November 1, 1897
Beautiful weather prevailed in Birmingham on Saturday, and fully 25,000 spectators put in an appearance at Villa Park to view this match. Twelve months ago the Liverpudlians ran the champions a neck-and-neck race, a pointless-draw being the result on that occasion, and special interest attached to Saturday’s game. The Villa placed their strongest available eleven on the field, Howard Spencer being still absent, but John Cowan re-appeared at outside-left forward vice Steve Smith. Liverpool were unfortunately unable to play their full strength, Archie Goldie, Joe McQue, and Frank Becton being all on the injured list, although capable substitutes filled the positions, the sea-siders having plenty of reserves to fall back upon. The strangers won the toss, and the home men started play.
Wheldon burst away beautifully, and tipped the ball adroitly to Cowan, who sent in a rasping shot, which Storer cleared in great style, amid important cheers from all parts of the ground. From a foul against B. Sharpe, the Mersey men had a likely chance, but eventually relief was brought to the local team through the instrumentality of Burton. The Liverpool halves fed the men in front of them to some purpose, McCartney, after some fine play setting the five forwards going. The game proceeded on brisk and even lines for a time until George was called upon to fist out from Cunliffe, the Liverpool centre. Crabtree was now conspicuous and Athersmith was dangerous for the first time in the contest. The Villa now swarmed round Storer, after, after Devey had had hard lines, Athersmith centred and Wheldon scored twenty-five minutes from the start. The home team were now going in great style, and the spectators seemed thoroughly disgusted when the referee twice pulled Athersmith up for offside just when he seemed on the run for goal. At this point the ex-Guardsman saved two deadly-looking shots amid the plaudits of the crowds. Two free kicks to Liverpool gave them chances, which came to nothing, and John Cowan led the home men to the other end, and Athersmith coring another goal for the champions, who led at half-time by two goals to nil.
The champions pressed on a restart, Wheldon and James Cowan each shooting past. Marshall and Walker replied for the visitors, and George had to clear, the pressure being wound up by McCartney shooting over. Cowan and Wheldon attacked, and Storer turned aside a hot handful from the last-named player, when the whole of the Villa forwards were on him, the save being a marvellous one. In a body the Liverpool men broke away, and George had an anxious time of it, all sorts of shots being driven at the Villa goal. The play of the visitors was worthy of a goal at this point, but the home defence was so sound that score they could not. From a free kick close in, accurately placed by McCartney, Bradshaw at last scored for Liverpool, amid great excitement. Encouraged by their success the strangers made praiseworthy efforts to draw level, and on many occasions came very near doing so. Five minutes from time Athersmith beat Storer for the third time, and placed the issue out of doubt. The result was – Aston Villa, three goals; Liverpool, one goal. Referee: Mr. J. Cowley (Sheffield).
Aston Villa: Billy George, Bert Sharp, Albert Evans, Frank Burton, Jimmy Cowan, Jimmy Crabtree, Charles Athersmith, Jack Devey, Jack Sharp, Fred Wheldon, John Cowan.
Liverpool: Harry Storer, Matt McQueen, Tom Wilkie, John McCartney, Thomas Cleghorn, John Holmes, Robert Marshall, William Walker, Daniel Cunliffe, Andy McCowie, Harry Bradshaw.
(Source: Sporting Life: November 1, 1897)