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Part Three - And so to war... (1910 - 1918)

by Paul Taylor and Martin Shaw

1910/11 saw the team in a regular mid-table position in the league, ending in an equally mid-table position of 9th. April 17th was an unusual day, however, as the first team played two matches! In a morning kick-off they lost 1-2 at Pinxton and in the afternoon they recovered sufficiently to take a point from a 1-1 draw with Stanton Hill Victoria with eight players turning out in both matches. They were reasonably successful in the cup competitions when the 4th qualifying round of the FA Cup was reached.  And the semi final of the Notts Senior Cup.  In the summer of 1911 a new league was formed, it adopted the name - Central Alliance. For the inaugural season 12 clubs were accepted as member amongst them were Mansfield Town. Town had a very poor season finishing in 11th place, one from the bottom. The new colours brought in for this season (black and white quartered shirts and black shorts) obviously brought them no luck at all. Finishing in such a lowly position meant that the club had to apply for re-election. Lady luck did smile down at this point as, with a plethora of clubs trying to get in, it was decided at the AGM to re-elect the bottom two clubs unopposed and extend the league to 18 clubs. There were mixed fortunes in the cup competitions when in the FA Cup Town bowed out at the first attempt to Hinckley United. The Club did reach the semi finals of the Notts Senior Cup where for the second season in a row, where Notts County'sTeam Photograph from 1911 reserve side proved too strong.  More trouble loomed before the start of the 1912/3 season as the club were forced to find a new ground. The Great Central Railway decided to extend their line through the middle of the Newgate Lane ground. Given little time to find new accommodation they had to settle for the old ground on Radcliffe Gate. The club had played here before in 1900/1 season when there were no league fixtures, only friendlies were played. The 'new' ground was nicknamed 'the Prairie', and had no facilities what so ever, the players even had to change in the Brown Cow public house. This was probably not much of an imposition as they were used to changing in similar facilities in the Carpenter's Arms when they played on Newgate Lane! On the pitch the club faired much better than the previous season when a comfortable 12th position was obtained. In part, this was no doubt due to the goalscoring expertise of Freddie 'Fatty' Blackwell who netted 39 times to set a new Central Alliance record. He had only one season with Town before moving to Shirebrook for two seasons. Blacknell then went to war and was killed at Ypres in October 1916 aged just 24. Five matches were played in the FA Cup before Sutton Town ended the run in the 3rd qualifying round. The semi final of the Senior Cup was reached for the third time in a row but, the other Sutton side, Sutton Junction triumphed on their own ground.  In the summer of 1913 the club were warned as to the state of the ground. Numerous complaints had been received by the Management Committee the previous season, and so the club were given until the start of the season to improve things. By October Town had been warned again, matters had obviously not improved. The team struggled all season and did not win their first match until the end of November, and in all, only six league matches were won all season with the club ending in 13th position (out of 16). The cups did not offer much consolation either as only the second qualifying round of the FA Cup was reached and the first round of the Senior Cup. The lowly league position left the club applying for re-election for a second time. This time there was no lady luck and so the following season returned to the Notts and Derbyshire League. No doubt the standard of the playing area cost the Club dearly when it came to the vote.   The 1914/5 season, even playing in the lower standard, did not start well with the first victory not coming until Boxing day. From then on in however only three more defeats were suffered all season and in the end a very respectable 4th place achieved. There was no cup success though as Town bowed out of the FA Cup to Sutton Town by a 0-5 score and in the second round of the Senior Cup  Notts County Reserves triumphed 2-0 at Meadow Lane.   By the summer of 1915 the Great War was in full swing and many teams lost players, and consequently the different leagues lost a number of clubs who closed down for the duration. The Central Alliance was no different and when Mansfield Town applied to rejoin that League for the 1915/6 season they were gratefully accepted back into the fold. Even with the addition of Town and New Hucknall Colliery (who had played with Town the previous season) only 9 clubs completed the season. Town did not perform well and only a run of 4 wins in the last 5 games saw the team rise to finish in 6th position.  With so few clubs the League season finished on 27th December and so a second, subsidiary competition was organised. Three of the 9 competing clubs declared that they could not complete the season and so only six teams continued. The secondary competition turned out to be a remarkable for Mansfield Town as they proceeded to win all 10 matches and win the competition easily, rounding off the season with a magnificent 10-1 win over Sutton Junction. It has to be said that most of the other clubs were losing players at a faster rate than Town but even so winning all 10 matches is still quite a feat. By this time, of course, the FA had abandoned their cup competition for the duration as had the Notts FA, so there were not cup competitions at all that season. One other match was played, however, when Town played the Mechanics at Field Mill (the then home of the  Mechanics) to raise funds for the Footballer's Battalion. Town won the match, which was abandoned due to bad light, by a score of 4-0, however only 50 spectators attended and raised the miserly sum of just 12 shillings and sixpence!  At this point the Alliance also decided to call it a day until the end of the war, some clubs decided to carry on playing just friendly matches but at their AGM in June Town also decided to close down for the duration.

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