It's not often a referee is late arriving at a match but on one occasion when that happened it saw a unique match played in the Football League. Turn the clock back to the opening day of the 1894/95 League season, Saturday 1st September 1894 when Sunderland were due to entertain Derby County in a First Division fixture. Over to the local newspaper who reported what happened next -

The appointed referee Mr. R Kirkham of Darwen missed his connection at York and was obliged to telegram the club that he would not reach the ground much before 5 pm. This put Sunderland in a quandary. At the scheduled start time of 3-30pm there were between 8 and 9,000 spectators in the ground and it was not considered good policy to keep the crowd idly waiting for an hour and a half. On the other hand there was a difficulty in appointing a replacement referee for it was no means certain that the league committee would allow the match to count in these circumstances. Ultimately both sides lodged formal protests and then agreed to start the match with Mr. Conqueror of Southwick officiating and leave it to the league committee to decide.

So with a replacement ref the match kicked off and goals from Campbell, Hannah and Hyslop gave Sunderland a 3-0 lead at the break. What happened next? Back to the newspaper report at the time...

During the interval the appointed official arrived and promptly ordered the full 90 minutes to be played with him as the referee if the match was to count as a league fixture. This was a ridiculous situation for both players and spectators alike with the 3 goals already scored by Sunderland counting for nothing. However there was nothing for it but to comply and the full 90 minutes was played.

So the half that had been played wouldn't count and two more halves were played. Goals from Campbell (2) and Hannah again gave Sunderland a 3-0 lead when the second half-time break arrived but in the third half, or the proper second half, Derby finally ran out of steam and goals from Hyslop (2), Campbell, Miller and Gillespie gave the home side a resounding 8-0 victory. John Campbell, pictured right, had scored four goals that afternoon but only three of them counted - but he still finished top of the First Division goalscorers chart.

So that's three halves, 2 hours 15 minutes of football, 11 goals were scored but the score you will find in the history books is 8-0!

The teams that day -

Sunderland: Doig, Meehan, Gow, Wilson, McCreadie, Johnstone, Gillespie, Miller, Campbell, Hyslop, Hannah.

Derby County: Robinson, Methven, Staley, Cox, Goodall (A), Dockery, Allan, Fletcher, Goodall (J), Bloomer, McMillan.

The scoreline Sunderland 8 Derby County 0 set the scene for the fortunes the respective clubs would experience in the remainder of the season. It remained the best League victory of the season for Sunderland's 'Team of all the Talents' who went on to win their third League Championship in only their fifth season of League membership. It proved to be Derby's worst League defeat of the season which ended with them needing a Test Match victory to save them from relegation to Division 2. But what has remained unique for both of them was their involvement in that Match of Three Halves!





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