Accrington took some notable scalps and made many admirers along the way in their first season in the fledgling Football League.
They opened the campaign with a thrilling four-all draw against Wolverhampton Wanderers in October 1888.
A home performance of the Reds against the Preston ‘Invincibles’, a fortnight later won them plenty of plaudits in the sporting papers of the day.
Accrington ground out a goalless draw against the North End, one of just four teams to take points off the eventual champions who would end the season unbeaten. The feat has only been repeated once in the ensuing 125 years, by the Arsenal team of 2003/4.
The Evening Post, a staunch supporter of the Preston team of the day praised the Accrington team following the match at Thorneyholme Road.
It reported: “The confidence shown by the Accrington team and their supporters during last week was fully justified on Saturday, as they played the North End as no other club has played them so far in the League competition.
On all hands it was admitted that the game would be a good one, but the most sanguine Red going dared scarcely hope for a draw – never mind a win, so that when the whistle sounded on Saturday, with the teams on equal terms, no goals having been scored, the supporters of Accrington were elated beyond measure.”
Excerpts from Observer match report of Accrington’s first home game of the new Football League v Wolverhampton Wanderers – October 6, 1888
THE Reds played their first match on their own ground on Saturday, their opponents being Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The weather was fine and there was an attendance of about 3,000, the Reds receiving a hearty greeting on stepping on to the field in their new costumes, red jerseys and dark-blue knickers.
They were without their clever centre-back Pemberton, who had been injured whilst following his employment the same morning and his place was filled by Tattersall, the Reserve.
The Wanderers, whose greeting was also very cordial, were also a man short, Wood taking the place of White.
Owing to the late arrival of Mr Norris, the referee, it was twenty minutes past three before a start kick was effected, Accrington, who had lost the toss, kicking off against strong wind. Even play followed, but twelve minutes from the start Knight scored with a long shot.
Directly afterwards Haworth cleared splendidly in a scrimmage, and the Wolves were now having decidedly the best of the play.
Wyke dashed down the field, and in front of the posts passed to Wood, who easily scored, the Reds appealing unsuccessfully.
Accrington, however, gained a claim for hands right in the goal mouth, and Barbour drew first blood for the homesters.
Both sides now played desperately and from a centre by Lofthouse, Holden put on another point for the Reds.
Just before the interval Fletcher scored another point for Wolverhampton, and at half time the score was Wolverhampton Wanderers 3, Accrington 2.
From a dangerous attack on the Accrington goal, Horne had to be pretty active, but the Reds obtaining possession dashed towards the other end, and Brand with a real beauty again put the Huncoat crew on a level footing.
The Reds attacked but Bonar missed a favourable opportunity. From a throw in by Haworth, however, which alighted in front of the posts, Barber headed through.
Within half a minute of the call of time, however, Stevenson, by a mis-kick, gave the visitors a splendid opportunity, and much to the chagrin of the home spectators, the game was equalised.
Final score: Accrington 4–4 Wolverhampton
Excerpts from Observer match report of Accrington's home game v North End’s ‘Invincibles’ – October 20, 1888:
THE greatest attraction in football circles on Saturday was the League encounter between the Reds and North End.
The visit of the famous Preston team is always a great event of the season at Accrington, and the weather on Saturday being magnificent, there was an extremely large concourse of spectators, fully 7,000 persons being present. The grand stand was crowded to excess, among the occupants being Mr J F Leese, the Liberal candidate for the division, who had a very hearty reception.
The ground was in perfect order, and the teams were loudly cheered on entering the field.
Prior to Saturday, the North End had won all their League matches, while Accrington had won two, lost one and drawn three. The Reds speedily attacked, and a great cheer at the end of a minute announced that the home side had gained a corner, which proved abortive.
This had scarcely died away before Brand got one at Trainer, who cleared neatly, and North End came away with pretty play, but were repulsed by Haworth, immediately succeeding which Horne had to kick from goal, after Dewhurst had made a poor attempt to score from a cross by Ross. The North End now had a bit of a look in, Ross twice being dangerous, his second shot skimming along the bar and passing out.
Accrington were pressed back, but the defence was capital and the home forwards again broke away.
Both goals were attacked, and then Haworth was penalised for a back charge, but the free kick came to naught.
The game up to the interval had been very open, the feature of the play being the grand defence.
On re-starting, matters looked black for the visitors, Trainer having to save twice in the first minute, Brand and Wilkinsone each putting in good shots.
At length the North End got away, and Goodall beat both backs, but finally shot high over the bar.
The visitors were now beginning to play with accustomed dash.
The scene of action soon changed, however, but Lofthouse shot wretchedly twice over, and the North End had another abortive corner.
Horne again effected a marvellous save at the expense of a corner which was not improved.
The game was stubbornly fought till the close, on the whole being pretty even, and a keenly fought encounter.
Final score: Accrington 0–0 North End