February 8, 1896
Both these teams having been relieved from any responsibility in connection with the Lancashire Cup competition beyond the first round, home-and-away friendly matches were agreed upon between the two clubs, the first taking place at Deepdale to-day.
Preston North End: Billy Joy, Bob Holmes, Sandy Tait, Billy Greer, Moses Sanders, Willie Orr, Tom Smith, Jack Pierce, Jim Stevenson, James Smith, Adam Henderson.
Liverpool: Harry Storer, Archie Goldie, Tom Wilkie, John McCartney, Bill Keech, John Holmes, Malcolm McVean, Jimmy Ross (C), George Allan, Frank Becton, Benjamin Bull.
The weather was of the most wretched description, rain falling in an incessant downpour throughout the morning, and until the time of the kick-off, rendering the condition of the ground very bad. It was not to be wondered at that the gate was not of large proportions, and at the outset there were not sufficient present to pay the cost of advertising.
It will be noticed that three of the victims of the Sunderland match – James Sharp, Bob Blyth, and John Cunningham – were absent, but the injury to Holmes’s eye had no proved so serious as to prevent his playing today. The teams were late in taking the field. And it was 10 minutes past three before (Ross having won the toss) Stevenson started the ball up the hill.
Play commenced at a rapid pace, and each side put in clever work in midfield. Storer, who was defending in a pool of water, was first called upon from a free kick, but Allan and Ross broke away prettily, and the latter was not pulled up until tripped by Orr.
Greer cleared cleverly from the free kick, but Wilkie returned, and Joy had a warm handful to negotiate immediately afterwards. Stevenson, Pearce, and J. Smith went smartly up the hill, but the ball was passed too far, and clever play by the Liverpool forwards kept the North Enders busy in defence of their goal. Ross and Becton being conspicuous for very clever work against their old comrades.
The homesters were heavily pressed, and Ross all but scored. Finally, Goldie with a big shot sent straight into the net from a free kick, without a second player touching the ball; and from the goal-kick the home right worked smartly away, and a fierce bully ensued near the Liverpool uprights, Sanders getting in a couple of his specialities.
The goal was well packed, however, and despite the free kick close in, the home men could not get through. Then play was transferred, and then the Prestonians had as warm a time in defence of their own goal as they had just had in assault upon Storer’s. Another of Ross’s favourite’s shots, sharp and straight from short range, caused a little thrill of excitement, and the spectators cheered their old favourite ungrudgingly – when the ball went behind.
Considering the terrible state of the ground, and the heavy, wet ball, the pace was fast, and the play very interesting. If friendly games were all as well contested as the present one was being, it would not mean financial loss to a club when they had not a League or a Cup match on.
Liverpool were placed upon the defensive, as the result of determined work by the North Enders, and after Storer had run out to and repelled a hot one by J. Smith, Henderson fired the ball before the goalkeeper could get back to his place, but Wilkie cleared finely. Subsequently exchanges were in favour of Liverpool, whose forward play was superior to that of the home men, and securing a free kick at the end of half an hour’s play. Allan scored with a low shot, who forced the ball through a number of players.
This reverse nerved the Deepdalians to more strenuous exertions, and they nearly equalised straight away. Orr running up as a temporary left winger, while J. Smith hit the outer side of the net with a terrific shot. After this T. Smith who was being judiciously fed by Pierce, tried his luck, but centred wide, and next Becton made two splendid dashed, finding Joy each time. The Liverpudlians had a corner from Becton’s shot, and then North End pressed heavily, having a couple of corners and shots innumerable. Storer, however, played quite up to his reputation for safety, dealing skilfully with all sorts of shots, though he did not always get rid of them quite as well as might have done.
The goal had a remarkably narrow shave from a bully right in front of goal, but the ball was eventually scrimmaged behind. At length Henderson made a dashing run, and from his centre T. Smith shot and Storer allowed the ball to escape him. It was over the line before he could recover possession, and the referee at once gave a goal.
Following this, Pierce, who has not forgotten how to shoot, put in a curler from long range, and the ball ought to have been put through by T. Smith, but he was too slow, and Storer cleared with a big kick. Each side had an equal share of the attack until half-time.
Half-time – North End 1, Liverpool 1.
Ross had played throughout the first half with a jersey suspiciously like the white shirts of the North Enders, but there was still sufficient blue about it to render it distinguishable from the others. The spectators chaffed him much regarding it.
After changing ends, North End came out in red and white attire.
Play restarted in a very bad light. McVean was the first to show up with a speedy sprint, but he was splendidly tackled and beaten by Tait. Bull and Ross followed with good shots, but Joy was very lively, and then the Liverpool goal was warmly assailed, T. Smith finally shooting over.
Liverpool were aggressive for a time, but presently Stevenson and J. Smith broke down hill at a great pace, and the first named, beating Keech, scored with a fast shot which gave Storer no chance.
Immediately afterwards Bob Holmes made a mistake and let in Ross, who promptly tipped the ball across to McVean, and that player let fly with a lovely shot which barely missed the corner of the goal. Following this the Liverpudlians had a left-off, and then a tasty bit of work between Allan and Ross enabled the latter to put in another hot one, which went past the post at a terrific pace.
The heavy going apparently told its tale upon the players, for the game became perceptibly slower, but received an equaliser when from a free kick for hands against Sanders, Ross beautifully converted McCartney’s kick into a second goal.
The home men quite monopolised the attack for a while, and Storer and his backs had a very merry time of it. A beauty from Greer was finely saved by Storer, and a certain goal from Orr was stopped by Goldie accidentally handling. Orr through fruitlessly from the free kick, but a similar incident happened just after, and a desperate struggle ensued. The goalmouth, however, was crowded with players, and the ball could not be forced through.
A brace of corners followed to North End, and for five minutes scenes as lively as one would see in a day’s march ensued in the vicinity of Storer. The result was nil, and then Liverpool broke away with a scattered defence to meet, and looked like scoring, but offside against Becton eventually stopped them. North End again got the ball into the net from a free kick, but again without counting.
Then occurred an accident to T. Smith which might have laid the forward out, for the Liverpool man got his foot high up to a ball and, missing it, kicked Smith on the back of the head. Fortunately, the injury was not serious, and play quickly resumed.
As the end approached the Liverpudlians appeared to pull themselves together for the purpose of bringing off a coup. The North End defence did not show up any too well in the face of these onslaughts, but always managed to chip in at the finish. Allan, a strapping centre forward of the cart horse order, had a couple of beautiful chances, and as beautiful missed each, whereat Ross wrong his hands with every indication of supreme anguish.
The North End would hardly have escaped as lightly had the visitors’ captain been the executant. Time was almost up when the homesters came away in a body, and Pierce taking the ball prettily round Holmes banged it off to the left, where Henderson returned. The ball appeared to be played here by a Liverpool man, and Tom Smith, when it came to him, did not hesitate to weight the matter up, but drove it hard into the net, and despite the vigorous appeal of the Anfield-road men the referee promptly awarded the goal.
Result – North End 3, Liverpool 2.
(Lancashire Evening Post: February 8, 1896)