September 2, 1896
That Liverpool have still a following of their own was exemplified by the enthusiastic crowd that assembled at the Central Station to wish them success in their invasion of “smoky” Sheffield. In strong contrast to the cloudless sky which heralded the departure of the team, the reception at Sheffield was striking in the extreme.
As the time for the kick-off approached, the rain, if anything, came-down with renewed force, and in consequence when the players lived up it was not surprising to find that only about 1,000 weather defying enthusiasts had assembled.
Liverpool relied upon the team that carried them so successfully through the test games last season, a not revise policy considering the comparatively unknown quality of the new men, whilst Sheffield were, with one solitary exception, represented by the men who carried them safely through their last season’s Cup-tie struggles.
Prompt to time the following players were drawn up in readiness to initiate the 1896-97 season, that is, of course, so far as Sheffielders were concerned.
The Wednesday: Jimmy Massey, Jack Earp (captain), Ambrose Langley, Bill Regan, Tommy Crawshaw, Bob Petrie, Archie Brash, Arthur Brady, Laurie Bell, Harry Davis, Fred Spiksley.
Liverpool: Harry Storer, Archie Goldie, Tom Wilkie, John McCartney, Joe McQue (captain), Thomas Cleghorn, Malcolm McVean, Jimmy Ross, George Allan, Frank Becton, Harry Bradshaw.
Referee: Mr. J.N. Mawson (Lincoln).
Bell set the leather rolling, to the tune of “Play up, Sheffield,” and after he had looked up Storer, the Liverpool forwards, resplendent in their new red shirts, made tracks for Massey, the hardy Sheffielder having all his work cut out to dispose of Ross’s parting shot.
Brash raised the enthusiasm of the “crowd” by tricking Cleghorn cleverly, but his centre was poorly directed, and the Liverpool defenders breathed freely in consequence.
Bradshaw worked the leather beautifully along the left, the “robust” attention of Earp resulting in the referee awarding a free kick to the Liverpudlian. Massey and his supporters, however, were in no trifling humour, and before the spectators had time to take their bearings Storer’s charge was the centre of hostilities. Bell looked all over a scorer, but Storer was evidently not of this way of thinking, and tipped the ball over the bar in brilliant style.
Both sets of forwards were putting in sterling work, despite the sudden state of the ball, but the respective defence were not to be trifled with, scoring thus being at a discount.
A free kick against Wednesday, about 40 yards out, spelt “danger,” and McCartney placing in grand style, Allan had no difficulty in chalking up Liverpool’s initial point with a clever “header.”
Brash retaliated in brilliant style, his finishing touch, unfortunately for the Sheffielders, being a trifle wide. There was no denying the earnestness of the Cup-holders, and despite the plucky efforts of the opposing defenders Davis round a branch in their armour, the success being hailed by the crowd, which had now increased to about 3,000, in unmistakable fashion.
Petrie, in a scuffle, was laid hors de combat for a few minutes, but was soon enabled to resume.
Pretty work by McVean, Ross, and Allan culminated in Massey being supplied with a handful, but he was “at home” to all-comers, and repelled in decisive style.
The Sheffield vanguard displayed a disposition to renew Storer’s acquaintance, and the Liverpool keeper showed himself nothing loth by the brilliant manner in which he the veto on the best-meant efforts of Brash and Bell.
After Earp had put through a free kick untouched, Liverpool placed Massey and his back under bombardment, and brilliant work at length met its just rewards, Allan giving his team the lead with a regular daisy-cutter.
Nothing more of moment occurring prior to the turn round with a well-earned 2 goals to 1 lead.
The light was exceedingly bad when Allan restarted the leather on its journey, but this apparently did not disconcert the players in the least, judging from the way they set about their work. Allan was early in evidence, the manner in which he tricked Langley and then shaved the bar with a streaked-lightening effort bringing forth applause.
The Liverpool forwards were a long way ahead of their opponents, their beautifully-time passing causing the Sheffielders no end of trouble. Ross especially was putting in telling work, Massey being hard set in disposing of one of the old North Ender’s expresses.
Encouraged by the frantic shrieks of their doting admirers, the cutlery men strained every nerve to gain the equalising point, but the old Second League champions stuck to their guns, and kept the invaders safely in check.
Bell, after striking the bar, made a gallant but abortive effort to put his team on equal terms, the ball missing its intended billet by inches only, much to the disgust of the excited crowd.
Gradually the aggressive Wednesday men were forced back to more congenial quarters, Earp being compelled to concede a fruitless corner, in order to relieve the pressure on his goal. Brash and Brady at length broke off in a pretty concerted run, but the latter, when nicely placed, finished wretchedly.
Goldie, who all along had been playing a powerful game, covered himself with glory by the manner in which he brought up Spiksley when the “flier” looked all over a scorer.
Becton, Bradshaw, and Allan next treated the spectators to an object lesson on “How to play the passing game,” a timely save by Langley alone preventing further disaster to the Sheffield colours.
Spiksley made a desperate attempt to gain the eagerly-looked-forward-to goal, a miraculous save by Storer alone preventing him from achieving his purpose.
The Liverpool forwards, as if with the intention of following Spiksley’s example, took up their old quarters in front of Massey, and how one shot of Allan missed its billet passes comprehension, the ball, which seemed to be rolling through, curling round outside of the post in a most mysterious manner.
Storer was deservedly applauded for the brilliant manner in which he nullified a scorcher from Bell, a number of the spectators shouting “goal,” so confident were they that the Liverpool custodian had been given his quietus.
To the finish play continued fast and exciting, but no more damage was done, the final tootling of the referential whistle finding Liverpool victorious by two goals to one.
That the Liverpool team deserved their victory the most bigoted partisan of the Cup-holders could not honestly deny. They entered the field confident of victory, and that their confidence was not misplaced was amply proved by the result.
There was not a weak spot in the team, and it only requires a maintenance of the form displayed to bring the League championship to the “Village” on the Mersey.
The forwards especially put in some sterling work, Allan and Ross perhaps being the pick of the basket. Behind one and all did well, a special word of praise being due to Storer and Goldie.
The Sheffielders, although beaten, played throughout like genuine triers. Brash gave a brilliant exposition forward, and found Storer as much work to do as his four comrades put together, but at the same time it must not be inferred that Brady, Bell, and Co. were below concert pitch. Far from it. They one and all played a strong game, but nevertheless paled before the brilliance of Brash.
The new man Regan gave a taking display, but Crawshaw was hardly up to his best form.
(Liverpool Mercury: September 2, 1896)