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Good year for Eagle Sports and Lowton St Marys - part six
This is the sixth article in Gordon Brown's series on post-war soccer in the Warrington area.
Manchester United were Football League champions and Newcastle United won the FA Cup for the second successive season, beating Arsenal 1-0 in the final at Wembley, while in the Warrington and District League the teams to watch were Lowton St Marys and Eagle Sports.
Lowton did the senior league and cup double by taking the league championship for the Dodds Shield and the major knockout competition, the Guardian Cup, and completed a treble by winning the Atherton Charity Shield, an open competition outside the Warrington and District League.
Lower down the scale, Eagle did a treble by taking the Division Two championship, Starkey Cup and Head Cup back to their Hood Lane, Great Sankey, ground, as thev were then before road restructuring sent them to nearby Thornton Road.
The team I followed avidly in season 1951/52, however, was Lowton St Marys, who worthily emulated the previous season's performance of neighbours Golborne United and their hard-working secretary and trainer Jimmy Bridge.
Lowton, who played in shirts of blue bodies with white sleeves and also had a superb secretary in Fred Hampson, played on one of the worst pitches, in Sandy Lane, Lowton, I have ever come across.
It had a distinct slope, was a mud-bath after rain and was so close to terraced houses that players had to step into backyards to take throw-ins. The best team with the worst ground!
I must add that I became a follower of Lowton St Marys through my first newspaper job.
It was the first team I had ever reported on professionally, having left school and got a job as a junior reporter with the now defunct Leigh Guardian, an eight-page weekly tabloid for the price of one old penny.
I rolled up for one home game - on my pedal cycle, of course - only to find the match had been postponed.
A coal lorry had been driven across the pitch, leaving ruts like an open cast coal site. Added to the other problems mentioned there was no chance of a game.
The highlight of the season was not just winning the league championship, but undoubtedly the Guardian Cup Final.
It was the finest amateur match I had ever witnessed and the nearest thing to a preview of the following season's FA Cup Final, when Blackpool recovered from 3-1 down to beat Bolton Wanderers in the Stanley Matthews final, one could ever wish to get.
Lancashire Steel (Warrington), who indirect contrast to Lowton had a smart well-grassed pitch off Chester Road, hit back to equalise twice.
It was a titanic tussle with wonderful football from both sides. With the score 3-3 at the end of 90 minutes, the sides went into extra time.
One man, at least, determined that nothing was going to slip away from his side, was inside-right Jimmy Prescott.
He was one of the finest amateur inside forwards I have ever had the pleasure of watching.
He was not tall, yet not small, and the way he swerved round opposing defences before letting fly with rasping drives was a delight to behold.
The late Joe Unsworth, who became Warrington and District League secretary, let Jimmy through to spray passes for Sloan and Jackie Prytherch to get the extra time goals for a 5-3 victory that sent practically the whole of Lowton village, who had helped to jam-pack Rylands Recreation Ground, wild with excitement. Lowton had been 2-0 and 3-2 ahead and Steel had drawn level.
The first goal in the game had come when Higson headed Lowton ahead and Sloan got a second before Bennett and Shaw put Steel on level terms. Prescot regained Lowton's lead before Smith equalised to force the extra period.
After Lowton completed a magnificent season by lifting the Atherton Charity Shield it was no surprise when the professional clubs started queuing up for Jimmy Prescott.
Southport, then in the Football League, got in first and signed him on amateur forms. Bolton Wanderers and Blackpool made offers, but Jimmy kept faith with the Sandgrounders and signed professional for them in October 1953, making his Third Division North debut against Chester shortly afterwards.
In a subsequent match, he got a hat-trick against Halifax Town, showing scant respect for the man marking him, former England and Sunderland wing-half Willie Watson.
After 18 months with Southport, Prescott was transferred to York City, then also a Football League club, who used him at inside left and centre forward.
He became leading scorer for the Reserves in the Midland League in season 1955/56 before returning to Haig Avenue the following season.
The season after that he switched to non-league part-time with Wigan Athletic at a time when Latics were trying hard year after year to get into the Football League, only to be thwarted by the Old Pals act which put applicants to the vote with those seeking re-election.
During his first spell with Southport, Prescott, Lowton born and bred, played for the Third Division North against the Third Division South in a representative fixture at Reading.
Other outstanding individuals in an outstanding Lowton team of that period were Jackie Prytherch, a lanky winger who later made his mark as a non-league manager and coach, embracing St Helens Town, Warrington Town and Prescot Cables; Broome, a centre half who died while playing; Higsoin, a capable inside man who linked well with Prescot, Greenough and Nelson.
In tailing off 1952, tribute must be paid to Golborne United, who may have lost their grip on the Warrington and District League and Guardian Cup but gained the Depot Cup, the second most prestigious trophy in Warrington and also played for by the entire league.
Golborne beat British Legion 2-1 at Rylands Rec in the final after beating SS Mary & John (Newton) 5-1 in the semi final at Eagle Sports.
For many years, Golborne had a hard-working official in Jimmy Bridge, referred to earlier.
He was a dairy farmer and Methodist lay-preacher from Parkhouse Farm, Golborne, who was secretary, coach, kitman, linesman - anything he could do for the club.
They also produced many outstanding players, including goalkeeper Cliff Waterworth, who later joined Lowton and Stockton Heath; centre half Jackie Boardman, who also went to Stockton Heath; along with diminutive winger Harry Bennett. A word in season here about United skipper Alf Topping, who had spells with Manchester United, Everton, Chorley and Lowton St Marys.
Around this time, Harry Lilly's Padgate Cottage Homes, later to change name to Padgate Hall, had gone up into the Sunday Schools' League Intermediate Section, in which they set up a record by becoming the first team to win the Reid Cup Knockout competition in two successive seasons, 1950/51, in which season they were section runners-up, and 1951/52.
Neighbours Padgate Church of England had also gone up into the Intermediate Section to continue exciting derby' games.
As I stated in a previous article, C of E had a fine winger in Woods, a strong midfield player in Bill Gartland, whose father ran the team, and a superb goalkeeper in Brian Irons. He was so good to watch I always used to stand behind his goal. He later went to Stockton Heath and the last I heard of him he was in the family business of Irons and Dean in Warrington.
Another early match I reported on for the Leigh Guardian featured Earlestown and Prescot Cables. That was in September, 1952.
Little did I know that in the 1960s I would become Earlestown's regular reporter.
Prescot won a Football Association Cup preliminary round match, qualifying to receive Flint Town United in the next stage.
MATCH REPORT FROM THE LEIGH GUARDIAN 1952 Lowton just scrape through.
Stockton Heath 4 Lowton St Marys 4.
As the score suggests, this was a hard fight for all 22 men on the field. But for the goalkeepers, the forwards would have been allowed to run up rugby scores. The sides were evenly matched and after frequent attacks on the visitors' goal, centre-forward Jim Longden put the Heath ahead with a good shot along the floor into the corner of the net from 10 yards range.
Ingham equalised from a l5-yard drive, but shortly before the interval, Longden put the homesters back in the lead when Whittingham dived and just failed to get enough fingers to the ball for a safe grasp. Then Heath got a third.
Half-time: Stockton Heath 3 Lowton St Marys 1.
Stockton Heath now looked as though they would run out easy winners. But no! Hamer handled in the penalty box and from the spot, Arnold reduced the arrears.
After this goal, Lowton had a fair run of play and after Prytherch had taken a corner, Riley equalised. Lowton attempted to take the lead on numerous occasions, but failed mainly through the safe and keen goalkeeping of Buckley. One of the many attempts that failed was when Ingham shot over the bar from two yards.
Both sides did get another goal apiece, but neither could notch the winner and when referee Mort blew the final whistle the score was still 4-4.
Both goalkeepers played good games with Buckley the better of the two. Whittingham made two mistakles, one leading to a goal. Other outstanding players were Longden and Griffin for Stockton Heath and Prytherch, Ingham and Broome for Lowton.
ANOTHER REPORT FROM THE LEIGH GUARDIAN 1952.
Lowton FC's record.
This month, December, Lowton St Marys have had a taste of everything.
A victory was witnessed on the sixth in the second round of the replay of the Depot Cup at Stockton Heath, where they won 5-1 after being held to a draw 4-4 at home. In this match the Heath missed three penalties.
The following Saturday at Westhoughton they made their exit from the Lancashire Amateur Shield to Alexandra United. They fell away badly, failed to score and Whittingham was beaten five times.
On the 20th Stockton Heath were the opposition again, this time in a league game when a draw, four each, was a fair result.
So Lowton say "good bye" to 1952 with 69 goals out of 18 games to their credit, 39 in league games, 16 in the Depot Cup, seven in the Guardian Cup and seven in the Lancashire Amateur Shield.
Centre forward Lythgoe, who has been absent from the side for a few weeks, tops the list of goal scorers with 15.
Two individual honours which the club can look back on with pride are the selection of inside forward Jimmy Prescott for eight matches with Southport Reserves and the selection of centre half Broome for the Inter-League match with the St Helens Combination. Prescott was chosen for this game, but was prevented from playing due to a knee injury.