With 2019/20 marking 120 years since Torquay United AFC’s opening campaign, we continue charting the history of the club, following its formation at the Torre Abbey Hotel on Monday 1st May, 1899.
With the 1910/11 season having heralded unprecedented cup success, as well as a creditable league showing, the amalgamation of Torquay United and Ellacombe was already bearing fruit. On the other side in the town, Babbacombe refused to re-enter into merge discussions, despite their outlook looking far less positive, with the side having finished one place off the foot of the Plymouth & District League table last time out.
There were to be a number of new faces on the league’s fixture list for the new season, with Looe and Green Waves departing, and sides from Royal Naval Barracks, 4th Middlesex Regiment, No.3 Depot Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA), Royal Scots Regiment and Northampton Regiment joining, to bolster a new 16 team division.
Having been taken to two replays before emerging victorious against the RGA in the Devon Senior Cup Final some five months earlier, the opening match at Plainmoor was no less competitive, with both sides cancelling each other out in a 0-0 draw.
Town went on to record back-to-back wins over Oreston Rovers (3-0 away) and RN Barracks (4-2 at home), before attention turned to their FA Cup tie away to Trowbridge Town at the end of September.
Having produced a wonderful effort to reach the fifth and final qualifying round the previous season, it was hoped that Torquay could once again embark on an exciting cup run to raise interest throughout the town. Sadly, there was to be no repeat of their heroics from 12 months earlier, as the team fell at the first hurdle, with a defeat 1-0 in Wiltshire.
Unperturbed, they responded by reeling off five wins on the bounce, defeating RMLI (4-2), Northampton Regt. (4-0), Royal Scots Regt. (4-1), Torpoint (3-2) and Middlesex Regt. (3-2), before St. Austell put an end to Town’s seven match winning run in the league by holding them to a 1-1 draw.
Two more impressive victories, over Millbrook (4-0 at home) and Exeter City Reserves (1-0 away) saw Torquay make it eleven matches without defeat in the league, as they began the defence of the Devon Senior Cup, against the former side, in fine fettle.
Millbrook, who had been finished the 1910/11 season as champions, were clearly keen to avenge the heavy defeat at Plainmoor three weeks earlier, however they failed to make the most of home advantage, and following a scoreless draw in the first game, Town recorded a comprehensive 5-0 victory in the replay the following Saturday.
After making such light work of their league rivals during the first three months of the season, Plymouth Argyle’s Reserves gave Torquay a timely wake-up call in their last match before Christmas, with The Pilgrims inflicting a first defeat of the season, courtesy of a 4-0 scoreline.
With focus restored, Town repeated their Boxing Day beating of co-tenants Babbacombe the previous year by running out 4-0 winners, as they set out on another fine winning run, which this time lasted seven matches.
Torquay were now looking every inch title material, and were scoring goals at will during a period that saw them notch handsome victories over St. Austell (6-1 at home) and Tavistock (11-2 at home) amongst others, before gaining revenge over Plymouth with a 3-0 win to bring February to a close.
With two months of the campaign remaining, Town were well placed for a prestigious league and cup double, however March was to see those hopes derailed.
Their first defeat of 1912 against Millbrook (1-0 away), followed by a first home defeat of the season against Middlesex Regt. (1-4) gave nearest league challengers Royal Naval Barracks a chance to usurp Torquay at the top of the table. Town did redress the balance somewhat in their next two encounters though, tahnks to confident wins over RMLI (5-1 away) and Northampton Regt. (6-0 at home).
Having been one of only two teams to take the Devon Senior Cup outside of Plymouth, their semi-final clash at Argyle Reserves was no doubt highly anticipated. Town were obviously eager to defend their title, whilst Argyle were looking to claim the trophy for the first time in four years. Unfortunately, Torquay failed to rise to the occasion, and relinquished their cup in disappointing fashion, with the home side winning 3-0.
After a season that had promised so much, everything was now riding on the last five league matches of the season. Town were still well placed to take the title, however their recent stutters had given league new boys Royal Naval Barracks a chance to pip them to the post, so there was little margin for error as an exciting campaign entered its final stages.
A 3-1 home win over Sherwood Foresters gave Town the perfect start to April, giving their ‘grudge’ match against Babbacombe added importance.
In truth though, Babbacombe had endured a nightmare season, and were destined to finish bottom of the pile with just 6 points from their 30 matches. This was made all the more painful for them of course, due to Town’s successes since joining forces, and it was therefore no surprise whatsover that Torquay prevailed with some ease, registering a 4-1 win at Plainmoor.
The result proved to be the perfect warm-up to their biggest match of the season, as Town headed to their away game at Royal Naval Barracks. Knowing that avoiding defeat would almost certainly seal the Plymouth & District League title in their favour, Torquay were also fully aware that defeat would leave things looking decidedly uncomfortable ahead of the final two games of the season.
The top-of-the-table encounter may not have been one for the purists, however Torquay got the result they craved, with a 0-0 draw leaving the destiny of the title in their own hands ahead of the final two rounds of matches.
That point was indeed enough, as following a 2-2 draw at Sherwood Foresters and a ‘walkover’ against Torpoint, Torquay Town were crowned as the 1911/12 Plymouth & District League champions.
A second league title in four years, and a third trophy during the same period, was a clear indication that the merge had proved to be a huge success. Despite their own struggles though, Babbacombe would remain reluctant to join the party for a little while yet.