April 6, 1896
Liverpool, by again securing the Second Division Championship, have created another record, and covered themselves with well-earned honour and fame, and are, indeed, worthy of the title of football “record breakers.” In the brief, but brilliantly meteoric existence the club has seen, their performance have been of the most startling order, and the outcome of real merit; and if the fates this year prove unpropitious towards the Anfield club in their endeavours to regain a position in first-class football, their directors may yet claim another record in being persistently followed by the vilest luck, such as never dogged the efforts of any other football club before.
A Manchester contemporary, in criticising the match, says – “Liverpool are a fine team, and will assuredly win both home test matches, and possibly those away.” The same paper also remarks that the Liverpool team are certainly worthy of a place in the First League.
Of the game on Good Friday at Manchester, the contest can be summed up in being likened to a fiercely fought out English cup-tie, in which the latent energies of both sides are called forth into prominent action, at the expense of the finer and more correct points of the play. On the day’s play Liverpool, even with their weakened forces, were slightly the better, and certainly the more finished team of the two, and they would have indeed been most unfortunate had they not scored.
In the first half the Anfield brigade had fully two-thirds of the play; but by making use of a style of play quite unsuited to the ground, were hardly ever allowed to get within shooting distance when dangerous. In the latter half matters fluctuated very singularly. Liverpool opened stronger than they had been at any portion of the game, and then fell away; while, in great contrast to the weak wing half-back and forward play of the visitors, the home eleven from front to rear vastly improved, and for a about a quarter of an hour were thorough masters of the piece. Then the “Dicky Sams” woke up to the fact that they were still in the rear of their opponents, and with a grand burst by Frank Becton and Harry Bradshaw, the latter tipped to George Allan, who with a superb attempt dashed through the opposing backs and equalised with a scorchingly hot grounder, which Williams made a gallant effort to save, but was not quick enough with the movement.
The small ground, both in length and width, considerably hampered the visiting exponents, who could not get properly under way, do what they would, so long as they adhered to their ordinary style of forward play. Allan in the second half opened the game out continually, and the result was a signal success, and was the primary means of bringing about the goal. As can be easily understood, fouls were as trains on a bank holiday, yet were quite excusable under the circumstances, with such a momentous issue at stake.
The composition of the Liverpool team, although supposed to be at its greatest strength with the exception of Jimmy Ross, was not so evenly balanced as was expected. The associations between that important line of connecting links – the half-backs – and the other departments was a broken contract compared to the thorough and united work of the old midway division, and if the display against the City is to be taken as a criterion, then there is no doubt that the old line of half-backs would possess a better understanding, and consequently be of more service than that of the match in question.
Harry Storer gave about his best exhibition, and was decidedly clever and cool in the execution of his part. Both Archie Goldie and Tom Wilkie were safe under ordinary circumstances, but the lack of knowledge of what the intentions were of the half-backs in front of them often landed them in trouble. Both appeared to trust too much to their speed, and by reason of the tremendous lunges of the City men, each of the Liverpool backs had frequently to turn round and give chase after the ball, with one or two City players in immediate attendance, a position not always synonymous with safety.
Joe McQue was easily the best half, as both Thomas Cleghorn and Barney Battles, good men as they are, were not in perfect touch with the remainder of the team, and often a contretemps came about when least expected, from omissions or commissions by these two. Battles was also a defaulter in another respect, and in vivid recollection of what Liverpool have suffered in this particular manner, a word of warning will not be out of place.
Due, partly to Jimmy Ross’s absence, who without question is the key to Liverpool’s splendid forward play, and the partial support of the half-backs, the advance guard was not up to its usual pitch. Although it can be truthfully stated that Allan and Becton if ever played so well for their present club. Becton gave a great and finished display, and was head and shoulders above any except Allan. The latter, by the bale manner he worked the equalising goal, has fully established himself a class centre-forward, whose rising fame it is hoped will not cause him to be possessed of a spirit of self-admiration when his improvement is being so marked so decided.
The style of play affected by the City in the first half, and, in fact, all though the game except for the quarter of an hour when they had command of play, is totally distinct from that of Liverpool, but nevertheless, is at times, and against certain teams, a paying game. Swinging passes from wing to wing, together with long forward punts, assisted by quick following up, are the chief features. Charlie Williams and the two backs were excellent in the pursuit of their calling, but the halves showed a proneness to tripping when beaten, James McBride excepted. The forwards were best represented by Robert Hill (centre), Patrick Finnerhan, and Billy Meredith.
(Source: Liverpool Mercury: April 6, 1896)