For this classic match report we go back to the 1930s for a historic game that rarely gets mentioned.
Many thanks to Middlesbrough fan Steve Roberts for providing a copy of the programme for this article.
Date: Monday 22 April 1935
Competition: Football League Division One
Location: Ayresome Park
Referee: Albert Fogg (Bolton)
Middlesbrough 0 Arsenal 1
Drake 6 mins
Undefeated in their previous twelve league games, and having led the First Division since the New Year, a win for Arsenal, along with Sunderland failing to win, would make The Gunners champions.
A heavy schedule had taken its toll and they would have to do without the services of Eddie Hapgood, Herbie Roberts and Cliff Bastin who were all injured. Middlesbrough goalkeeper Joe Hillier missed his first game of the season having been made the fall guy for the 0-8 defeat at Highbury three days earlier.
Although the two teams were at opposite ends of the table, the opening exchanges were very even. Ray Bowden tested Fred Gibson early on whilst Bob Baxter earned the crowd’s appreciation after cutting out a pass from Alex James that would have put Ted Drake through on goal. At the other end Joey Williams twice tested Alex Wilson in quick succession.
After just six minutes Arsenal got the goal they so desperately wanted. This time James managed to thread the perfect through ball for Drake who left the Middlesbrough defence in his wake. From just outside the penalty area he lashed an unstoppable shot into the top corner of the net despite the efforts of the advancing Gibson.
Following the goal it looked like Arsenal were going to hand out another thrashing with Pat Beasley, Tim Rogers and Ray Bowden giving the Boro’ defence a torrid time.
The home team then composed themselves and managed to push forward. Unfortunately their forwards had left their shooting boots at home as George Camsell, Tim Coleman and Freddie Warren all managed shots but none proved effective.
The second half saw Middlesbrough play some scintillating football, defiant of their league position. At times they swarmed around the Arsenal goalmouth, the forwards lining up to take shots. However, Arsenal had the meanest defence in the First Division for good reason and held fast.
Middlesbrough didn’t have it all their own way, though. Arsenal’s midfield played the perfect game, aiding the defence and providing the attack with ammunition for James to display his wizardry.
Neither team managed to find the net in the remainder of this exhilarating game, and the final score was 1-0 to The Arsenal.
At Preston, Sunderland could only draw and, so, Arsenal were crowned champions for the third successive season, a feat that would not be repeated for 50 years.
Middlesbrough: F Gibson, J Jennings, B Stuart, W Brown, B Baxter, J Martin, J Williams, B Yorston, G Camsell, T Coleman, F Warren.
Arsenal: A Wilson, G Male, B John, J Crayston, N Sidey, F Hill, T Rogers, R Bowden, T Drake, A James, P Beasley.
Arsenal chairman Sir Samuel Hill-Wood: “Next season we shall try to surpass the record we now hold with Huddersfield of three consecutive championships.”
“Without doubt it was team spirit which brought us the championship this season. We had to play many reserves, but that did not matter, for every player did his best. Every man played splendidly.”
Facts about linked to the match or players:
Not only did referee Albert Fogg preside over the championship winning game, the following week he was the man in the middle for the FA Cup final.
Two Middlesbrough players, Joey Williams and ‘Tim’ Coleman had both previously played for Arsenal.
Ted Drake’s goal was his 42nd in the League this season, breaking Jack Lambert’s previous club record of 38. Ted’s record still stands today.
The rest of the season:
Arsenal’s last two games saw them beat Leicester 5-3 followed by an uncharacteristic home defeat by Derby. The latter game saw the Highbury crowd swarm on to the pitch after the final whistle, calling for their heroes.
This defeat left Middlesbrough in the relegation places along with Tottenham. A win and a draw in their final two games saw them climb above Leicester who dropped into the Second Division with the Middlesex club.
Facts relating to the Season:
In March, 73,295 had watched Arsenal draw with Sunderland at Highbury, the biggest ever crowd at Arsenal’s old home. This was one of three attendances over 70,000 at an Arsenal game this season.
Arsenal conceded just 46 league goals, their fewest since football resumed after World War One.
The 74 goals scored at Highbury is the most ever registered by the club for a home League campaign.
In a never since repeated quirk, there was an ABCD of champions: Arsenal (First Division), Brentford (Second Division), Charlton (Third Division South) and Doncaster (Third Division North).
Background to the article
This season we’ve been asked to write a regular page in the official Arsenal programme based on a classic match featuring the opponents for each game we play in. Programme editor Andy Exley has kindly given us permission to reproduce the match reports on our blog. We will also be including additional material that didn’t make the final edit of the programme. If you can’t get to The Emirates, the programme is available on iPad, iPod and android for a bargain 69 pence per issue.
Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog (top right). You know it makes sense.
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal – crowd behaviour at the early matches