Back in 1881-82 the two teams that would eventually become Manchester City and Manchester United met for the first time with the first fixture occurring on this sate (12th November 1881). To mark this anniversary here’s a free article on the first two derby matches. Both were friendlies of course!
The First Time
Back in 1881-82 the two teams that would eventually become Manchester City and Manchester United met for the first time. This was only a year after the first reported games played by the clubs, then known as St Mark’s (MCFC) and Newton Heath (MUFC). The first St Mark’s game to make it into print was against Macclesfield Baptists on 12th November 1880 while Newton Heath’s earliest known game came seven days later against Bolton Wanderers’ 2nd team.
On the anniversary weekend of St. Mark’s first reported game, 12th November 1881, Newton Heath and West Gorton (St Mark’s) met for the first time. The game, played at North Road, Newton Heath, attracted an attendance of around 3,000 (according to details recorded many years later – I’m dubious about the number but we have nothing contemporary that’s accurate so we’ll go with that).
The ‘Heathens’, who went on to become Manchester United in 1902, defeated West Gorton (St. Mark’s) 3-0 in what was described as a ‘pleasant game’. I wonder what the reporter would make of 21st Century derby matches! Two goals were scored in the first half, one being an own goal by one of West Gorton’s ‘backs’. It is not reported who scored the goal, all the ‘Ashton Reporter’ match report says is that the player was “attempting to stop a shot by E. Thomas”.
One of the significant aspects of the way this game was reported which has created some confusion over the years concerns the St. Mark’s name. It was recorded as West Gorton (St. Mark’s) as opposed to St.Mark’s (West Gorton) and that change has caused some to suggest that the church were unhappy in some way with the club. There was a suggestion that the club was attracting players from outside of the parish and that was an issue, but none of this now appears to be correct. The church appeared to be happy with the way the side was developing and, if anything, the selection of Kirkmanshulme Cricket ground actually meant the team were playing fairly close to the St. Mark’s rectory. The move potentially increased the opportunity for spreading the church’s work and that may be why the person sending in the match reports to the local newspaper changed the emphasis.
The Return Match
The return match took place at the Kirkmanshulme Cricket ground (West Gorton’s home) on 4th March 1882. On the image above this is the cricket ground to the right of Tank Row (and left of Belle Vue Zoo).
West Gorton (St Mark’s) gained revenge for the 3-0 defeat in their first encounter, as they overturned Newton Heath 2-1. The Gortonians had managed to take the lead, via Charles Beastow, as early as the eighth minute, and then had to hold off the Heathens who had been awarded a couple of consecutive corners. The second actually lead to West Gorton’s second goal. James Collinge obtained possession in front of the West Gorton goal then proceeded to run the full length of the pitch, before sending the ball flying between the Heathens’ posts amid loud cheering.
The score remained 2-0 until late in the game when, according to reports, the Heathens baffled the home ‘keeper Edward Kitchen by performing several good passes before the ball entered the goal. Exactly how baffled Kitchen was we don’t know, but we do know that this game was well attended.
Years later the attendance that day was reported as ‘around 5,000’, although it would be unfair and ridiculous to suggest that this was the actual attendance. It seems incredible that around a sixth of Gorton’s population would have been able to attend a game which, at that point, was not regarded as a ‘derby’ or an important fixture whatsoever. Nevertheless. it does provide an indication that football in West Gorton was becoming popular.
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