Liverpool found their rhythm again

November 18, 1895
Liverpool’s journey to the South proved to be one of the most pleasant and enjoyable affairs the club has ever undertaken. Everything was so nicely arranged that not a single hitch occurred throughout the time the team were away from Liverpool, and the grand victory put every one in the best of humours coming home.

The party, under the supervision of Messrs. John James Ramsay and John McKenna, arrived in London early on Friday evening, and after dinner at the Covent Garden Hotel were taken to the Tivoli Theatre.

Saturday morning was spent in sight-seeing, as was also Saturday evening after the match, and the capitally-arranged little tour was brought to a happy close when the party arrived in Liverpool in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Recognising the forward position of the Woolwich eleven, and consequently the uncertainty and importance of the game, the Liverpool directors were not in the best of humours when it was found that Joe McQue was suffering from an injury to his knee, obtained while practicing during the week, but it was this unexpected blow that seemed to infused greater determination and enthusiasm into the other players, and when, after about five or ten minutes’ play, it was seen that Bill Keech was worthily filling the difficult centre-half position, the whole eleven worked so compactly together that it can be safely stated that the Northerners had fairly got the measure of their opponents, and was playing in a winning vein.

Perhaps, primarily, the real reason which brought about the happy result was the fact that the Liverpool team were cleverer and cooler, and by adopting an entirely different mode of tactics, under the abnormal climatic conditions, were always a bit in front of their opponents.

The terrific wind told far more against the play of the Arsenal men than against the visitors. Beyond Robert Gordon and Caesar Jenkyns, few of the Woolwich team had any idea of keeping the ball on the ground, the majority being content with heavy and wild kicking, with the result that when the ball got up in the air the gale almost blew it where it liked.

This kind of play properly upset the Southerners, and although they had two splendid chances they were so upset that they made a sad mess of both. Once in the game the Arsenal forwards subjected the Liverpool defence to about as hot a five minutes as ever Matt McQueen and his supports have experienced this season, but thanks to a remarkable display of coolness by the whole of the rear-guard, especially McQueen, John McCartney, and Tom Wilkie, the danger was at length repulsed.

Never before have the backs and half-backs been so highly tried, and as this was the crucial point of the game, to them is every credit due for their united and compact work. The match was most fiercely contested, and had the referee not been a firm and decided individual trouble might have arisen on several occasions.

Now and then the Arsenal forwards gave a fairly good display, and by reason of their long cross-passes and sudden rushes were always dangerous when opportunities came their way, but, thanks to McCartney, Keech, and John Holmes, this but seldom happened.

To sum the whole game up, Liverpool fully deserved their victory, as Saturday’s game is the best they have played this season. They were cleverer and much faster all through, and played with an extraordinary amount of dash.

In fact, such vim has not been previously seen this season, and upon the development of such a necessary adjunct to football is decidedly gratifying, for in this particular line the Liverpool forwards especially have been greatly lacking.

The whole of the Anfield team played so well, individually and collectively, and were so knit together that hardly one player stood out in greater prominence than another.

M. McQueen did not have so very much to do, but what work came his direction was of a sultry or electric character. One shot in particular – a high dropping one, which at first seemed to be going yards wide but which was turned in by the wind – was magnificently dealt with, and that, too, with the Reds’ forwards going for him at express speed.

In fact, like the remainder of the team, McQueen took the match much more seriously than has occurred before, and consequently each player added lustre to his fame. Tom Wilkie and Archie Goldie were a solid pair, and although their work was not of a showy, or brilliant order, it was extremely effective.

The half-back line was uncommonly clever, and in spite of John Holmes being perhaps slightly the best a due word of thanks must be given to Keech for his unexpected clever display at centre-half. He seemed to make it his mission to have either the man or ball each time he tackled, and by the time the second half was well in progress his opponents had had enough of this modest youth.

McCartney, after a long spell, reappeared, and as ever played his usual untiring game, being especially clever in saving in the goal mouth.

The whole of the forwards harmonised beautifully, and invariably kept the ball under control, and the rapid passes and short sprints between Jimmy Ross and Harry Bradshaw which brought the first goal was an unqualified treat, and would have sent a Liverpool audience – no matter who obtained it – into ecstasy, but which was received by the Southerners with contemptuous silence.

Fred Geary was in great form, and was very prominent throughout, while Davie Hannah, whose unassuming work often passes notice, was brought into great relief towards the end, when he simply ran round his men with ease.

The three inside men, as usual, worked effectively and to a purpose, and the play of the three is so similar that to disturb them would be nothing short of a calamity.

Bradshaw profited by the advice given to him, and when hampered, as also did Ross and Frank Becton, frequently drove the ball out to the wing, and opened up in this way some lovely opportunities for Geary.

The Arsenal team were all put out with the high state of the wind, and by not suiting their play to the conditions were frequently chagrined to see, what they supposed to be a dangerous attack upon their enemy’s quarter, the point turned against themselves, through lifting the ball into the air.

Harry Storer did not have so much to do as he should, because the Liverpool forwards in the second half dallied too much with the chances created, and allowed Jack Caldwell and Frederick Davies to nip times without number; but nevertheless he did some excellent work.

Harry Storer, Woolwich Arsenal (Lloyd’s Weekly News: December 1, 1895):

The backs were always good, but the halves were frequently beaten. George Crawford was very fine in the first half, and rather got the better of the Liverpool left; but afterwards they had their revenge. Jenkyns could not make much out of Bradshaw, and his play was not marred with so much roughness as on previous meetings.

For men coming from first-class clubs, it was astonishing to see the Woolwich forwards, whenever they had any chance of making play, descend to such idiotic manoeuvres at they did. Their last idea seemed to be to keep the ball on the floor, while most of their long dropping centres, which under ordinary conditions would have dropped into the goal mouth, were carried yards wide by the wind.

Keech was given a run to stop Gordon, and so well did he fulfill his work that that player had but one chance throughout the game.
(Source: Liverpool Mercury: November 18, 1895)

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