Notts County v Arsenal, 7 Oct 1909

This article is archived under 1909/10, George Morrell

Notts County vs Woolwich Arsenal

7th October  1909

Just on 100 years ago Woolwich Arsenal travelled to Notts County for a division I match.  This game followed on from the 7-0 defeat the week before at Blackburn Rovers (Arsenal’s biggest ever away defeat in the league, one of four times Arsenal lost 7-0), and came at a time when Arsenal were languishing just one place above the relegation zone, having played 6, won 1 and drawn 1.

Only five of the players who had started the first game of the season (a 5-1 defeat away to Aston Villa) survived in the squad.  Particularly notably H.E. MacDonald, the goalkeeper, was not included, although he ended up playing 38 out of the 40 games the first team played that season.

The problem throughout was indeed MacDonald.  Here’s a report on the game against Blackburn from the Blackburn Times the one week before the Notts C game, referring to the Arsenal keeper.

“The previous week he met with a severe injury to his knee, and when he limped on to the field for the beginning of the match it was patent that he was unfit to play.  With the game in progress it was apparent that he could not bend quickly enough to stop low shots, and he seemed afraid to jump in the air for the high ones, the obvious result being that he allowed shots to count that should never have gone through.  Not for one moment is it inferred that a sound and skilful keeper would have averted defeat.  The Rovers were too clever, thrusting, and determined for a single man to stave off disaster, with the best of custodians they would have won by at least four goals.  Whatever they may be away, they are a great team on their own ground this season.”

So, as we see, Arsenal’s keeper had been severely injured against Chelsea on 25 September, and for Arsenal had tried to keep him in goal for the Blackburn game. 

The ploy had failed, and so they brought in their reserve keeper, G Fisher, for the game against Notts County.  Poor G Fisher – he only ever played two games for Woolwich Arsenal, this one, and the game on October 9 against Nottingham Forest.  Arsenal lost both, and after that MacDonald returned and stayed there.

So here’s the explanation for both the previous week’s shocking result another disaster – a 5-1 defeat away to Notts County. 

I can find no report of the game against Notts County, but the team sheet shows one H Oliver playing at centre forward.  This was Mr Oliver’s one and only game for the club.  Who he was, where he came from, and where he went, one simply does not know, but he played for Arsenal at centre forward, and then left.

It was, evidently a club in turmoil – at least on the pitch.  Reserves being drafted in and “given a run out” to see what they were like, in league matches.  Very much a reflection of the fact that Woolwich Arsenal was geographically isolated from the mainstream of professional football, and finding it hard to capture new players.

10,000 saw the game (a crowd Notts County would dearly love to see these days as they sink under their mystery owners, and influential people who seem never to have heard of the club.)

Another defeat, and next up Nottingham Forest at home, on the Monday.

This series of articles is being produced to coincide with the publication of “Making the Arsenal” – the novelisation of events surrounding the club and Woolwich in 1910.  The book will be on sale from October 30 price £12.99.  More details on the book later.

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(c) Tony Attwood 2009



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