March 29, 1897
The visit of the present “wooden-spoonist” of the League to the Anfield enclosure was not a very appetising bill of fare in itself, but the presence in the visitors’ ranks of Jimmy Ross and Malcolm McVean, who, during the greater part of the season have formed the Liverpool right wing, tended to invest the contest with a greater degree of interest than it would otherwise have attained.
Then, the match was looked upon as certain to produce another couple of points to the credit of the home club, this also causing a diminution of excitement usually attendant in League games, though it must be admitted that this latter supposition received a rather unexpected shock. Not since September 7 have the Liverpudlians suffered a reverse on their own enclosure, and then the lowest club in the League accomplished what has been denied to many superior organisations. What is more, the Turf Moorites fully deserved their victory, and the spectators were not slow to acknowledge the efforts of a team, fighting an uphill battle; whilst in the other direction, the puerile display of the home players engendered feelings of an entirely opposite nature.
The stubborn defence of the visitors proved vastly superior to the attack of their opponents, and wearing down the half-hearted movements of the Liverpudlians, the former had the home players well beaten at the finish. The strong wind, which blew from goal to goal, gave the team playing with it in their favour a great advantage, and even in this respect the visitors utilised their chances far better than the home players.
Despite the fine defence opposed to them, the home players had chances enough to have won the game over and over again, and it was really ludicrous to see the miserable attempts – if attempts they may be called – to score. Repeatedly was the ball sent across the goal-mouth by Harry Bradshaw, only to find the most brilliant centres either bungled or, as did happen in the majority of cases, missed altogether. On one occasion a fine shot from Frank Becton passed under the bar, and the referee, evidently deceived by the custodian’s agility, disallowed a grand goal, but apart from this there was nothing in the performance of the home players, with perhaps two exceptions, deserving of merit.
The Liverpool forwards were completely at sea, and rarely have they been seen at such a disadvantage. Bradshaw was a long way ahead of the others, but, as previously mentioned, he was badly supported. There appeared to be an antipathy to undue exertion in the front rank, and if they had been trying not to score they could not have more admirably succeeded.
At the commencement of the second half it seemed as if there would be an improvement in their play, and for some time a welcome change was witnessed, but they simply couldn’t score, and then deterioration set in, and the old order of things reverted to. Without particularising, it need only be mentioned that the majority of the forwards were extremely disappointing, and played a game altogether unworthy of their reputation.
The halves were best represented by Robert Neill, closely followed by Thomas Cleghorn, but even this department appeared to be afflicted with failings similar to those of the front rank. The backs and custodian were by no means at their best, though the latter had little to do, especially in the second half, and, taken altogether, the Liverpudlians played one of the most disappointing games of the season.
The winners’ defence was the best part of their team. Their forwards were but moderate, though Willie Ferguson showed capital form on the left wing, and Wilf Toman up to the time of receiving a heavy charge from Billy Dunlop, did very well. The halves played a sound game, Walter Place (senior) and Bob Brown being particularly effective, whilst the two full-backs were excellent, their kicking and tackling being as clean and effective as needs be desired. David Haddow kept goal grandly, and much of the credit of the victory is due to his fine custodianship, the manner in which he hooked out a grand shot from Becton being as clever as it proved successful.
Burnley are thus the only League team to take the full number of points from Liverpool this season, and from their position in the table they are deserving of credit for this performance, which Liverpool must look upon with mixed feelings.
(Source: Liverpool Mercury: March 29, 1897)