September 7, 1896
Liverpool signalised their readmission within the charmed circle of the First Leaguists by a brilliant victory over the Blades at Olive Grove. It was admired on all sides that in antagonizing the cup holders on their own territory the Anfield brigade had a particularly severe task on hand, as both clubs were relying practically, on combinations identical with those which performed so creditably last season.
There were sanguine supporters of the Liverpudlians who even anticipated victory – predictions which were amply justified by the subsequent course of events. The margin of one goal in favour of the local team was but a numerical reflex of the nature of play.
The men played with a confidence which could only produce a favourable result, and both in the van and rear division the determination of the players was most marked. Harry Storer performed brilliantly between the uprights, and saved several shots which would have occasioned no surprise had they proved successful.
Tom Wilkie appeared to have completely recovered from his indisposition of last season, and John McCartney proved a veritable thorn in the sides of Archie Brash and Fred Spiksley. The Wednesday flyer was continually checkmated by the attentions of the Liverpool left half-back, whilst both Joe McQue and Thomas Cleghorn worked with untiring persistency, and repeatedly broke up the combination of the Blades’ forward quintet.
Tom Wilkie (in Portsmouth colours).
Jimmy Ross and George Allan performed prodigies in the front, and the winning goal from the foot of the latter almost carried away the scoring structures.
The home players started in dashing style, and for some time appeared masters of the situation, but Liverpool soon tumbled to their opponents’ methods, with the result already well known.
Inspired by this initial success the team journeyed to Blackburn with strong hopes of adding at least one point to their credit. Previous games between the pair had furnished stubborn contests, but it was evident that the Rovers would strenuously strive to atone somewhat for their defeat by the Albion earlier in the week.
Liverpool at the last moment had to change their forward rank. William Michael, who had shown promising ability in the practice games, substituting Harry Bradshaw, who was suffering from an old injury to his ear – a result of a kick received last season – whilst the Rovers’ team was considerable rearranged.
The game proved extremely tame and disappointing, much of this being due to the disjointed nature of the Liverpool attack. There was a lack of dash amongst the forwards, whose efforts were easily disposed of by the Rovers’ halves, and rarely were they allowed to become dangerous.
The left wing was very ineffective, Michael and Frank Becton combining but moderately, and at times almost falling over each other when making for goal. All round, there was a want of go-aheadness in their raids on the Rovers’ citadel, and when favourably situated there was little sting in the shooting, whilst hesitancy and finessing continually gave their opponents opportunity for dispossessing them of the ball.
Adam Ogilvie’s position was almost a sinecure, for he had scarcely a single decent shot to clear. At half, McCartney had a warm couple to contend with in John Campbell and John Wilkie, most of the danger originating from this wing, and the outside men was particularly aggressive.
Cleghorn and McQue worked untiringly and ubiquitously, whilst little fault could be found with either Archie Goldie Wilkie. Storer effected some extremely clever saves, one from which, after the first goal had been scored by the Rovers, was miraculously cleared, the shot coming from about a ten yards’ range. His display was occasionally marred by unnecessarily running out to clear, and how his charge escaped capture when, in kicking away, he landed the ball against the opposing swarming forwards was a stroke of luck.
Undoubtedly the better team won on the day’s play. Four goals were disallowed – three to the Rovers – and it was an aggravating slice of ill fortune for them to be deprived of the goal scored but a second after the whistle had blown for half-time. The goal disallowed to Liverpool was cleverly worked for, Malcolm McVean heading in from a centre by Michael, but offside was successfully, though unaccountably, claimed.
Tom Brandon and Geordie Anderson made a fine pair of backs, the former displaying his well-known powers to the greatest advantages, whilst the display of the latter, who had been removed from half, was equally clever.
Ted Killean and Geordie Dewar were the pick of the halves, and in the front rank the outside men, Campbell and Harry Chippendale, were particularly effective. They pounced on the ball with avidity, and when in possession danger to their opponents was meant, whilst their shots had far more sting in them than those of the Liverpudlians.
The score accurately represents the difference in the abilities of the teams on the day’s play, and the Rovers fully deserved their victory, though it is possible to imagine that Bradshaw’s presence in the forward would have materially altered the aspect of the game.
There were several individual bits of play which were decidedly creditable, but it was as a body that the team failed to realise expectations. They were extremely unfortunate in being deprived of the goal obtained by McVean, the effort which led up to this consummation being a really clever one, though it was evident that the decision was highly favourable to the crowd, coming as it did after the three goals disallowed to the Rovers.
Apart from this consideration, Liverpool never looked like winning, and but for Storer’s agility between the sticks the defeat would have been more pronounced.
The Bolton Wanderers, fresh from their drawn game at Sunderland, are due at Anfield-road this evening, and as they are always warm favourites in the district, the game will doubtless be well patronised. The start is accounted for 5.30.
(Liverpool Mercury: September 7, 1896)