September 13, 1897
Glorious weather favoured the initial home League match at Anfield, and the visit of the once famous North End team proved a most attractive draw. The appearance of the ground prior to the start must have been most encouraging to the Liverpool executive, for at this period there were nearly 20,000 persons present, and the numbers were rapidly increasing.
The new stand at the Anfield-road end is a decided improvement, and whilst affording shelter for the masses who weekly congregate in this part of the enclosure, harmonises splendidly with the long stand, which it resembles greatly in build, and at the same time appears to give the ground a more compact and comfortable appearance.
The turf was in excellent condition, in fact everything connected with the ground appeared in an almost perfect state, and when the officials can turn their attention to that part of the stand designated the press box they will doubtless reach the same climax of excellence. The arrangement for preventing a rush at the turnstiles are also most commendable, and with such a series of favourable adjuncts it was very disappointing to be treated to such a game as was witnessed between the two competing clubs, from whom much better things were anticipated.
The proceedings were curiously tantalising. There was always a presentiment that Liverpool was the better team, but their play resembled the formation of a bubble, for, after a spell of clever midfield work had raised the hopes of the spectators to some substantial result at the finish, the movement collapsed when approaching Jimmy Trainer, and the substance vanished into thin air.
Weakness in front of goal cost Liverpool a valuable point, for the shooting was simply execrable. There were few shots sent in during the afternoon from the home forwards which were worthy of mention, two from Harry Bradshaw, which tested Trainer to the utmost, and one from Robert Marshall, which skimmed the horizontal, being the chief. Apart from these, Trainer’s position was a sinecure, and considering that the preponderance of play was in favour of the home team, the weakness in their scoring ability may be easily imagined.
Repeatedly was the ball worked down to dangerous quarters, only to find a miserably feeble shot sent in, which in the majority of cases prevented Trainer from reaching them, by reason of their being so wide of the mark.
On the form shown in this match, Patrick Finnerhan, in the centre, was undoubtedly the weak spot. He appeared simply unable to do anything right, and his display was so feeble that the only conclusion to be arrived at is that it was too bad to be taken as representative of his capabilities.
On the preceeding Monday, against New Brighton, he accomplished some excellent work, and doubtless another League match will find his play more in accordance with that which has earned his reputation. As a consequence the forward play was very disjointed, and the only decent work shown was accomplished by Harry Bradshaw. Tom Pratt was unable to keep the outside man in check, but after a dashing run and centre there was usually no forward ready to receive the ball, and the Preston backs monopolised the bulk of these passes.
Frank Becton worked fitfully, clever play alternating with weak, and in front of goal he was completely off colour. The right wing did nothing which would enhance their reputation, and instead of getting along with the ball were oftener in the way of each other.
It was a most disappointing forward show, and there will have to be a considerable amount of polishing done ere the front rank reaches the outermost limit of satisfaction.
At half-back Thomas Cleghorn was the shining light, and worked all through the game with commendable energy and precision. Whether assisting the defence or feeding his forwards, all was accomplished skilfully, and there was no better back on the field. Joe McQue put in a tremendous amount of work, as did also John McCartney, and whole line performed satisfactorily.
Little fault could be found with the backs, their defence being very sturdy, but why a penalty kick was not awarded Preston for a foul by Tom Wilkie in the last minute will ever remain a mystery. It appeared to the ordinary observer to be a clear case. Harry Storer had not a great deal of work to do, though more fell to his lot than to that of his vis-à-vis, Trainer, but that persistency in running out will probably receive a rude shock some day. It cost a goal at Stoke, and is a practice which deserves no commendation.
The veteran custodian of the visitors was rarely tested, but a shot from Bradshaw brought forth all his cleverness, a grand save resulting. Pity ‘this he had not more to do. The North End style has greatly deteriorated, and the long kick and rush style was the method adopted on Saturday.
Their forwards were always on the look-out for a huge return, and they certainly displayed a great deal of energy. They were badly balanced, and if, as was stated, their display at Anfield was ahead of their performances against the Wolves and Sheffield United, no wonder these two organisations captured a couple of points.
When they did break away they were more dangerous than the home players, but they also were weak near goal. The halves were only moderate, Pratt being of little use, and his methods are certainly neither skilful nor effective. George Drummond did fairly well, but Moses Sanders was the best of this trio, though in the whole line energy preponderated over ability.
Hugh Dunn and Bob Holmes made a grand pair of backs, their kicking being very powerful, but they were not pressed to ant great extent, and were generally allowed plenty of time to clear.
Liverpool thus for the second successive week were only able to make a draw in their League fixture, but there was this difference, that whereas last week they deserved to win, on this occasion they were lucky to escape defeat.
It was a most unsatisfactory commencement, and such an assemblage certainly merited a much superior contest.
The Combination team just managed to secure a win at Deepdale. Play on both sides was of a high character, and by the aid of Andy McCowie, who scored the only goal of the match, the visitors secured a couple of points. The Liverpool team should require a lot of beating this season, for there are some capable players in the eleven.
(Liverpool Mercury: September 13, 1897)
Harry Storer, Liverpool (Lloyd’s Weekly News: December 1, 1895):