Why was this local pub once so important to the Dragons…
COLCHESTER & EAST ESSEX
LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
Having finished Runners-Up to Colchester Minors the previous season, newly Promoted Wivenhoe Rangers were looking forward to their first term back in the Second Tier of Colchester & East Essex League football following seven years in the Second Division wilderness. With the likes of Mick Hatch, Leon Chapman, John MacLeanan, evergreen Club Captain Peter Boyden (now entering his 21st season in men’s football) and goalscoring ace Harry Welsh all remaining from the previous campaign, the squad building continued with the addition of twelve new arrivals including Alan Barrell from Clacton Town, Tony Winter and Peter “Dodger” Downes (both ex Layer United), Chris Herbert, who joined from local neighbours Alresford Colne Rangers, plus local players Graham Peck and Dennis Kemble. Training was in full swing on Monday and Wednesday evenings at the University Of Essex with Life Member of the club Reg Harvey and John Laidlaw sharing the supervision.
The club was now looking to stage games on a regular basis on the University grounds for the coming season, although they were still retaining their pitch at King George V Playing Fields (which was unfortunately situated on a slope) to fall back on should the need arise. On the eve of the season long serving player and Club Secretary Bill “Jock” Hill was quoted as saying; “We have a strong team and I feel we are beginning to make a comeback and will return to the Premier Division where Rangers belong.”
With the team still gelling there was an early cup shock in store as Colchester Lathe knocked Rangers out of the Essex Junior Cup by 4 goals to 2 at the Second Round stage. This came as a huge disappointment to the club who had high hopes of a decent run in the County Cup competition following a 10-0 victory over Grange. With Dedham and Earls Colne being tipped by the local footballing experts as favourites for league honours, Wivenhoe’s own form was highly promising as the club settled in amongst the front runners and by December were well placed to mount a challenge for a second successive promotion. The goals were flowing and Rangers grabbed their second double figure haul of the season as struggling Cherry Tree Rovers were dispatched 10-0, Tony Winter hitting six of the goals.
Meanwhile victories over Weeley Athletic (1-0), Premier Division Bures (6-1), local rivals Alresford Colne Rangers (4-2 after extra time) and Tollesbury (3-2) saw the club reach the Semi-Finals of the Amos Charity Cup. This had been Wivenhoe’s best run in the trophy since they dominated the competition back in the Fifties, winning it on five successive occasions between 1951 and 1956. Rangers were the lowest ranked side still left in the competition and now faced St.Mary Magdalen. The initial game was staged at Mersea but was abandoned due to heavy snow (“flakes as big as golf balls” some eye witnesses reported) by referee Paul Healy in the 34th minute with the scores level at 1-1. The second match was played at Rowhedge and Wivenhoe had an upset in their sights when Peter Boyden scored from the penalty spot to put them into an interval lead, however, a three goal burst in 180 seconds completely turned the tie around and although Harry Welsh gave Rangers hope again a late 4th Mags goal killed the tie off. As a point of interest the Magdalen team that day featured future Wivenhoe Club Patron Dave Watts in the line-up.
In January Alan Barrell was converted from wing-half to make shift centre forward following an injury to Harry Welsh and this proved to be an inspired move as he immediately hit eight goals in an 11-1 away win over Rowhedge’A’. Meanwhile, as winter continued to bite, off the field of play Club Chairman Vic Williamson made the local newspapers when he slipped in the icey conditions at the railway station and broke his arm.
Still unbeaten in the league, goals from Boyden, Hatch and Downes gave Wivenhoe a 3-1 victory on a snow covered pitch at Dedham, a result that saw them take over at the top of the table in early March when league leaders Clacton Monarchs lost at home to Colchester Minors. Rangers further strengthened their position with a 3-2 home win over Colchester Minors thanks to goals from Tony Winter, Alan Barrell and Clive Jennings. This was a valuable success against rivals at the top of the table, inflicting a 5th defeat of the season upon their visitors and effectively ending their promotion ambitions. Despite suffering a setback when the experienced Peter Boyden broke his ankle during a 5-2 victory at one of his former clubs Boxted Lodgers (plus defeats against Dedham and Kelvedon) Rangers relentlessly continuted to close in on the Title, eventually securing the First Division Championship with a game to spare following a 3-1 win at the University over their closest challengers Earls Colne. Alan Barrell continued his rich vein of scoring by netting a hat-trick (the second strike of which was Rangers’ 1,850th goal in Post War East Essex League football) to set off a night of celebration down the Horse & Groom pub, the club’s “Headquarters” at the time. The team that day was; D.Mortlock, J.Woodard, D.Garrity, M.Hatch, L.Chapman, J.Noah, C.Jennings, J.MacLeanan, A.Barrell, A.Winter, P.Downes, Sub: R.Hall.
During the course of the season Wivenhoe defeated several clubs from higher grades of football and there was a massive shock in the Wivenhoe Charity Cup when a brace from that man Barrell and a left foot strike by Harry Welsh gave Rangers a 3-1 Semi-Final victory over Essex & Suffolk Border League Premier Division outfit Brantham (a club four Divisions senior to Wivenhoe). This set up a Final tie against another Border League Premier side Brightlingsea United , staged at King George V Playing Fields, and despite Barrell heading Rangers into an 18th minute lead they could not hold on and eventually went down 1-3. The 62 year old Cup and medals were presented by Mrs.Nora Street, daughter of Captain Turner Ennew who originally donated the trophy in 1908. A sum of£10 13s 8d was raised by way of collection from the 200 plus crowd. The campaign was successfully rounded off by the club winning the Sidney James Memorial Cup in its inaugural season as Barrell grabbed another hat-trick and Welsh netted from close range to secure a 4-2 victory over Rowhedge and thus see off another side from a higher Division. At the club’s end of season Presentation Dinner held at the George Hotel League Secretary Charles Pullen paid tribute to Wivenhoe’s Club Secretary Bill Hill who was now the second longest serving secretary in the entire Colchester & East Essex League.
DIVISION ONE TABLE (WTFC POSITION/ RECORD)
(1st) WIVENHOE RANGERS Played (26) Won (20) Drew (4) Lost (2) For (105) Against (37) Points (44)
Alan BARRELL 45, Tony WINTER 30, Harry WELSH 22, Peter BOYDEN 10, Peter DOWNES 8, John Mac LEANAN 7, Clive JENNINGS 6, Mick HATCH 4, Leon CHAPMAN 2, John NOAH 2, Terry COWLISHAW 2, Dave GARRITY 1, Dave COCKER 1 John LAMONT 1, Own Goals 2.