September 6, 1897
Liverpool commenced their League programme in a satisfactory fashion, and the result of their visit to Stoke is a gain of one point compared with last season’s game with the Potters. They were decidedly unfortunate in not capturing a couple of points, and, taking the game on the whole, Liverpool held the advantage, and fully deserved to win.
The ground was soft, and had suffered heavily from the previous pluvial downpours, this being especially noticeable between the goalposts, where the custodians must have found it a very difficult matter to wade through the mud with alacrity.
Winning the toss gave Stoke a double advantage, for they had both the slope and the wind in their favour, and in this half the home team were seen to great advantage, their lead of two goals being well deserved, though their second goal was obtained through bad judgment on the part of Liverpool defence.
On crossing over Liverpool more than made up the leeway, and it was only at rare intervals that Stoke had a look in. In the previous half the Liverpool team had shown very ragged form, the forwards being disjointed and the backs very shaky, and not often was there an even combined movement which appeared likely to cause the home defence any anxiety. But there was a wonderful and agreeable change in the second moiety, and a glimpse of what the team is really capable of doing was witnessed.
The forwards, especially the two wings, went along in capital style, and a goal from each side was very soon chalked to the account of the Liverpudlians. A free kick, accurately placed by Billy Dunlop, was assisted into the net by Frank Becton, whilst a pretty piece of work, started by Daniel Cunliffe, gave Robert Marshall and William Walker a chance, and the right wing pair slipping past the backs, enabled the latter to whip in a beautiful shot, which gave Freddie Johnston no possible chance of stopping.
After this several brilliant bursts by Harry Bradshaw tested the home custodian’s abilities to the full, and Stoke were decidedly fortunate in averting defeat. The form shown by the Liverpudlians was satisfactory, and the team is one which will improve as the season progresses.
They were going stronger during the later stages of the game on Saturday than in the earlier periods, and when once fully conversant with each other’s tactics in the front rank the team should meet with at least as much success as last year.
At first the movements of the front rank were very uneven, and there seemed to be no method in their attacks. There were many capital invidual efforts, but there was no irresistible swoop of the whole quintet, which characterises the work of a forward rank when acting in complete harmony. However, improvement of a decided nature followed, with the result already mentioned.
Both wings were clever, the left particularly effective, Frank Becton and Harry Bradshaw have a fine display, the latter repeatedly leaving Tom J. Robertson, the home back, simply standing. His centres were excellent, and Johnston had a difficult task to prevent disaster from nearly every shot. Becton fed him most judiciously, and this wing was the cleverest part of the attack.
The right pair gave every promise of being a source of strength in this respect, their combination being very good, whilst they know how to swing the ball across from the wing with unfailing accuracy. It was a pretty movement which Walker ended with a brilliant shot – the equalising goal – and this pair should cause trouble to opposing defenders. They were opposed by the strongest part of the Stoke defence – a fact which deserves consideration.
Daniel Cunliffe had a by no means easy task to keep these wing working in unison. He is a rare trier, and is possessed of any amount of dash, but unless the outside men can be brought more under the influence of this central pivot the greater part of their work will be abortive. With further experience this ability will doubtless follow, and, if so, the Liverpool front rank should do well.
The defence was not up to the standard that one anticipated. Especially was this the case at full back, where both men, particularly in the earlier parts of the games, were weak. Billy Dunlop failed to clear with his usual degree of accuracy, and Archie Goldie, though he improved later, started in a very shaky fashion.
The halves were good, Joe McQue getting through a tremendous amount of work, and was rarely beaten. The whole line was serviceable without being particularly brilliant, and proved quite good enough for the Stoke forwards.Harry Storer kept goal very well, but made on mistake, which cost his side dear, otherwise no fault could be found with his display, and he made several fine clearances.
On the home side, the men perceptibly tired towards the finish, and an extra spurt by the visitors would have probably altered the result. Joe Schofield and Willie Maxwell were afforded little opportunity of exercising their well-known abilities, and their final efforts were so hampered that they were rarely dangerous.
Harry Pugh displayed excellent form, and was the pick of the front line, his corner kicks being remarkable accurate. Joe Murphy was the best of the halves, Jimmy Grewer spoiling his play by indulging in too much rough work. Jack Eccles played a fine game at full back, and had no superior in this position on the field, but Robertson, whilst kicking well, was very slow. Johnston kept goal well, and could not be blamed for either of the shots which scored.
It was a fairly interesting game, though it savoured greatly of the commencement of the season, and though devoid of any brilliant performance was nevertheless, of average merit. Liverpool have the satisfaction of knowing that a heavy defeat last season has been turned into a draw, and this success in capturing a point in an away fixture should give them considerable encouragement for future victories.
The Combination team was also successful over Darwen by 10 goals to 1, and the amateur eleven at Anfield was also victorious, the Liverpudlians being thus unbeaten all along the line.
(Source: Liverpool Mercury: September 6, 1897)
Harry Storer, Liverpool (Lloyd’s Weekly News: December 1, 1895):