Arsenal's record defeat was at the hands of 'mighty' Loughborough in a Second Division match in 1896/97 - a full match report.

I am sure that those of you who enjoy just going through the Rothmans Yearbook (it will always be the Rothmans to me!) will have dwelt at some point on one of the more remarkable statistics within its covers - the 0-8 record defeat suffered by Arsenal - then Woolwich Arsenal - against Loughborough in a Division 2 fixture back in 1896.

Finding myself in Loughborough with not a great deal to do I headed for the Library to dig out the match report - and was amazed to find that it could have been 10! 

While the modern manager might complain of having a couple of fixtures in three days in those far-off times two fixtures in one day was not unheard of. That happened to Woolwich Arsenal on Saturday December 12th 1896 when they were due to visit Loughborough in the League and entertain Leyton in the Third Qualifying Round of the FA Cup. But no excuse for the record defeat - the first team travelled to Leicestershire for the League match while the reserves disposed of Leyton 5-0 in the Cup.

Here goes the full match report from the local Loughborough rag - 

Football Notes

By "Loughburian"

Eleven little red lads in a deep red hue,
Came to show Loughborough a thing or two;
But the Luffs they said nay,
It is our turn today,
And the reds returned, thorough worsted.

Perhaps you wonder what the above medley refers to. Well, if you really have not heard the good news, I must tell you. Loughborough beat that powerful combination, Woolwich Arsenal, by eight goals - whew! - to none. But that was not all; they had two goals disallowed, one as good a goal as ever was scored, but then we must not be too covetous, eight being pretty conclusive in all conscience.

When Loughborough went to Woolwich they were beaten by two goals to none, a score that was not warranted by the play; indeed, that has been the case almost every week with the Loughborough team. What with misfortune, wretched refereeing, and a host of other things, Loughborough have been fairly trodden upon, their position in the chart being wholly out of keeping with the displays they have given. If proof were needed of this one only has to turn to the matches with Notts, Walsall, and Gainsborough.

Last week I felt there was a brighter day in store, and that cruel fate would one day lift its avenging hand. Loughborough had their best team of the season in the field on Saturday, the long-desired change in the half-back line having been made at last, Alf Shelton, the famous Notts international, being a conspicious member in that line. Then the centre forward position had a new occupant in Brailsford, a young player from Basford, and though it was also his first appearance in the team, it was felt, judging by his displays with the reserves, that he would do cedit to himself, and be an improvement to the line of attack.

Woolwich had not their very best team, but next-door to it. Some croakers adduced the opinion that as the Arsenal had a cup-tie on also on Saturday they would send a mixed team down here, but they did not, for, with the exception of Sinclair at left half-back, the team was full strength.

Once again the weather was of the most vile character, rain falling heavily nearly all the day - an unfortunate circumstance for the managers of the club. The teams were as follows:-

Loughborough: Monteith, goal; Berry and Thompson, backs; Mumford, Hamilton, and Shelton, half-backs; Roulstone, Andrews, Brailsford, Jones, and Ward, forwards.

Woolwich: Talbot, goal; Buist and Carver, backs; Crawford, Boyle, and Davis, half-backs; Brock, Haywood, Boyd, O'Brien, and Russell, forwards.

Owing to the heavy downpour the captains tossed in the dressing-room, the players then taking up their positions without the preliminary canter. The storm was beating from the Moor-lane end, and Loughborough had to face it. The signal having been given, the Arsenal were soon in the vicinity of the home goal, which Thompson shielded, and Roulestone and Andrews, passing prettily, worked the ball right into the visitors half, the former planting the ball nicely into the centre. Hamilton banged it in, but it struck the legs of one of the Arsenal players, and the Loughborough centre-half, following the ball up, kicked it sharply between the uprights, Talbot failing to reach it, although he threw himself full length to the ground. This success came to Loughborough after only three minutes' play, and many were they who left the ropes to bring the "inner man" in keeping with the one outside.

Woolwich were then in an aggressive mood, but they did nothing with a couple of corners and a free, and in a twinkling, from a goal kick, the Loughborough forwards dashed ahead, in spite of the blinding rain. Brailsford tricked Boyle, and gave possession to Ward, who swung the ball over to Andrews, that player putting it back for Jones to bang it into the net for the second time in seven minutes. This success was vociferously cheered.

Loughborough were showing surprisining form. Straight from the centre kick, Buist missed, and Brailsford, who got clear away, in the excitement of the moment shot imperfectly. Andrews and Hamilton each tried shots, but these were not straight. For a while the Reds had the best of matters, but they failed to grapple with the slippery ground, and although they attached spiritedly, the Loughborough defenders, by sterling play, kept them out, though one or two shots caused Monteith to exercise a little strategy.

A free kick against the Reds eased the pressure on the Loughborough goal, and the homesters, with commendable dash, all but secured the downfall of the Arsenal's castle again. Talbot fisted away to Roulstone, and then the visitors got down, clever work and a judicious pass by Haywood enabling O'Brien to put in a rattling shot, which Monteith well saved. A corner to Woolwich was spoiled by their fouling, and Ward, beating both Crawford and Buist, had a clear run, but his shot went over the bar. Woolwich again had the best of matters, and Monteith cleared shots from O'Brien, Boyd, and Russell. The storm increasing in force, made it almost impossible for Loughborough to get away, and it seemed every moment that the home goal would have to capitulate. Loughborough's half-backs were playing a cool game, and the backs defending right nobly, all raids by the Reds were successfully checked.

Although the storm kept up its fury, the tide turned, and Loughborough again put the Arsenal defence to a severe test. Andrews was the first to break through, but his shot, although going on the wrong side of the net, was a precursor of better things. Ward created a sensation for a marvellous piece of work - perhaps the best of the afternoon. He broke away, and after beating the half-backs, passed the ball in, ran between the backs, and scored a beautiful goal, Talbot not having the remotest chance with the shot - 3-0.

Loughborough forwards were now fairly irresistible, their smartness and speed being a thorough eye-opener. Bearing down again, Jones, who had been a prominent figure, ran clean through the visitors' defence, and brought the score to 4-0. This was the state of the game at the interval, during which the Loughborough men had a change of jerseys.

With the elements in their favour, everybody expected Loughborough to pile on a few more, but it seemed as though they would not at one time, for they shot at random, and from a range it was almost impossible to score from. Following a spurt by Woolwich, Loughborough maintained a warm attack on their goal, but now they waited too long before shooting, with the result that the Arsenal goal escaped defeat. On one or two occasions, however, the Reds were extremely lucky in keeping their goal intact. Loughborough appeared to relax, and although the Arsenal had most of the play for about ten minutes, the home goal was not pierced, the visitors going in for short passing, which the home backs easily frustrated.

At last the tide turned, and Loughborough gave the Arsenal a putting up they have never had before. Ward first of all shook the framework, and then, as a result of splendid work by Roulstone and Andrews, Talbot had to handle. Another worthy effort by Roulstone gave Jones an opening, but just as he shot in offside was given against him. The free kick was returned by Thompson, who with a huge kick sent the ball direct to the goal-keeper, who cleared. A visit to the Loughborough end was not attended with any startling results, Thompson and Berry being equal to all demands. Roulstone and Andrews then initiated an attack which lasted almost until the game ended. Short and sharp passing by the home forwards, following a centre from Roulstone, ended in Ward netting the ball for the fifth legitimate point.

The scoring having recommenced, there was no holding in Loughborough's forwards, who were splendidly supported by the halves. Roulstone again distinguished himself with a magnificent centre right off the line, and Brailsford put through again, but, greatly to the surprise of all, the goal was disallowed for offside. However, Loughborough meant making up for what they had lost, and in less than a minute Brailsford netted the ball for the eighth, making the legitimate score total half a dozen.

The enthusiasm of the spectators had now practically given way to merriment, for indeed it was only a question of what the total would be. Straight from the centre kick after the last goal, Andrews made a brilliant single-handed effort and centred, and one could almost have staked a fortune on Jones scoring, but he headed over. Only a minute later, however, he dashed through, and with a beautifil shot sent the ball flying into the net for the seventh goal, Talbot never shifting an inch to check it.

In spite of these severe reverses, the Woolwich forwards were game to the last, and made a worthy effort to break through Loughborough's unbroken line of defence, but only a goal kick resulted, and Loughborough again attacking, Talbot saved a shot from Jones for a corner, which was well placed, and Jones put on the eighth goal.

Again Woolwich tried hard to pierce the Loughborough defence, but Thompson was equal to all demands, and Loughborough came within an ace of scoring again. The ball having struck the post, Roulstone caused Talbot to handle, and offside was given against Jones, while Ward struck the bar with a terrific shot. Time was eventually sounded with Loughborough swarming round the Arsenal goal, the score reading Loughborough, eight goals; Woolwich, none.

This record has not been equalled in the annals of League football this season. Only once has a total of eight goals been scored by any club, and singularly enough it was obtained by Grimsby against Loughborough, who on the other hand got home once. It was not the first big score the Arsenal have had piled against them, for Notts run up seven last month, but the Arsenal replied with four.

The score on Saturday puzzles everybody but those who witnessed the match. To them the wonder is the score did not reach much larger proportions, although of the play Loughborough did not have so much more than the Arsenal as the score would indicate. The secret lay in Loughborough shooting sharp, often, and accurate; the Arsenal going in for short passing in front of goal, which was not of the least use on such a heavy ground.

Loughborough appeared to have all at once secured an aptitude for shooting, which met with remarkable success. They played a splendid game from start to finish, and adopted methods thoroughly suited to the heavy nature of the ground, and the visitors' backs being anything but brilliant, they did practically as they liked.

Loughborough have not played a better game this season. The half-bak line was a tower of strength, Shelton's inclusion having wrought a vast improvement. Hamilton was also seen to better advantage, while it becomes more manifest every time he plays that Mumford's real position is half-back.

Loughborough's forwards, with such a trio behind them, could not help but show up to the best advantage. I have never seen Roulstone and Andrews play better, and it is rather singular that none of the goals were scored by them. All the same, they are deserving of great praise, for it was greatly through their efforts that such extraordinary success was obtained. Jones created a big surprise, exhibiting rare dash, and scoring exactly half the goals, while Ward also came off with flying coours, especially as he scored the third goal as the result of a marvellous piece of work. Brailsford occupied the centre forward position with the utmost credit, and I am looking forward to him filling the place permanently.

But I am forgetting the backs and goalkeeper. They did their work well, and it must have been a joy to Monteith to see the ball so frequently netted at the other end. Thompson played a grand game, and so did Skipper Berry, and all three deserve the greatest praise for keeping their lines intact in face of the blinding storm of the first half.

The Arsenal never gave up, the forwards exerting themselves to the end. Their half-backs were pretty good, and so were the forwards, but the backs were weak, and the custodian had scarcely any chance with the shots that scored.

And over a century later the record still stands.

OK, those who read about the record Arsenal defeat in Rothman's will doubtless have noticed that Arsenal's record score was against the same opposition - Loughborough - in March 1900 when the scoreline was 12-0. But that match was genuinely men against boys. Loughborough won only one match all that season and were suffering a financial crises which meant that all their experienced players had moved on leaving youth players and triallists to complete what was their last season in the Football League. Arsenal even had to help Loughborough pay for their travel to the capital to play the fixture.

The next time I find myself in Loughborough with little to do that will be another match report I will be after!