Liverpool v Small Heath

April 21, 1896
Liverpool v Small Heath.
The return encounter between these clubs took place at Coventry Road, Birmingham, last evening, before 5,000 spectators. Liverpool were represented by the same team as played on Saturday, but the home club made two alterations, Hallam taking Frank Mobley’s place, and Walton figuring at right half instead of Tot Farnall. The full teams were:

Liverpool: Harry Storer, Archie Goldie, Barney Battles, John McCartney, Joe McQue, Thomas Cleghorn, Malcolm McVean, Jimmy Ross, George Allan, Frank Becton, Harry Bradshaw.
Small Heath: William Meates, Frank Lester, Sid Oliver, Billy Walton, Alex Leake, Adam Fraser, Jack Hallam, William Robertson, John Jones, Fred Wheldon, Tommy Hands.
Mr. Roulston Boarke, London, was referee.

Liverpool kicked off, and after the preliminary exchanges Jones handled in midfield, Battles sending the ball from the free-kick well into the Heathen’s goal mouth without result. Fraser next became prominent with a successful tackle against McVean, and in trying to reach the ball McVean was kicked by an opponent, which brought about a stoppage for a few moments.

Hands once more against the home team brought nothing of a tangible nature, while a similar penalty to the Birmingham side made matters very warm for the Liverpool defence. Storer having to handle after Leake had sent past the post from a bully. Up to this stage the play had been most ragged and uninteresting, but as the outcome of a nasty charge against McQue the play livened up a little on both sides. Fouls were frequent, and each side was content to indulge in heavy kicking.

At length Allan, McVean and Ross worked up a series of passes, with the result that Becton skimmed the bar with a fast long-range shot. After Liverpool had again assaulted the Heathens goal Cleghorn, from a long forward pass by Hands, was unfortunate enough to give a corner, which, however, proved useless. Fast play by Jones led up to an awkward-looking raid upon Battles’ side, but Ross ultimately sent the leather up the field with a huge punt.

Tricky play by Wheldon was an interesting item, but it came to nought. So far the Heathens were the most combined team of the two, and Wheldon made a capital attempt with his head from a cross by Hallam. In reply, Bradshaw and Allan took the play to the other end, where several exciting passages occurred, a corner taken by McVean looking very ominous for Meates’ charge. Offside spoiled an opening for Hands, after which Liverpool secured a couple of futile corners, Cleghorn also sending over the bar.

Although having slightly the best of the game, the Liverpool forwards and half-backs could not strike a right chord, and their efforts were as disjointed as possible. Well supported by their half-backs, the home right wing were put in possession, and keeping possession till the right moment, crossed to Wheldon, whose final touch caused Storer to fist out sharply. Relief was only given to the Liverpudlians by a foul against Fraser, whose general play had not been of a gentle character.

A very bad mistake by Battles jeopardised the Liverpool goal to some extent, as Hallam, centring in the most accurate fashion, placed Wheldon in fine position, but Storer nipped in just in time and cleared grandly. By overdoing the midfield play, especially on the narrow Small Heath ground, Liverpool lost several chances which had been cleverly worked up. As the outcome of really magnificent saving by Cleghorn, Ross dashed away, bit was overhauled by Lester, who kicked the leather over the stand.

Another opportunity was given to the Liverpool forwards, but Ross was robbed when in the act of shooting, and after a temporary raid by Wheldon and Jones, Hands put an end to the affair by sending over the line. Battles then let in the home left by poor kicking, and matters looked very dangerous when Goldie slipped in, tackling Wheldon, and that player was left with a clear field, but danger was averted by McQue, and half-time arrived with neither side having scored.

On resuming the Liverpool left wing were the first to show up, Becton and Bradshaw being especially good, but determined tackling by Lester removed the danger; and then in a trice the play was being carried on at the other end, but offside by Hallam ruined a favourable opening for Jones. Heavy kicking was the characteristic feature for some time, and then a fierce bully came about from a corner off Battles, but the pressure was eased by a foul against the Heathens.

The Liverpudlians then wakened up, and their forwards worked up the field finely, Bradshaw almost defeating the goalkeeper, who had left his charge, with a lofty shot, but Oliver saved the goal as the ball was going into the net. Two corners in quick succession fell to Liverpool’s share, as also did a foul close in, all of which brought no result. From the goal-kick the Heathens, by long passing, rushed to the Liverpool end, being also assisted by a free-kick, but their efforts were made futile by McQue and Cleghorn, and Liverpool once more carried the play into the home quarters, only to find themselves met with an unrelenting defence.

Both sides kept up the contest with a ding-dong spirit, the visitors just having the best of the game, but they were ragged and unfinished in their final attempts, and a goal seemed as far off as ever. Both sets of backs were very firm and vigorous and allowed their opponents no liberties. Towards the closing stages the home team came out strongly, and Storer, Goldie, and Battles were hard pressed, but this trio survived the ordeal, and a spell was taken at the other end, Bradshaw and Becton doing good work.

Another foul close in to the goal for Liverpool was poorly placed by McCartney, and a glorious chance was allowed to slip, while directly afterwards Bradshaw struck the crossbar from a corner. Oliver, heading over to save a long pass by Hallam, placed a different complexion on the game, Hallam sending into Storer’s hands. The end came, however, without any damage being done by either side, and a rather poor game ended in a pointless draw.

The Liverpool team were best represented by their half-back division, the forwards never combining as they can do, while Battles was shaky at intervals.
(Source: Liverpool Mercury: April 21, 1896)

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