Bunny Bell

Over the 150 years of the Football Association there have been some pretty big victories with teams reaching double figures. Nowadays the huge scores in football matches are things of past with most games finishing with less than five goals scored.

One of the reasons perhaps why teams no longer rack up such big scores lies in the formation of players and the changing ideas around defence and attack. Today the setting up of a team is usually based around the classic four four two, a formation so common a leading football magazine has even taken its name.

However if we were to approach a manager of old he would probably think we were a little crazy. Take for example a Tranmere game against York in 1946 where Tranmere’s defence was made up of only Anderson and Hodgson and up front were five players with three in midfield. With such little in the way of defence it is easy to see why scores could be so high although the York game finished a paltry 2-1 to Rovers.

Improvements in defensive tactics and an understanding that scoring a lot of goals doesn’t always mean a win meant that most of the big scoring games became very rare.

In Tranmere’s Non League days winning by a high margin was quite common. In 1893 Tranmere beat the Liverpool Police Athletic and Chester College 7-1 but also lost 13-3 to Ardwick Reserves. Fast forward to 1912 and Tranmere beat Colne 10-0 and Rossendale United 7-2 in a season where Tranmere finished sixth.

Some will argue though that Non League Football has always been a bastion of ridiculously high scores but Tranmere continued to notch up big wins after they joined the Football League.

In 1921 Tranmere joined the Football League in the Third Division North but did not have the most successful start to their long life in the Football League. Although Tranmere finished third from bottom they still managed a fairly large haul against Rochdale who they beat 7-0. However that victory is tainted by the fact Rochdale finished last in the newly formed league.

In 1935 Tranmere went on to win a game with a score that would make the record books. On Boxing Day local rivals Oldham came to Prenton Park for a league fixture.

The build up to the game was nothing special although Boxing Day matches usually brought a bumper crowd. The game started badly for Oldham as Urmson scored for Tranmere after just two minutes and the game went very much downhill from there. By half time Oldham were already eight goals down and it seemed the second half would very much be damage control.

The second half saw Tranmere press on and by the end of the game Tranmere had found the net thirteen times with Oldham only notching up four. The total of seventeen goals is the largest recorded number of goals in a Football League match to date.

That day also saw Harold Bell break a record as he scored nine of the goals, the most a single player had ever scored. However his record was broken the following year by Joe Payne who netted ten past Bristol Rovers for Luton Town.

Tranmere continued to notch up big goal scores but as tactics changed they became fewer and fewer. One of the last big wins in 1959 was against Accrington who the Birkenhead News described as being ‘…ripped into little pieces and scattered all over the field…Rovers were giants playing with Children.’

Tranmere were only described as playing at half pace yet they still managed an impressive haul of nine goals. Eglington open the scoring from a Finney cross after just three minutes of time however by the end of the first half Tranmere were only leading 2-0.

The second half however saw Accrington fall to pieces as in just over fifteen minutes Tranmere scored six times. On the eighty ninth minute Finney who had contributed to most of the goals went on a sole run and put the ball past Marshall the Accrington keeper.

That game may not have been the last big scoring game but it was the end of the time when scoring big was all too common.