January 17th 1903 dawned like any other day in wintery Derbyshire, with a carpet of frost covering everything including the pitch at the Recreation Ground, where Chesterfield Town were to entertain Glossop, also from Derbyshire but from the other side of the Peaks, where its rivers feed the Mersey rather than the Trent.
Trainer Bob Dunmore, who was responsible for the match-day management of the team, and groundsman Wright Needham, brother of “Nudger” and himself a tidy player with the famous Staveley teams of the 1880s, probably came in to work a bit earlier that day, to set up the cobbler’s last and prepare to adapt the players’ boots to the icy conditions by knocking the studs off. It would be some years before Chesterfield’s players would romp to victory over Bury in pimply-soled boots, but the effect was the same.
Both sides made changes to their team for the game; Chesterfield welcomed Herbert Munday back after his recovery from being kicked off the park by a Small Heath full-back, while Glossop fielded a better team than that which had worked hard to come back from Bristol City with a point in their previous game, with Johnny Goodall returning at inside-left. Of their side, Frank Norgrove and Ivan Thornley would both go on to win the FA Cup with Manchester City and John Boden would later play for Aston Villa, while Goodall and Bob Jack were both winding down distinguished football careers: Goodall had played for Preston on the Football League’s inaugural day, back in 1888.
Here’s how the sides lined up:
Haig Banner Thacker
Tomlinson Newton Milward Munday Steel
Jack Goodall Hunt Thornley Badenoch
Coates Boden Pell
The die was cast after just four minutes, when Munday headed the ball into the path of Willie Steel, who converted from close range. Powerful efforts from Banner and Milward forced Clarke to saved, but Glossop found their feet and began to press on Clutterbuck’s goal.
Chesterfield broke down their right and Tomlinson centred; Newton and Milward both missed the cross but it ran to Munday, who saw a shot well saved by Clarke. Banner and Milward missed open goals and with half an hour gone few could have had much idea of what lie ahead.
Four goals in fifteen minutes before half time settled the issue. Milward took out the goalkeeper, allowing Newton an easy shot to double the Lucky Whites’ lead, while Milward showed neat skill in taking the ball from a throw, working his way into the Glossop box and firing home. Munday and Milward added further goals before half-time was called.
Play was even for the first five minutes of the second half, before normal service was resumed with Tomlinson heading home a Thacker cross. Chesterfield camped out in the opponents’ half but the Peakites resisted until Newton followed up to convert a Munday shot that had hit a post. Milward completed his hat-trick before Steel and Tomlinson quickly brought the total to ten, whereupon Munday took a kick on his injured leg and had to sit out the last ten minutes, leaving Chesterfield to complete the game with ten men. Nine of the goals had been scored in some fifty minutes either side of halftime - one every five minutes or so, on average.
The Derbyshire Times claimed the result as a record win for Second Division football, adding that “Clubs that have to visit Chesterfield will do so with fear and trembling…” Critics - and there were some! - complained that the players had contrived to get as many of their number as possible on the scoresheet, resulting in fewer goals than should have been registered!
The result took Chesterfield up to fifth, a position they held until the season’s end, despite coming down with a bump in their next game, away at champions-elect Manchester City, who won 4-2.
Perhaps the greatest thing about this remarkable win is that seven of Chesterfield’s players - Thorpe, Banner, Thacker, Tomlinson, Milward, Newton and Munday - were all born in north-east Derbyshire and sourced from local minor clubs. Six of those would leave the club for higher wages with southern teams, only Herbert Munday remaining famously loyal to the Spireites, and the production line dried up soon after; this certainly had a hand in the Chesterfield Town club’s decline in the late Edwardian period. This win, then, was arguably the highest point that the Town club reached.