November 8, 1897
Liverpool distinguished themselves in a somewhat surprising manner against Nottingham Forest, and, as a consequence, sustained their first defeat at home this season. The Forest have not exactly dazzled the football firmament by their performances thus far, and prior to Saturday’s contest the fixture was looked upon as practically certain to produce another couple of points to the home team’s credit. However, just to accentuate the fact that football is a game prolific in uncertainties, Liverpool were content to add further substantiation to this axiom, and were deservedly beaten by 2 goals to 1.
When it is mentioned that the Forest were the better team, this statement must not be regarded as being complimentary to them, for the simple reason that he reverse condition could scarcely have been attainable. As a matter of fact, neither team did anything with a tendency to raise the game above a moderate level, and the Forest were as fortunate in finding their opponents in such wretched form as the Liverpudlians were unfortunate in being thus placed.
The match aroused little enthusiasm. The spectators were not numerous – that is, as Liverpool crowds go; and, as if to continue the sequence, the game was productive of a vast amount of feeble work, with only an occasional glimpse of what might have been. Play started in desultory fashion, the home team, especially the forwards, giving the impression that a minimum of exertion would secure the requisite number of goals; consequently the visitors’ halves and backs had a very enjoyable time, and the weak, puerile attacks of their opponents were easily stalled off.
Then the Forest became imbued with the idea that there was a chance of scoring, if this was the character of the opposition, and when Liverpool had pottered about and fumbled with the ball, and allowed repeated chances of scoring to pass unheeded, the Forest obligingly put on a couple of goals, both of which should have been prevented. This was the state of affairs at half-time, and for some time after the resumption the home team really exerted themselves. They bombarded their opponents goal, but the Forest defence was strengthened, and, with the knowledge of a two-goals lead, they allowed the home team to wear themselves out in a futile attempt to score.
True they put one through, but, despite the really fine defence of the visitors, they missed chances sufficient to have won the game over and over again. After this attempt, the old order of things was reverted to, and when Tom McInnes went centre forward for the visitors, in place of Len Benbow (hurt), the edifying spectacle was witnessed of first the new centre, and then one of the home team, experimenting as to how many times they could trick an opponent without losing the ball.
This was doubtless exhilarating enough for the men concerned; it was simply paralysing for those who had to witness the Liverpool forwards in this game; in their last three matches they have been far from satisfactory, but their latest performance crowns all. To put the matter mildly, they were wretchedly feeble in every department; their passing was ill-judged, and as often went to an opponent as to one of their own side; their shooting was scarcely discoverable; whilst their movements were of such a delightfully apathetic nature as almost to remind one of the gentle siesta. There was nothing to choose between the five, and the only consolation is in the fact that they cannot play a worse game than they did on Saturday.
This is not the real form of the men, and it is difficult to account for their exhibition; but they will certainly have to infuse more energy and determination into their work, and practice shooting, if they mean to contend successfully against other combinations.
The halves were choked with work, and towards the close scarcely knew which wing to pass to in order o derive benefit. They worked hard, and got through a great deal of clever work, and no blame can be attached to them for the reverse. The backs were only moderate, and Archie Goldie’s absence was again severely felt.
The chief feature of the visitors’ play was their stubborn defence, Adam Scott and Archie Ritchie rarely being beaten, whilst they timed their kicking with great judgment, and put more force into their replies than did their opponents. Dan Allsop kept goal finely, and at half Frank Forman played a very clever game.
The forwards were slightly superior to the Liverpool five, but are at the same time a mediocre set, judging from their work at Anfield. Tom McInnes was extremely disappointing, and the others were little superior.
Liverpool now occupy the eleventh position in the League table, but it is to be hoped that the re-inclusion in the team of players who have been absent owing to injuries will act as a tonic, and give the much-needed spirit and energetic determination which of late has been so conspicuous by its absence. With an average amount of these qualities present the match on Saturday would have ended differently. Points dropped at home are always unwelcome, and especially so when from an unexpected quarter, and the Liverpool supporters are quite justified in anticipating something vastly superior in future matches.
(Source: Liverpool Mercury: November 8, 1897)