Arsenal’s inaugural League campaign had not begun as well as might have been expected. Held at home in the opening match by Newcastle United, they had succumbed to a 2 – 3 defeat at Notts County. Walsall Town Swifts arrived at Plumstead on the back of consecutive defeats, 1 – 3 vs Birmingham and 0 – 5 at the hands of Burslem Port Vale. Their second season in the Football League had begun as inauspiciously as their first; something had to give.
And it did. Arsenal rose to the occasion to record their first win as a league club, comfortably easing past their visitors. It made the hat-trick scored by Joseph Heath all the more sweeter, the first by an Arsenal player in the Football League. Whether or not it is counted as the first in ‘competitive’ matches depends on your definition of those games. In the 11 – 0 demolition of Lyndhurst in October 1889, Scott and Barbour both bagged three whilst Elliott and Booth did likewise three years later in the 10 – 1 defeat of City Ramblers. Those games were FA Cup Qualifying Round matches and in some quarters are discounted; personally, I think they are competitive matches given the stature of the competition.
Heath’s career at the club was incredibly short, twelve games yielding seven goals. He dropped out of the first XI following a 0 – 5 home defeat to Liverpool, having scored six goals in seven games. Whether that was injury or selection choice, I know not. What is certain that he never appeared on a winning side again. Heath played five more times for the club, losing on each occasion. His final goal came in the 2 – 5 reverse at Lincoln City in Sam Hollis’ first game in charge on 1st September 1894.