OUR latest trip back into the history of Minehead AFC with Brian Walder sees us visit the club just after the end of the Second World War.

The 1945/46 season saw a small West Somerset League containing six clubs, which pitched Minehead’s abilities against teams representing Dulverton, Minehead ATC (Air Transport Command), Porlock, Stogumber and Watchet.

The short season ended with both Minehead and Watchet having played 10, won eight, drawn one and lost one, but a goal difference of 28 against Watchet’s 24 saw the Blues pip the Red & Blacks to the league title.

Buoyed by their success, Minehead’s first team entered the North Devon Senior League the following season, with their Reserve XI taking up the West Somerset League birth.

Now they were up against the likes of South Molton, Holsworthy, Barnstaple Town, Torrington, Braunton’s Royal Marines and Lynton, and the first season saw them finish a creditable third position, with seven wins and five draws from the 17 games played.

Minehead also reached the final of the Torridge Challenge Cup by beating Holsworthy and then Bideford, before losing 5-3 to Barnstaple in the final at Torrington.

A look through the goalscorers for that season shows that Cyril Wood played a pivotal part in the success, with the exceptionally fast striker scoring six times in one game, a 7-3 win at Lynton.

It was the next season (1947/48) that truly stood out, and entertained the locals greatly.

It started slowly, though, with a 1-1 draw at Appledore followed by a 5-3 defeat against Barnstaple Amateurs, before their first home game yielded a first win, beating Torrington by the odd goal in five at The Rec.

The reports for the first few games of the season failed to show the team line-ups, so I am unaware at this stage of whether he played in the first three games, but Wood’s first goals of the season came in the fourth match, an 11-2 rout of Bideford 2nds - Wood notching five.

The match kick-started a winning run, with home victories over Bude (9-0) and Appledore (3-0) followed by a 2-1 win at Holsworthy and a 6-0 trouncing of Instow at The Rec.

Three home cup wins (in three different competitions) then followed, against HMS Appledore (2-1), Torrington (7-0) and Instow (2-0).

The season continued in this vein and the goals rarely stopped flowing.

Of the 44 (league and cup) games played, 36 resulted in Minehead wins, in addition to three draws and five defeats.

Three of those defeats were in cup matches, as the Blues lost against Barnstaple Amateurs (2-0) in the Hansen Cup, Heavitree United (3-1) in the Rowe Charity Cup semi-finals and Combe Martin (5-0 on a bizarre off-day).

The league title was won comfortably, with 155 goals scored in 30 games - an average of more than five goals a game.

Barnstaple Amateurs, who had beaten Minehead twice during the season, came second with five wins fewer.

The high point of the season, however, was the final of the North Devon Charity Cup, on May 8, 1948, when Minehead met South Molton at Ilfracombe Town.

The press report reads: “Minehead justified the hopes of several hundred spectators who accompanied them to Ilfracombe last Saturday, by defeating South Molton in the final of the North Devon Charity Cup competition by 5-1, after a not unexciting game.

“Once again the Somerset side created a record for an area football competition, for the gate produced over £106 - an advance of a pound or so over the previous best for this type of event - and close to 2,000 spectators were entertained just before the kick off by the ‘band’ which accompanied Minehead and one of the ‘colt’ hobby-horses.

“Although the goal margin was decisive on paper, the losers were by no means such easy opposition as the score suggests, in spite of the fact during the closing stages of the game they had obviously been run off their legs by a superior combination.

“Minehead, in fact, took a long time to accustom themselves to a very compact ground, the surface of which had been well rolled but nevertheless could not be taken at its face value, and, in the first half in particular, playing against the slope, the forwards missed several scoring chances.

“Indeed, at scarcely any point in the match, did the winners produce their best form of the season and it may be that they, as well as South Molton, were affected by final nerves, but once they had secured their hold on the game the issue was hardly ever in doubt.

“Paradoxically, the winners ought to have scored more goals, and two or three times the woodwork was hit with Wallis out of position, noticeably by Holcombe, who put in a terrific drive which hit the crossbar after the scoring had been completed.

“At the other end, Langdon, though not having as much to do as his opposite number, had often to be on the alert.

“Hebden, with Burnett and Edbrooks on either side of him, was a mercurial leader but Uppington always covered him well, and had Whitefield been up to standard he might have scored once or twice when Watts miskicked, although Readfern was almost always in position to make amends.

“Rutter produced his usual sound game, but Andrews, ahead of him, had a poor day and Smale was invariably his master.

“After their earlier lapses the inside forwards played better, Hill fitted into the picture well and, although Courtney was C. Wood’s shadow and did his best with an elusive centre forward, he was often left standing when it came to speed.

“Hill, at right back, was South Molton’s outstanding player, but occasioned anxiety to his club’s supporters from time to time in trying to manipulate the offside trap.

“The opening score came through a characteristic effort by the Minehead centre forward who, following up on a long clearance from Watts, burst between the backs to beat Wallis.

“In the first minute of the second half he added an almost identical goal, this time from a pass by Rutter, and then a few minutes later R Holcombe was brought down and a penalty awarded.

“Readfern made no mistake with the spot-kick, although Wallis touched the ball.

“South Molton were not entirely subdued, though, and when Brooks centred from the left Burnett caught the ball on the run and crashed it past Langdon, who had not an earthly.

“A magnificent Holcombe shot from a partial clearance from a corner immediately nullified the point, and finally a mis-kick from Courtney let Frank Wood (Jnr) through to walk the ball in.

“Watts was chaired by team-mates to the pavilion to receive the cup from Mrs Helen Muller, wife of the Rev H C A S Muller, Vicar of Appledore and chairman of the competition, who, like her husband, congratulated both teams on the excellent game they had provided and Minehead being the winners.

“For an hour or so, several hundred townspeople waited in Wellington Square to give the winners a vociferous welcome on their arrival home, when the team were afforded a civic reception by Mr N H Edwards, chairman of the UDC - accompanied by Mr A E Kille (vice chairman), other members, and officers, many of whom had attended the match.

“From the balcony of the Plume of Feathers Hotel, beflagged and decked with bunting in honour of the occasion, on behalf of the town Mr Edwards gave a regal welcome to them after their excellent show that day and through the season.

“Referring to the first class sportsmanship they had produced on every occasion they had taken the field, the chairman said that not only the town but also the surrounding towns and villages were proud of the team.”