December 1, 1906
A pulse-stirring victory.
Spectators at New Anfield are beginning to look upon stirring goal scoring football as a guaranteed article. In three successive matches goals have been served up in a remarkably hot and strong fashion – last Saturday most pulse-stirringly of all – and one’s introductory to last week’s report was fulfilled to the letter on the score of “incidental” play.
The game produced a triumph of attack over defence, with the exception of Sam Hardy and Alex Raisbeck in defence. I quite believe the brilliant work of these two made all the difference between victory and a drawn game to Liverpool.
Then, the scoring of 23 goals in the last three matches at Anfield comes as a pleasing foil to the assertion that forward play is denigrating. It has certainly proved effective at New Anfield of late! Liverpool won by 5-2, whereas 43 minutes’ play had indicated the Reds would be uncommonly lucky to be on level terms.
For throughout the first half the Villa attack was torrential in character. Their forward wings literally swept past the home extreme half-backs and backs, with Harry Hampton a most wide-awake and thrustful centre.
However, Hardy’s wonderful custodianship and Raisbeck’s masterly activity made all the difference. Yes, it was a match to live in the memory. When the Villa prevailed by 2-1 at Everton with the self-same forwards nearly three months ago, I said if Aston were to do big things this season their forwards (rather than the defence) would be the chief instrument, and this opinion is to-day stronger in me. The present Villa defence is not a patch on the best day’s defence of Billy George, Howard Spencer, Evans, Jack Reynolds, Cowan, and Jimmy Crabtree and one or two others I could name.
It was in defence they were let down at Anfield. George was slow by comparison with Hardy, and it is worthy of note that Liverpool’s goals apart from the penalty – were all scored with ground shots. Now it was in dealing with hot shots from all quarters that Hardy excelled. He should, as reported, have saved the Villa’s opening goal, but none can question the whole-hearted character of Hardy’s amende honourable. It was reminiscent of his work at Bramall-lane a year ago.
Both teams were weak at back, Percy Saul being the best of a moderate quartet. But even Saul was unreliable, and inclined to be badly left by Albert Hall and Joe Bache. Billy Dunlop never really filled the eye as a man who felt perfectly sure of his fitness, and Dunlop minus confidence is as effective in his running as a tyre tube without the necessary inflation.
Walter Corbett disappointed me, as did Freddie Miles. They were usually in a muddled mix-up with their half-backs; they tackled uncertainly and kicked just as erratically. Raisbeck was the one half back of the six who could really cope with the work on hand – Raisbeck was great. Yet James Bradley and Tom Chorlton were ahead of Sam Greenhalgh and Rowland Codling as “feeders.”
Tom Chorlton, who has filled out considerably, seemed much less sprightly and sinuous than a year ago. Possibly enforced idleness has been the cause. The Villa mountebank, Alex Leake, cut his usual mirth-provoking capers; but in a playing sense, the laugh generally rested with Sam Raybould.
Brilliant forward work.
Really, the brilliance of the majority of the forwards on view was in chief responsible for the seeming mediocrity of so many defenders. The Villa five were thoroughly unselfish, and played with an understanding which denotes intelligence as applied to knowledge. Many of their moves seemed to be the practical supplement to club-room theories.
Hall and Bache were happy in the renewal of a former partnership. The former ever reminds one of Dennis Hodgett’s product – Steve Smith – whilst Bache couples craftsmanship with aggressiveness in a manner equalled by no other inside left I have seen this season. Hampton is a never-say-die centre forward, whose chief drawback is his boyish physique. Billy Garratty is not quite as effective on the right as on the extreme left wing.
The Liverpool vanguard graduated from the other extreme, John Carlin being their least effective members, and Arthur Goddard the greatest power for good. Somehow Carlin hasn’t once thoroughly pleased his former admirers this season. There seems to be something fidgety and unreal about his work, which it is difficult to describe. His doubling-back, which is frequently followed by a weak and misdirected right-foot centre, is also noticeable each week.
William Macpherson was less prominent than in former trials, but as for the rest, Liverpool’s right win and centre work were splendid. Goddard excelled himself, and I cannot remember him giving a more glorious, polished display, or scoring a more brilliant individual goal than that of Saturday. His execution of the “real football” was never more correctly and thrillingly carried out than in this match. In dribbling and centring alike he shone, and never failed, when racing, to put big patches of daylight ‘twixt himself and the enemy. A great feature, too, of Goddard’s recent work is that he converges goal-ward after beating the defence, and centres at the right time with marked precision.
Then Robert Robinson never showed a larger stock of energy than in this match, wherein he shot two goals and played a big part as foster-brother to Goddard, whilst Raybould duplicated the fair-headed Wearsiders in every detail; and yet but for Hardy’s superb work the result would have been as near a 5-5 draw as makes no matter.
(Cricket and Football Field: December 1, 1906)