ESSEX & SUFFOLK BORDER LEAGUE DIVISION TWO
Following their long association with the Colchester & East Essex League Wivenhoe Rangers,along with Mersea Island,moved up during the summer of 1971 to join the Essex & Suffolk Border League Second Division. Bobby Coppin arrived at the club as Coach and set about bringing in several new players into the First Team squad including Bobby Hill, who had previously been on the books of Colchester United, prolific goalscorer Alan Byford and former Brantham Athletic striker Trevor Endean.
Rangers got off to a fine start to life in this higher sphere of football by defeating St.Johns (Clacton) 5-1 at home and quickly settled down to establish themselves amongst the front runners along with the powerful Mersea Island. With four league wins and two draws under their belts Rangers met the Islanders on 2nd October and a large crowd approaching 300 saw two goals from Trevor Endean inflict a 2-0 defeat upon the visitors (their first League loss since 11th April 1970). Sadly this match was to mark the last appearance in a Rangers First Team shirt of Alan Barrell (who was a substitute on the day) as he was advised by a doctor to give up football following torn knee ligaments. Having missed only three matches during the past two seasons the 28 year old had been converted from a wing-half to centre forward following an injury to Harry Welsh and had scored 68 goals for the club. Alan remained on the club Committee and continued to accompany the First Team to games. Winning 3-0 at the previously undefeated Finchingfield, Wivenhoe also hit the Cup trail in October by beating Heybridge Swifts Reserves 4-0 at home in the League Knock-Out Cup and Sadds Athletic 3-0 away in the Tolleshunt D’Arcy Cup as well as recording what was to be their highest League win of the season by crushing Great Bentley 11-0 away, Endean hitting 4 goals on this occasion while both Alan Byford and Tony Winter grabbed hat-tricks to add to an own goal;.
With Wivenhoe in such good goalscoring form, Felixstowe Town Reserves arrived at the Essex University ground on 6th November. With four team members being delayed en route the Felixstowe goalkeeper REFUSED TO COME OUT OF THE DRESSING ROOM to make up the required seven players to start the match!!. He managed to delay the game for 30 minutes until the others arrived. Referee Mr.D.Woodard reported the incident and had to reduce play to 35 minutes each way with Rangers running out 4-1 winners. A few weeks later the two sides met in the return fixture where, over 90 minutes, goals from Endean (3), Byford (2) and Mel Bridle (2) gave Wivenhoe a resounding 7-0 victory. Rangers entered 1972 with a League record of Played 13, Won 11, Drawn 2, Lost Nil, indeed they were undefeated in all competitions until New Year’s Day when the lost 1-2 away to Long Melford Reserves in the League Knock-Out Cup.
Following victories over Eastern Gas Reserves (3-1), Lawford Lads (6-2) and Parkeston Railway (1-0 during which Rangers keeper Bobby Hanks broke two ribs on his First Team debut), Wivenhoe advanced into the Group Final of the Essex Junior Cup. The club had last won their Group way back in 1952-53 when they defeated Harwich Rangers 6-0 and, after a Quarter-Final win over Southminster St.Leonards, were eventually knocked out in the Semi- Finals of the competition by Rainham Old Boys. Now standing between Rangers and progression into the Quarter-Finals stage on this occasion were arch rivals Mersea Island on 29th January. The Islanders came into the game on the back of a 10-0 demolition of Finchingfield, bringing their total goals for the season in the Border League to an awesome 106 in just 17 matches!. In artic conditions Rangers had to withstand tremendous pressure with keeper John Goldsmith and centre-half Don Castle outstanding in defence. Against the run of play Alan Byford almost gave Wivenhoe the lead when he headed a long free-kick from Mel Bridle against the underside of the crossbar before two goals in the last 10 minutes saw the Islanders avenge their earlier League loss.
February saw Wivenhoe lose the services of wingers Mel Bridle (hernia operation) and “Dodger” Downes, and when they eventually lost their first League game of the season 2-3 at Witham Town Reserves on a quagmire of a pitch on the 19th of the month, some people saw this as the balance of power firmly swinging in Mersea’s favour. With a window in the fixture list the club’s Committee decided to have a “get away from it all” break and the following weekend a club party of 38, including players, officials and wives, jetted out for four days in Majorca. Upon returning Bobby Coppin elected to bring Harry Welsh back into the First Team for the next game at Brantham Athletic Reserves for his first Senior start of the season. Harry picked up from where he had left off the previous season and scored in a 4-2 victory and followed this up by netting twice more in a 5-0 win at Crittall Sports. With Alan Byford hitting five goals in a 7-2 triumph at Lexden Wanderers Reserves, the club were back on track again….and heading straight for a showdown with Mersea Island.
April 7th saw a large passionate crowd gather for the clash of the “Big Two” which was described as a “Fine game to watch between two evenly matched sides.” The goal, when it eventually came, was a scrappy one though as Bobby Hill’s high inswinging corner was fumbled by Mersea keeper Roberts and Trevor Endean somehow managed to bundle it over the line off his back to give Rangers a 1-0 victory and in the process become the first team to win a League match on the Island since 1968.
The Title advantage had swung back in Wivenhoe’s favour however several postponements throughout February and March had left them with a hectic fixture schedule and the Mersea game was just the start of a punishing three matches in just four days. A 6-1 win over Crittalls was followed by a 1-1 draw at promotion chasing St.Johns (Clacton), a slip that put the Title race back in the balance again as Rangers now embarked on a run of having to play a game every three days. The players coped well with both the schedule and the pressure and when goals from Byford (2), Welsh (2) and Winter gave them a comfortable 5-0 home win over Great Bentley on 29th April they were still a point ahead of Mersea with both teams having one game left to play. With their Title ambitions firmly in their own hands Rangers took on 6th placed Finchingfield at the University playing fields on Monday 8th May and outclassed the visitors 8-0 with Winter, Welsh and Endean all netting two goals apiece to add to strikes from Byford and Castle. Wivenhoe were Essex & Suffolk Border League Second Division Champions and it was celebration time again down the Horse & Groom pub.
In addition to League fixtures Rangers’ hectic run-in included a 6-0 thrashing of Heybridge Swifts Reserves (with Byford again netting five times in a game) and victory over Old Maldonians to reach the Final of the Tolleshunt D’Arcy Cup where the club took on Southminster St.Leonards at Tiptree’s ground. With regular keepers John Goldsmith and Bobby Hanks both unavailable, Bobby Coppin took over between the posts but was never really troubled as the back four, superbly marshalled by skipper Don Castle, held tight while Man Of The Match Tony Winter weaved his magic to create goals for the dynamic duo Alan Byford and Trevor Endean in a 2-0 victory. This result meant Wivenhoe had won the trophy without conceding a goal in the competition.
Captained by Peter Boyden and boosted by the goalscoring talents of Harry Welsh for much of the campaign, the Reserves finished Runners-Up to Parkside ‘A’ to gain promotion from the Colchester & East Essex League Second Division with 100 goals to their credit.
Off the field Chairman Vic Williamson announced that the club had applied for permission to build a clubhouse and changing rooms on the site of their present hut on the King George V Playing Fields at a cost of around £3,000. A new pitch had been laid at the end of the year but the club were still waiting to hear as to whether or not they could use it in the coming season otherwise they would have to try and continue to stage games on the University Of Essex playing fields.
At the club’s Dinner Dance held at the George Hotel 200 guests saw Tony Winter named “Player Of The Year” and Leon Chapman “Clubman Of The Year”. There was a surprise for club Coach Bobby Coppin who was presented with a silver plaque by Captain Don Castle on behalf of the First Team to show their appreciation of the work he had done in his initial season with Rangers.
ESSEX & SUFFOLK BORDER LEAGUE SECOND DIVISION TABLE 9th MAY 1972
PL W D L FOR – AG PTS HOME AWAY
WIVENHOE RANGERS 30 26 3 1 127 22 55 X X
Mersea Island 29 26 0 3 164 20 52 2-0 1-0
Witham Town Res 30 18 6 6 76 42 42 3-1 2-3
St.Johns (Clacton) 30 18 5 7 95 45 41 5-1 1-1
Walton Town 30 17 4 9 71 44 38 3-0 2-1
Finchingfield 30 14 3 13 73 84 31 8-0 3-0
Hatfield Peverel 29 14 1 14 49 46 29 2-1 1-1
Brantham Ath.Res 30 10 7 13 70 61 27 5-2 4-2
Long Melford Res 30 11 4 15 59 79 26 5-0 4-0
Great Bentley 30 9 5 16 46 100 23 5-0 11-0
Lexden Wanderers Res 30 9 3 18 37 65 21 5-2 7-2
Waterside Res 29 8 5 16 43 89 21 5-1 4-1
Maldon Town Res 29 7 6 16 41 84 20 6-0 6-0
Crittalls Sports 29 8 3 18 37 87 19 6-1 5-0
Paxmans Athletic 29 5 5 19 43 84 15 1-1 4-0
Felixstowe Town Res 29 4 3 22 27 113 11 4-1 7-0