HISTORY CORNER: Looking Back At The 1991/92 Season

9 months ago By Steve Whitney

The summer of 1991 saw the team that lifted the FA Trophy in May, Wycombe Wanderers, installed as favourites to take the title under aspiring young manager Martin O`Neill.

But Colchester United were determined to get their place back in the Football League after finishing runners-up the previous season – their first after finishing bottom of the Fourth Division in 1990 and are made 11/2 second favourites by the bookies.

Wycombe will have a little extra incentive though following the sad loss of midfielder Kevin Durham who, whilst him and his family were holidaying in Majorca, he suffered a fatal heart attack.

In Cheshire, there`s a bit of a managerial switch-round with Stan Allan leaving Witton Albion to return to the club he served for many years as a player, Altrincham, which led to Runcorn boss Peter O`Brien moving to Witton and John Carroll taking temporary charge of the Linnets, while Northwich Victoria appointed former Manchester United star Sammy McIlroy as their manager.

Colchester suffer a blow, however, when their highly-rated young manager Ian Atkins is whisked away to become Birmingham City boss and the U`s look internally for his replacement in big striker Roy McDonough.

Newly-promoted Redbridge Forest sign a ten-year lease to share Dagenham`s Victoria Road ground which has already been their `home` for three seasons.

Close season player movement sees Kidderminster Harriers` goalkeeper Paul Jones sold to Wolves for an initial £40,000, while Boston United break their club record transfer fee by signing former Kettering Town midfielder Paul Richardson from Barnet for £20,000 and Colchester sell defender Scott Daniels to Exeter for £50,000 and Slough Town become another to beat their previous highest fee paid for a player by signing midfielder Colin Fielder from Farnborough Town for £18,000.

Stafford Rangers` winger Paul Devlin becomes the latest Conference player to attract the attention of the `big boys` with Liverpool reputed to be monitoring his progress.

Norman Whiteside joins his ex-Manchester United and Northern Ireland team-mate Sammy McIlroy at Northwich as physio.

The opening games of the 1991/92 season sees Boston`s Richard Toone capture national headlines by scoring the fastest goal of the English domestic season. His goal, scored after just 45 seconds in the 2-0 York Street win over Merthyr Tydfil – beat Southampton`s Alan Shearer`s goal against Spurs by over a minute!

Northwich`s Malcolm O`Connor scores the first hat-trick of the season in a 4-2 win at Farnborough.

Redbridge turn down a bid in excess of £100,000 for tenacious little midfielder Andy Hessenthaler from Second Division Watford.

The Conference apply to the Football Association for permission to use red and yellow cards in senior competitive matches for the first time.

Wycombe get off to a great start with six games unbeaten, while Runcorn break their duck with a 2-0 win over Farnborough, leaving Kettering Town and Gateshead as the only teams yet to record a win by mid-September.

Redbridge Forest finally agree to sell Andy Hessenthaler to Watford for an initial fee of £65,000 which could exceed £100,000 with add-ons.

However, Stafford and Liverpool fail to agree a fee for Paul Devlin and the deal is called off – much to the annoyance of the player!

Stafford now have goalkeeper Ryan Price attracting attention, with Coventry City offering him a week`s trial.

Wycombe suffer their first defeat of the season on September 21st, losing 1-0 at home to Macclesfield Town and Kettering win for the first time on the same day, beating Kidderminster 2-1 at Rockingham Road.

A season`s best crowd to date of 5,184 see Wycombe lose 2-1 at home to Colchester in their vey next game, with the U`s winning goal coming from keeper Scott Barrett in the last minute.

Farnborough head into October as leaders, dislodging Wycombe, while Redbridge Forest offer manager John Still a new five-year full-time contract.

Northwich appoint Norman Whiteside as assistant-manager to replace Gordan Clayton, who sadly died in September.

October 19th sees Gateshead become the last team to break their duck after winning 3-1 at Stafford Rangers, while Slough record an amazing 7-3 win at Moss Lane against Altrincham with current Dorchester Town boss Steve Thompson netting a hat-trick, and both Paul McKinnon and Alan Pluckrose braces.

Welling United striker Gary Abbott goes into the FA Cup record books by heading all five goals in the Wings` 5-1 Fourth Qualifying Round win over Alvechurch.

Redbridge Forest sign Boston United duo Paul Cavell and Paul Richardson for a `substantial` five-figure fee, while former Spurs and England winger Peter Taylor agrees to play for John Still when his commitments as assistant boss at Watford allow.

The entire Board of Directors stand down at Cheltenham Town following negotiations to boost the financial situation at Whaddon Road.

Kettering make a shrewd move by switching their home game against Bath City to Sunday, November 3rd to avoid clashing with the Rugby World Cup Final on the Saturday.

They attracted 2,379 – their best gate to date – while most of the remaining Conference clubs who went ahead and played on the Saturday recorded their lowest attendances of the season!

Meanwhile, a week later, Farnborough attract a 14-year attendance record as 3,069 turn up for the top of the table clash with Colchester, which the visitors win 2-0.

Redbridge Forest`s re-built side finally end an 11-match run without a win by hammering Kidderminster 5-0 at Victoria Road.

November 16th is a mixed day for Barrow as manager Ray Wilkie was taken ill shortly before the game against Altrincham, which was also striker Colin Cowperthwaite`s 700th appearances for the Bluebirds.

Slough sell goalkeeper Phil Burns to Airdrie for £20,000, while Yeovil`s highly-rated midfielder Andy Wallace goes on trial with Sheffield United.

Former Newcastle and Northern Ireland midfielder Tommy Cassidy takes over as manager of Gateshead following the resignation of Tony Lee after a home defeat by Bath.

Kettering`s 10-match unbeaten run ends with a 3-2 defeat to Slough at Rockingham Road.

Merthyr Tydfil midfielder David D`Auria`s car breaks down en-route to Penydarren Park for the game against Runcorn.

But he runs the 5 miles to the ground and arrives on time – only to be ruled out by a nasty blister caused by the run!!

Yeovil Town reach the FA Cup Second Round for the 21st time – a new record – after beating Walsall in a replay at the Bescot Stadium.

Kettering beat Fourth Division Maidstone United away in the Second Round, Farnborough hold Torquay United to a draw at Plainmoor, but Witton Albion lose to Preston and Yeovil and Telford both bow out.

Bath`s David Payne leaves after eight years and over 300 appearances. He joins Weymouth.

Farnborough boost their title hopes by signing former QPR and Fulham striker Dean Coney following a spell in Hong Kong with Ernest Borel FC.

Merthyr Tydfil continue their opposition to the new League of Wales with the threat of taking legal action against the FA of Wales.

Yeovil place their entire first-team squad on the transfer list following their exit from the FA Cup at the hands of Woking.

Barrow appoint former Altrincham boss John King as team manager following the continuing long-term absence of Ray Wilkie with illness – Graham Heathcote joins King as his number two.

On December 14th, Redbridge Forest are beaten 1-0 at Runcorn to end their seven-game unbeaten run.

Farnborough beat Torquay 4-3 in their FA Cup Second Round replay which was shown live on BSkyB to earn a money-spinning Third Round tie against West Ham United.

Stafford Rangers sack manager Chris Wright and immediately bring in Dennis Booth as his replacement.

An eleven-match run without a win came to an end for Witton when they beat Boston United 1-0.

On January 4th, Farnborough out up a magnificent showing to hold West Ham to a 1-1 draw at Upton Park in the Third Round of the FA Cup.

The Conference`s only other representative, Kettering, bow out, going down 4-1 at Kenny Dalglish`s Blackburn Rovers` side at Ewood Park.

January sees Yeovil decide to revert back to playing part-time after a two-year experiment as full-timers.

Wycombe add to their already powerful forward line by signing prolific marksman Kim Casey from Cheltenham for £9,000.

Redbridge Forest pay Barnet £10,000 for midfielder Gary Blackford, who had been on loan at Vicroria Road.

Farnborough finally bow out of the FA Cup to an 89th minute Trevor Morley goal at West Ham.

Cheltenham manager Ally Robertson, the former West Brom stalwart defender, resigns following a run of eleven games without a win. Ex-Bristol Rovers defender Lyndsay Parsons takes over as caretaker-manager.

Welling striker Gary Abbott nets 5 goals for the second time this season, this time playing for the FA XI against the Diadora (Isthmian) League which was convincingly won 7-1 by the FA side.

Telford accept a £20,000 bid from Barnet for midfielder Paul Grainger.

Wycombe set a new attendance record for the Second Round of the FA Trophy when 5,801 watch the holders beat Diadora League title-favourites Woking 1-0.

Farnborough boost their attacking options by signing the ex-Spurs, Portsmouth and Oxford United striker David Leworthy from Reading.

Stafford Rangers winger Paul Devlin`s latest trial period takes him to Leeds United.

Merthyr Tydfil win the right to remain in the Conference following the Appeals Committee`s decision to uphold their appeal against being forced to join the League of Wales.

Redbridge Forest midfielder Bobby Mayes turns down the chance to join West Brom after failing to agree terms.

Witton record the biggest win of the season to date by beating Stafford Rangers 6-0 at Wincham Park.

Slough are taken over by a consortium led by Alan Thorne, former owner of Millwall, his son Byron and Bob Pearson, who managed Millwall for a spell.

A crowd of over 4,000 turn up for Barrow striker Colin Cowperthwaite`s testimonial match against Manchester City.

Stafford winger Paul Devlin, who has had trials with Liverpool and Leeds already this season, signs for Notts County for a fee of around £60,000.

Norman Whiteside steps down as assistant boss at Northwich Victoria to concentrate on his physiotherapy studies.

Wycombe continue to add to their already impressive squad by signing striker Dennis Greene from Chelmsford City and soon-to-become Yeovil favourite Steve Thompson from Slough.

Martin O`Neill paid £15,000 for Greene and a `substantial` five-figure fee for Thompson.

O`Neill`s side reach the final of the Bob Lord Trophy (League Cup) where they will meet Runcorn.

Boston United striker Gary Jones, signed for £3,000 in the summer from Kettering, records a hat-trick of hat-tricks against Gateshead to take his tally to 17 to date.

The Third Round of the Trophy sees wins for Colchester over Morecambe, Macclesfield against Cheshire rivals Northwich, Redbridge over Farnborough, Witton against Stalybridge Celtic and Yeovil against Kidderminster, while Kettering are surprisingly beaten at Marine.

There are draws for Telford, Gateshead, Wycombe and Bath.

Redbridge follow up their Trophy success with a 7-0 battering of Cheltenham, while Sammy McIlroy plays his first game of the season at the age of 38 and inspires Northwich to a 4-3 win over Kettering at the Drill Field after being 3-0 down at half-time!

Wycombe make Trophy progress after beating Bath in a replay at Adams Park, as do Telford, who beat Gateshead 1-0 at a game played at Blyth Spartans.

Former Ipswich, Arsenal and England star Brian Talbot (pictured) takes over as owner of Kettering Town along with businessman Mark English. The Poppies are over £100,000 in debt with a large chunk of that owed to the tax man.

Redbridge provide no less than five of the England semi-professional (England C) side that beat Wales 1-0.

The Sportscast Channel, which screened live Conference matches, has ceased trading.

Recent signing David Leworthy nets all four of Farnborough`s goals in a 4-2 win over Macclesfield.

Kettering`s new owners act by bringing in striker Pat Gavin, defender Lee Howarth and midfielder Gary Butterworth on loan from Peterborough.

Colchester, Witton and Macclesfield are all through to the Trophy semi-finals, while Redbridge are held to a draw at Marine, but bow out to the Northern Premier Leaguers in the replay at home.

Welling midfielder and assistant boss Ray Burgess makes his 1,000th appearance for the Wings in a shock 5-0 home defeat by Bath.

Transfer deadline day sees a flurry of activity with 42 deals being done – a new record.

Busiest boss of the day was Stafford`s Dennis Booth, whose attempt to move away from the bottom of the table sees him bring in former Watford winger Nigel Callaghan, ex-Wolves and Stoke defender George Berry and midfielder Paul Jones from Kettering.

The Poppies` boss Peter Morris is also busy, with one of his new recruits being co-owner Brian Talbot as well as defender Paul Cox (the recent manager of Barrow and Guiseley).

Kidderminster pay £10,000 for Telford`s much-wanted midfielder Paul Grainger, whose move to Barnet collapsed.

Altrincham suffer their sixth successive defeat in the league, going down 2-1 at home to Welling.

The top of the table sees Colchester move three points clear of Wycombe after a 3-0 win over Kidderminster at Layer Road.

Stafford end an eight-week tenure at the bottom of the table and are succeeded by Barrow, while Kidderminster and Runcorn also slip into the bottom four.

However, Runcorn take a 1-0 lead into the second leg of the Bob Lord Trophy final after Steve Saunders` goal at Canal Street against Wycombe.

Northwich end 466 minutes without a goal with a 1-0 win against Slough.

Colchester take an emphatic 3-0 lead in the first leg of the FA Trophy Semi-Final against Macclesfield at Layer Road, while Witton and Marine share a 2-2 draw in their first leg.

In the league, Wycombe go level on points with Colchester after beating Farnborough 3-1 at Cherrywood Road, and then lift the first silverware of the season by winning the Bob Lord Trophy.

Martin O`Neill`s side overhaul a 1-0 deficit to beat Runcorn 2-0 at Adams Park in the second leg in front of 2,519.

O`Neill`s side celebrate further by going top of the table after a 4-0 victory over struggling Altrincham, while Colchester fall three points behind with seven games to play.

Kidderminster end their run of eleven matches without a win with a 2-1 success over Runcorn.

Redbridge Forest discuss a possible merger with current landlords Dagenham.

If both parties agree, a `new` club called Dagenham & Redbridge will play in the Conference next season.

Farnborough record their biggest away win of the season, beating relegation-threatened Slough 5-0 at Wexham Park – the Rebels sixth successive defeat.

Altrincham make a timely end to their run of nine consecutive defeats as they beat Cheltenham 2-0 at Whaddon Road, putting the Gloucestershire Robins in deep trouble at the foot of the table.

However, it`s Barrow who become the first club to be relegated following a home draw with Yeovil – a result which virtually assured the Glovers` Conference status.

Slough continue their slide down and extend their run of matches without a win to twelve with a 3-3 draw with Kidderminster.

Gateshead keeper Simon Smith makes his 350th consecutive appearance for the club against Macclesfield on April 28th – but he concedes the only goal of the game.

Colchester go a long way to clinching the title with a 3-1 home win over Kettering, but Altrincham are in deep trouble as they lose at home to Telford and Slough also lose at Northwich.

Two days before the final games of the season, Wycombe gain a tremendous 5-0 win at Redbridge to really put the pressure on the top – Keith Scott and Kim Casey both bagging braces.

However, Colchester clinch the championship on goal difference on the last Saturday of the season with a 5-0 thumping of already-relegated Barrow at Layer Road in front of a crowd of 7,193.

That result ensured that the U`s would stay in front of Wycombe, despite the Chairboys` 4-0 win over Witton.

Cheltenham beat Welling 3-2 but are still relegated due to the fact that Kidderminster won 4-0 at Gateshead.

Kettering finish in third place – their fifth successive top five placing – with Merthyr Tydfil securing an excellent fourth place with a last-day win at Telford.

Both Colchester and Wycombe break the Conference points record, registering 94 each, passing the previous best of 93 set by Runcorn ten years earlier.

The FA Trophy Final at Wembley is a disappointing spectacle between Conference rivals Colchester and Witton, but Ropy McDonough`s side become the first team since Wealdstone in 1985 to win the non-League `double`.

Where next?

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