February 1, 1897
Liverpool were almost universally acknowledged to have an easy task on hand in the first round of the English Cup Competition, for, in addition to the advantage accruing from choice of ground, their opponents were Burton Swifts, a club occupying a lowly position in the second division of the League. These two considerations were admittedly sufficient to justify the assumption that the representatives of the brewery town possessed little or no chance of entering the second stage of the competition, but these anticipations were rudely dispelled by the bold front presented by the visitors, who at one period of the game not only held the lead, as far as actual scoring was concerned, but even showed more effective and dangerous tactics than the Liverpudlians.
The ground was in a wretched state, pools of slush and muddy turf intermingling in place with ice covered fragments, which effectually prevented a scientific exhibition, and which served to place even a moderate team on equality with their acknowledged superiors. With skilful movements thus placed at a discount, it was simply a question of adaptation of play to suit the occasion, and in this respect the visitors must certainly be awarded considerable praise. They got over the ground in capital style, and fastened on the ball with commendable eagerness, though when the finer touches of play were witnessed these were usually the efforts of the home players.
In the first half, Liverpool did not appear to exert themselves unduly, and evidently thought victory only a question of time, for, though they were the first to score, the Swifts had shown up to this point better football. The visitors commenced in dashing style, their first movement being only just checked in time by Goldie, and, casting to the wind all ideas of fancy play, they swung the ball well across from wing to wing, and made tracks for Donnelly’s charge in no half-hearted fashion. They seemed to possess the knack of being in the proper place at the proper time, but, unfortunately for the ultimate success of these exertions, they had to oppose a sturdy defence, which eventually wore down all attacks. When Liverpool had scored the visitors were by no means disheartened, and, infusing plenty of energy in their movements, they were rewarded by an equaliser, and the same operation being repeated later in the first half the teams were on a level footing at the interval.
The question now was could the visitors stay the pace? For the game had been fought with great spirit by them, and, by way of an answer, they obtained the lead by a clever piece of play on the part of Jim McKenzie and Jack Evans; and one thing became certain, that if Liverpool intended winning they would have to throw a greater amount of energy into their attacks; whilst the Swifts, emboldened by success, continued to give as much as they received. When Cleghorn again placed the teams on an equality with a magnificent shot from near the touch line, a feeling of relief exhibited itself in divers-way in the breasts of the home supporters, and Liverpool were now seen to greater advantage than at any previous portion of the game. They kept the visitors confined in their own half, and just on the call of time Ross made a grand effort, which resulted in the winning goal. Liverpool received an unmistakable fright, which must be attributed to the easy manner in which they held their opponents in the first half and part of the second moiety, and the dangers resulting from this conduct were once more exemplified to a marked degree. It will be seen that, with the exception of the closing stages of the game, the visitors fully held their own, and it was a mild sort of revelation to see them keep the pace and hold their formidable antagonists so completely at bay. The display of the home team was certainly disappointing, and beyond the fact that they won there is little credit to be drawn from the game. The state of the ground was against them, but both sides had to contend with this difficulty, and they failed to keep their feet as well as the Burton players. To criticise individually would be superfluous under the circumstances, beyond mentioning the fact that the goals scored by Cleghorn, Ross, and Allan were the outcome of splendid shots, the first mentioned being particularly fine, whilst the one obtained by Ross illustrated all the skipper’s well-known dangerous tactics when opportunity arises. The Swifts are to be complimented on the form they showed.
Liverpool thus enter the second round, and judging from the results of the other ties there is no likelihood of their being draw against opponents they can underrate. The practice is much to be deprecated, and the lesson may prove a wholesome one.
(Liverpool Mercury: February 1, 1897)