilliant by any means.
From a free kick, Milward got his head to the ball, which just went a couple of yards the wrong side of the post. The Rangers kept up the attack. Hamilton put behind from a good position, much to the relief of the visitors.
A foul against Wilkie looked dangerous, but Hogg tackled Murphy before he could get in his shot.
Then Reilly was lucky to save from Murphy, after Hitch had dropped the ball right into the goalmouth.
Try as they would, the Portsmouth forwards could not break through the Rangers’ sound defence. By this time the players on either side were well coated with mud, and the going was awful.
Archer handled the ball well inside the penalty area, but the referee evidently thought the affair an accident, as he ignored a fairly confident appeal.
The Rangers were decidedly smarter on the ball. Apparently more at home on the heavy turf.
A nice bout of passing by the visitors’ forwards was spoilt by a wild shot from W. Smith.
At the other end, Reilly had to fist out from a corner and the play continued to go in the Rangers’ favour. It was only occasionally that the Pompey forwards approached within shooting range, and compared with Reilly, Collins had an easy task.
“Now then, boys, play up,” Wilkie was heard to pathetically shout to his forwards, but no matter how they tried, the Pompey quintette could make no impression on the defence opposed to them.
On the other hand, the Rangers’ forwards got over the treacherous turf in splendid style and they were always dangerous.
Then at the expiration of 29 minutes, Buick put the ball forward from Murray, who dribbled clean through on the right and beat Collins with a grand drive from the wing.
On resuming the Rangers right-wing was at once prominent and Hamilton sent in a pretty cross-shot which Reilly saved cleverly after he had eluded a heavy charge from Blackwood.
Two corners to Pompey followed a fast dash by S. Smith, but neither were improved upon. The rain now came down faster than ever, the afternoon being wretched in the extreme.
Hogg cleared a fine centre from Hamilton, and after the visitors had missed a chance of equalising through all the forwards being too much in the goalmouth, Blackwood was too slow to avail himself of a capital opening.
Reilly fisted away from Murphy while lying at full-length, and a corner to the Rangers was nicely cleared by Buick and Blyth.
Towards the interval Portsmouth did most of the pressing, but their attack was not pressed home as it ought to have been.
Hamilton nearly scored with a brilliant shot from the wing, which Reilly tipped over the crossbar and the Rangers maintained their advantage. Half-time: 2-1.
The Rangers now had to face the rain and wind, but in spite of this they were the first to show up, Milward sending across a clever centre after the Pompey defenders had stopped in order to appeal for offside against Hamilton.
For some minutes the Rangers did most of the attacking, and Reilly and Hogg were prominent with smart saves from Murphy and Milward. Meanwhile, the Pompey forwards had been comparatively idle.
Two free kicks drove the visitors back, and from yet another free kick, taken by Archer, Murphy fastened upon the ball and beat Reilly, who came out of his goal and clean-missed the leather.
Within another minute from the resumption, or nine minutes after the second-half had commenced, Murphy placed the Rangers still further ahead, this goal being a real beauty. Reilly went full-length to save, but could not reach the ball, which went through the corner.
There could be no question now about the result. The Rangers shaped all over like winners, and in spite of the rain and wind, had a fair share of the play.
The visitors’ defence was very uncertain, and Hogg, mis-kicking, nearly let in Murphy again, but luckily Wilkie came to the rescue of his side, just when another goal seemed certain.
Portsmouth were struggling gamely to improve matters, but they could not do nothing on the heavy going, the forwards in particular, being off colour, with the exception of Wheldon, who was frequently conspicuous with clever dribbling.
There was now not much interest in the proceedings, the Rangers’ long lead having taken some of the spirit out of the visitors.’
Despite being a fairly detailed account of the game, the reporter must have left before the end of the match! The Rangers scorers were: Blackwood 3, Murphy 2 and Hitch.
The postcard, shown above, depicting the Rangers team, was sent in 1904 by a W. Tolman of 196 Droop Street to Wellington in New Zealand.
There was a person of this name who in 1898, was the organist at the Local Tabernacle Mission in Herries Street, and close to St. Jude’s Church. Quite a mouthful, but apparently it was known as the ‘Tabernacle Herries Street Wigan’s Mission’!
I think this could well have been the same person who sent the postcard. Well done to Colin Woodley for unearthing this and for forwarding the match report.