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1961: Bad Light Stops Play

29 March 2023


1961: Bad Light Stops Play

29 March 2023

Club Historian Phil Yelland looks back on a very unique game in the history of Barrow and of football as a whole.

Barrow v Gillingham
Monday 9
October 1961
Holker Street
Football League Fourth Division

Back in 1961, Holker Street was still without floodlights and a midweek match was scheduled against Gillingham with a 5.15pm kick off – not unusual in those days.

However, this game was t
o become the first game in Football League history where the result was allowed to stand without a full ninety minutes being played.

Five days earlier, Barrow had travelled to the Priestfield Stadium and lost 3-2 to the Gills so they were keen on revenge. That had been the Gills first win of the season and a fight back from Barrow had seen them go close to rescuing a point with goals from Dixie Hale and George Darwin in the second half after they had found themselves three goals down after forty nine minutes. On the intervening Saturday, Barrow had defeated Oldham Athletic 3-1 at Holker Street with goals from Darwin – two penalties and Jackie Robertson whilst the Gills had collected a second home win of the season with a 3-1 success against Bradford City.

Gillingham set off for the game in a coach from Kent to catch the 10am train from Euston but a traffic jam at New Cross in London meant that they missed their train. After consulting with the Football League, a plane was chartered and flew the sixteen person Gillingham party to Blackpool airport at Squires Gate. That cost the then cash strapped Kent club £ 500. The then Football League Secretary Alan Hardacre arranged for the visiting party to be taken from Blackpool to Barrow in a fleet of cars. However, the conditions for the drive, despite a police escort were terrible and the Gills arrived seventeen minutes after the scheduled kick off time. The game went ahead with the teams kicking off just thirteen minutes later – at 5.45pm.

Barrow boss Ron Staniforth made one change to the side that had featured against Oldham with Johnny Kemp returning to the starting eleven after a two game absence to replace Stan Howard. The visitors made one change to their side from their Saturday game with Charlie Livesey replacing Ronnie Waldock. However, at that point their League record was seven away defeats in seven games with twenty six goals conceded. This was Gillingham’s third visit to Holker Street in the Football League and they had won two and drawn one of those games.

To say that the Gills were under prepared for the game was an understatement and within twenty eight minutes of the match starting it was over as a contest as Barrow led 4-0; by the interval they had added another goal.

The second half was more even but after s sixth goal went in, the visitors complained about the light. As a result the lights that were used to train at Holker Street along the old stand were switched on. Barrow added a seventh goal before with fourteen minutes of normal time remaining the referee decided to end the game.

Barrow’s scorers on the day were Darwin with a hat trick – his only hat trick for the club, Johnny Kemp with two goals and there were counters from Gordon Brown and Jackie Robertson as well.

The FA duly considered the position at a subsequent meeting and agreed the result should stand.

Barrow finished the season ninth in the table with forty eight points, with the Gills finished twentieth on thirty seven points – eight points clear of Doncaster Rovers who filled the final place requiring to apply that season for re-election.

Full Time: Barrow 7-0 Gillingham

Barrow: Heys, Richardson, McEvoy, Clark, Cahill, Lowes, Hale, Darwin, Kemp, Robertson, Brown.

Gillingham: Simpson, Hunt, Vassen, Hughes, Cockburn, Farrell, Jervis, Ridley, Pulley, Livesey, Johnston.

Referee: Mr A. Jobling (Morecambe)


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