September 27, 1897
Never in the history of local football has the Anfield enclosure presented such a magnificent appearance as was the case on Saturday, when the two premier teams of the city met to decide the first of this year’s League engagements. The resources of the management committee were taxed to their utmost to accommodate the tremendous crowd, and though the allotted space around the playing area served for a time its purpose of restraining the surging multitude, which momentarily increased at a tremendous rate, the barriers, altogether too frail for their purpose, were eventually brushed aside in two separate instances as if they had been tissue paper.
It was a well-mannered, good tempered crowd, however, and, with the assistance of a strong posse of police order was quickly restored, the invaders being allowed to squat along the touchline, and the game continued without further interruption.
The arrangements for admittance were similar to those in force a fortnight ago, when North End were down, and from each entrance a long straggling queue of anxious would-be spectators extended, in many cases the furthest extremity being buried in some side streets, where the commendable qualities with which patience is credited were being forcibly exemplified. This is a capital idea on the part of the Liverpool executive, and, as plan works smoothly, will probably become an institution.
Long before the hour appointed for the commencement of hostilities the best sites for witnessing the struggle had been occupied, and as every available space was quickly utilised by after arrivals the scene became more impressive, until, when the teams opposed each other on the splendid turf, surrounded by a mighty sea of faces, with a glorious sunshine enveloping the whole, the climax was reached.
The bands of the Seaman’s Orphanage and the Liverpool Victoria did their best to while away the monotonous period of waiting prior to the commencement of the match, but other individuals who patronised the new stand were greatly tempted by the smooth iron supports to mount to higher point of vantage, and their struggle to attain what might be termed a bird’s eye view of the game furnished tremendous amusement to the crowd, roars of applause greeting the success of the fortunate ones. Even the roof did not escape the attentions of an intrepid half dozen, though the method of their ascent was enveloped a mystery.
When the teams bounded into the enclosure, at ten minutes to four, loud cheers from their respective partisans burst forth, and it was evident from the appearance of the men that they were in splendid condition, and fully prepared for the coming combat. Unlike the majority of the game played between the rivals, the one under notice was a capital exhibition, and vastly superior in every respect to its predecessors.
It was a fast, open display of exciting football, and the most pleasing feature was the absence of intentional roughness, in fact, with, one exception, nothing transpired which might have caused the most captions to avail and the contest served to demonstrate in a forcible manner that both teams had determined to play the games. For this spirit the players on both side deserve commendation, and a continuation of similar methods in future games will be gradually anticipating.
To most followers of the game the result would come as a mild surprise. Previous games have in the majority of cases been very close struggles, with little or no margin favouring either side, and although the result of 3 goals to 1 in favour of Liverpool is more pronounced than the balance of play warranted, still the winners were the superior team, and fully deserved their success.
There was more method in the Liverpool ranks, more determination, and their attacks were of a more incisive nature than those of their opponents. Although Everton had the advantage in the first half, as far as actual play was concerned, they were not so dangerous when in the vicinity of the goalposts as their opponents, and when this is taken in conjunction with the grand defence of the home backs, their failure becomes more apparent.
Harry Storer was in his happiest mood, and proved an almost impenetrable barrier, even when the other backs had been beaten. That Everton gave a display much below their reputation goes without saying, even after taking in consideration the brilliant work of the Liverpool halves and backs. Their forward were disjointed, and the bulk of the work devolved on the right wing, which forms a most striking contrast to the other portion of the front rank.
Jack Taylor was the best forward on the field, he and John Cameron giving Thomas Cleghorn many a rare tussle, and though the Liverpudlian stuck gamely to his tack, as he invariably does, the initiate cleverness of the Everton pair repeatedly asserted itself, and the deft touches in passing, combined with the dash and accuracy infused into their methods, made the most successful combination witnessed, throughout the contest.
On the other side the left wing pair were practically useless, and their performance might with advantage be passed over without comment. In the centre great weakness was apparent, both in shooting and in controlling the players on either side, and as a body the quintet must be ranked as inferior to their opponents’ front line.
The most distinguishing feature of the Liverpool display was the excellent work of the backs. The halve were always on the ball, and they initiated a stubborn defence, which was backed up by equally clever work from Archie Goldie and Tom Wilkie to be finally clenched by a grand performance on the part of Storer, the whole forming one of the finest defensive display given by the Liverpudlians for many a day.
To individualize in this part of the team, where all did so well would be superfluous for better defence could scarcely be wished for. The Liverpool forwards created a good impression by reason of their determined raids on Rab Macfarlane’s charge, and they were far more dangerous when in possession of the ball than their opponents with a better idea of effecting a coup.
Though by no means a completely satisfactory display, it was a vast improvement upon anything accomplished in this season’s earlier League game, and the advance made by Daniel Cunliffe is one of the most pleasing features. More steadiness when well placed in his opponents’ quarter would effect a still greater change, occasions of this nature occurring during the second half, where a splendid opportunity was literally thrown away.
The left wing was well represented by Harry Bradshaw, who put in a tremendous amount of work, and Frank Becton also did well, several little episodes with Johnny Holt being extremely clever, though in this respect the pair were well matched.
On the right wing less effectiveness was apparent, but despite much rashness in disposing of the ball the pair did good work, particularly in the closing stages.
The Everton defence was uncertain, the halves being decidedly off colour, with the exception of John Tait Robertson. Holt was not at his best, though he got through a great deal of work, but as a body, the line failed to give satisfaction. Further behind George Barker gave a steady display, and Peter Meehan was occasionally brilliant. At other times he indulged in methods far from reassuring as to the solidity of his side’s defence, and that cool finessing with the ball received a rude shock on more than one occasion, a proceeding which, left the defence unprotected.
Macfarlane kept goal very well, and could scarcely be blamed for failing to clear any of the shots, which took effect. Altogether, it was a very enjoyable game, and as it was Liverpool’s first success the victory was doubly welcome to the Anfield supporters.
That they deserved to win no one could deny. It was no fluky victory, but a thoroughly well-earned triumph, and should inspire the team, with that confidence which was becoming greatly needed. No more fitting conclusion could be arrived at, in these contests, than the one in question, where the better team won.
(Liverpool Mercury: September 27, 1897)
Harry Storer, Liverpool (Lloyd’s Weekly News: December 1, 1895):