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Moseley v. Coventry-The First Matches? 

It is uncertain exactly when Moseley first played their great rivals Coventry but it may have been in the latter city sometime during the 1875/76 season. 

What is certain is that there were two matches between the clubs in 1875/76 but no report of the first game has so far been traced. The only confirmation of the season’s first encounter with Coventry is the following tantalising line from the Birmingham Daily Post report of the second meeting which was played on 26th February 1876-‘MOSELEY v. COVENTRY-The return match between these clubs was played at Balsall Heath, on Saturday’. 

The Post’s report of this second match was brief and to the point and merely recorded that ‘after a hard struggle’ Coventry won by one goal, one try and four touchdowns[1] to nil. The Moseley side was led by the club’s first captain S.H. Deakin and also in the team was his eventual successor, Denston Gibson. Deakin, normally a forward, on this occasion partnered G.B. Jones, who usually played full back, at half back! Is this evidence of an early injury crisis? The home team also contained club stalwarts T.A. Bent and W. Chatwin at full back while at quarter back was Matthew Wilcox who tragically died from injuries sustained in a match at Derby Wanderers in March 1876. Alongside Gibson, in the forwards, was E.B. Holmes who later became an international rugby referee and an athletics and rugby administrator. Holmes also contributed a chapter on Midland football to Rev. Frank Marshall’s classic Football: The Rugby Union Game’ in the 1890s. The Moseley forwards also included the wonderfully named Octavius Valentine Smith, an early club secretary as well as A. Alabaster and T. Tyler who were both members of families that supplied a number of players to the club. 

Coventry’s team included no less than three members of the Ratliff family including Harry, the club’s first captain, who was reputed to be one of the finest three quarters of his day. There were also two members of the Cash and Waters families in the Coventry side which meant that almost half of the team was supplied by just three families! 

 

[1] A touchdown was awarded when a team grounded the ball in its own in-goal area in self-defence which today would result in either a 22-metre dropout or a five-metre scrum.