1898 FA Cup Final (lost footage of football match; 1898)

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Nottingham Forest players with the trophy.

Status: Lost

The 1898 FA Cup Final culminated the 27th FA Cup season. Occurring on 16th April in front of 62,017 at the Crystal Palace, the match saw Nottingham Forest defeat Derby County 3-1 to claim its first FA Cup. The encounter was recorded by pioneer British filmmaker Birt Acres, becoming the earliest known instance of the FA Cup Final being filmed.


Nottingham Forest and Derby County, as Football League First Division members, entered the tournament in the First Round Proper.[1] Forest's road to the Final saw it defeat Grimsby Town, Gainsborough Trinity, West Bromwich Albion, and Southampton.[1] Meanwhile, Derby's campaign consisted of it overcoming Aston Villa, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Liverpool, and Everton.[1] Both East Midlands sides were making their first FA Cup Final appearance.[2][3][4][5] The Rams were declared the favourites heading into the Final, having beaten previous champions Aston Villa and dominated their Final opposition 5-0 a week prior.[6][7][5] Both teams played in their traditional kits.[5]

Also in 1898, pioneer British filmmaker Birt Acres was busy both managing the Northern Photographic Works, and releasing the 17.5mm camara the Birtac to what he hoped would be a lucrative home film market.[8][9] Little is known about his exploits in 1898, but he did record a few actuality films during the year, including of the 1898 Sheriff of London Charity Shield match on 19th March.[10][11][8] However, a report by the British Journal of Photography confirmed Acres was present at the Crystal Palace on 16th April, with the intent to record footage.[8][10] It did express concern that the lack of light may dampen the quality of the finished product.[8] Alas, research from The Beginnings of the Cinema in England was unable to find any further details, including what scenes Acres captured.[8][10] Nevertheless, the film was about 75 feet long and was titled Football Match, Crystal Palace.[10][11] The recording has since been declared by the British Film Institute as the oldest known footage of any FA Cup Final.[12]

The Match

The encounter itself commenced on 16th April with around 62,017 present at London's Crystal Palace.[6][7] The start was delayed when Derby's Archie Goodall spent an excessive amount of time selling spare tickets, resulting in a temporary absence.[7] Forest's Arthur Capes started strongly in spite of a slow start by teammates Tom Mclnnes and Charlie Richards, having his shot blocked by Jimmy Methven.[6] 19 minutes in, Forest's Alf Spouncer was fouled, resulting in a free-kick not far from the by-line.[6][7] The resulting free-kick by Willie Wragg was converted into a low shot goal by Capes.[6][7] The Rams then fought back after 31 minutes, Steve Bloomer capitalising on a Joe Leiper free-kick by launching a header which ended up bouncing under the crossbar and into the goal.[6][7] However, Forest again took the lead four minutes before half-time when a Richards shot was saved by Derby goalkeeper Jack Fryer, only for it to rebound into Capes path and subsequently giving the forward an easy strike on-goal.[6][7]

Despite a dominant first half, Forest were weakened not long into the second when Wragg suffered leg issues, forcing him to move onto the wing.[6] This in turn compromised Capes and Spouncer, with Capes now bogged down in the midfield.[6] Consequently, Derby controlled most of the second half, but missed several significant equalising opportunities.[7][6] The first saw Bloomer outpace the Forest defence, but pressure from John McPherson resulted in him messing up the finish by shooting wide.[7][6] John Goodall also nearly levelled proceedings only for his shot to hit the crossbar.[7][6] Derby's goalkeeper Dan Allsopp then saved a good chance by John Cox.[6] Despite Derby's resurgence, Forest doubled their lead after 86 minutes when a clearance from John Boag during a corner-kick was intercepted by McPherson, allowing him to score a ground shot.[6][7]

The match ultimately ended 3-1, allowing the supposed underdogs Forest to win their first FA Cup, though a match report criticised the game as being inferior to the 1897 Final.[6][7][3][5] Forest would later win the 1959 FA Cup by beating Luton Town 2-1 in the Final, their last FA Cup glory as of the present day.[3][2] Meanwhile, Derby subsequently lost the 1899 and 1903 Finals, but would eventually triumph by beating Charlton Athletic 4-1 in the 1946 Final to claim their first, and to date, only, FA Cup.[4][2]


While Acres' recording is historically significant, virtually all of his 1898 works have since been declared missing.[8][12] Thus, the only currently available media of the 1898 FA Cup Final are photographs. According to the British Film Institute's analysis of available film catalogues, the 1901 FA Cup Final replay is the oldest match with surviving footage.[12]



Footage of the 1901 FA Cup Final replay.


See Also