The biggest Berkshire FA Cup giant-killing that’s stood for 130 years

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Bracknell Town and Maidenhead United are both through to the 2022/23 FA Cup First Round Proper, but will either be able to usurp a 130-year-old ‘giant-killing’ by a side from Berkshire? Steve Jinman takes up the story of St. Mary’s vs Maidenhead.

Every year as the leaves fall from the trees, hopes rise that the Magpies can break one of the oldest records in the FA Cup. Since 1887 the club has tried in vain to return to the Second Round Proper of the competition, and with every year that passes the record for the most seasons between second-round ties is extended. Our elevation to the peak of Non-League football has in theory made this feat easier with just two wins required but it has only served to highlight our lack of giant killing power. Last season was the thirteenth time the club had fallen at the first-round hurdle since that second-round 3-2 defeat in November 1886 at the hands of Dulwich.

Six of those ties have been against Football League opposition, but valiant draws at home to Aldershot Town and away at Port Vale notwithstanding, the word cupset is yet to enter the lexicon of the modern Maidenhead fan.

130 years ago however, Maidenhead won away at one of the leading clubs in England. On this day in 1892, a 6-2 win at Chesham Generals set up an “English Cup” Second Qualifying Round tie at St. Marys, the club now known as Southampton. The win at Chesham so delighted the travelling supporters that they, according to the Advertiser’s ‘Trifler’, offered a few shillings to the local band to play ‘See the Conquering Hero Comes’ when the Maidenhead team left the field, an offer which was declined by the musicians.

St. Marys had beaten Newbury 4-1 at the same stage in front of a crowd of “several thousand”. This led Trifler to look ahead to the tie and comment that “the exchequer will stand a little gold lining. Of course they [Maidenhead] don’t expect to win, but they mean to make a good fight of it”.

‘Trifler’ travelled to Southampton with club Secretary W.G. Dance and upon arrival at the Antelope Cricket Ground was greeted by “a strong smell of embrocation, and I found that nearly every Saint was being rubbed with it.” This prompted him to muse “they mean business; we are in for it today”.

Maidenhead had only nine of the team dressed in red and black. ‘Gus Mead who announced to ‘Trifler’ that “I’ll show you something today” was wearing white whilst Street wore his Temperance shirt. The Saints wore their traditional red and white striped shirts.

“Netted goals were used and they proved a distinct boon”.

Maidenhead won the toss, and unlike games at York Road these days, elected to kick up the slope, due to having the wind in their favour. On the attack from the kick off, Maidenhead soon took the lead in the fifteenth minute with a header from Clark.

Keeping the hosts on the back foot, Jinny Janes doubled the lead before half time with “beyond doubt the finest piece of play of the day”.

From a Saints corner, Janes “wriggled the ball clear, and getting through the halves and fullbacks by the aid of Wilmore, he went away at a terrific pace, with his opponents in pursuit like a pack of hounds, but he gained at every step, and halting in front of goal, gently put the ball in on one side of the terrified goalkeeper, amid prolonged cheering”.

After the break the home team appeared to “have all gone to pieces and were outplayed at every point”. In the 55th minute Janes struck a free kick “which the goalkeeper went on all fours to save, but he failed” and so Maidenhead extended their lead to 3 goals. Two minutes later Janes went on to complete his hat trick and despite the home supporters “appealing in a piteous strain ‘Play up Saints – Do get one’”, Maidenhead ran out surprise 4-0 winners. The crowd of “nearly” three thousand produced estimated gate receipts of £40 (worth £5,648.79 in 2022).

‘Trifler’ then hastened to the telegraph office and at 5:20 pm the news was posted in Messrs Good and Wyatt’s window to a large waiting crowd of Maidonians.

In the following, penultimate, qualifying round, Maidenhead lost 3-0 at Great Marlow. Our oldest local rivals went on to reach the first round proper, losing 3-1 at home to Middlesbrough Ironopolis.

Both Maidenhead and St. Marys, who now added the prefix Southampton, joined the new Southern League in 1894 with contrasting fortunes. Maidenhead struggled in the second division before resigning from the league in 1902. After winning their first Southern League title in 1897, Southampton dropped their historic suffix and went on to win the championship a further five times in the next seven seasons, as well as reaching the FA Cup Final twice in this period. With the Football League based in the north and midlands with the exception of Woolwich Arsenal, it is fair to claim that Southampton were one of the best teams in the country at the turn of the century. Therefore Maidenhead’s win in Hampshire in 1892 must rank as the club’s one bona fide giant killing extraordinaire.

Sources: Southampton & Hampshire Express 5/11/92, One for Sorrow, Two for Joy, Mark Smith, 2011, Maidenhead Advertiser.

All the latest FA Cup news around Berkshire will be available here. Details on round dates and the FA Cup prize fund is here.

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