There was once a time, long before goal-line technology, when only the naked eye would determine whether the ball had inched over the white line.
It was a time when decisions were made and taken on the pitch, in real time, and couldn’t be reviewed in Stockley Park. When referees didn’t wear earpieces, nor microphones, to communicate with one another.
Sometimes, though, the referee wouldn't even turn up. On 2 April, 1892, in an away match against high-flying Burslem Port Vale, the match official failed to attend. The reason behind his omission may be unknown to the archives, but one thing is for sure; to allow the match to go ahead, a spectator was handed the whistle and with it the responsibilities of the match.
The game was to be played, despite the protests from the away team. To make matters worse, the referee wasn’t the only absentee that day for Leicester Fosse. James Owen, the right-back, missed the train to Stoke and forfeited his place in the team. There was nobody there to step in for him.
Fosse, managed by Frank Gardner (pictured), were in deep trouble before the match had even begun.
It will come as no surprise that the 10-men returned to Filbert Street empty handed that Saturday. They had come back, however, with their dignity still firmly intact - with all the odds stacked against them, the loss was kept to a respectable 2-0.
Be that as it may, the Club still felt disgruntled. The appeal made to the Midland League was upheld and the game was ordered to be replayed 26 days later. Leicester Fosse had another chance to pick up some points. It was the first time, in Fosse’s short history, that a match was deemed void.
On 28 April, 1892, Fosse travelled once more to Stoke to play Burslem Port Vale. On this occasion, they fielded a full team, including a punctual James Owen, and were met at the Athletic Ground by the attending referee.
Despite the favourable conditions, the rematch resulted in a heavier 4-0 defeat for Leicester Fosse.
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