Chelsea’s luck out


September 7, 1908
Hard game with Liverpool at Anfield Road
Chelsea are two points down upon their last season’s League record as a result of their first outing. One of their finest performances in the First Division was to defeat Liverpool by four goals to one at Anfield Road. In the corresponding game on Saturday, however they were defeated by two goals to one – undeservedly.

That opinion was frankly and freely expressed by the spectators as they left the ground after one of those refreshing games which enable football to keep its wonderful hold upon the public. Liverpool would have had good cause to complain of their luck had they been beaten, inasmuch as during three fourths of the play their ranks were disorganised in consequence of an accident which early befell Jim Harrop, who was appearing for Alex Raisbeck at centre forward.

This mishap led John Cox, who was in charge of the team, to adopt an extraordinary re-formation, which would undoubtedly have led to Liverpool’s undoing had it been persisted in. But a goal to Chelsea fourteen minutes after the restart prompted Cox to return to his original lines, and before the end the game was pulled out of the fire in fine style.

Harrop was injured in a collision, and falling lame he was removed from centre half to outside left, Robert Robinson dropping back and Cox himself playing at inside right. Thus the attack was completely upset. Cox is the last man in the Liverpool team to attempt to play inside, and he should have stayed in his position. Harrop would have done just as well at outside right with Arthur Goddard in Robinson’s place. In that way one wing would have remained intact. Fortunately for his side, Harrop improved sufficiently to go back to his position, hence Liverpool’s victory.

Chelsea the better team.
But Chelsea were distinctly the better team, and whilst being unlucky, a bad decision on the part of the referee robbed them of a perfectly good goal, splendidly obtained by George Hilsdon. That was three minutes before the Chelsea centre scored the one which was allowed to count. Hildson was lying well up, but clearly in front of both backs, when he received a long forward pass. As the ball was coming along to him, Alf West, the opposing right back, took a few paces towards the centre of the field so that at the moment Hilsdon gained possession only Tom Rogers and Percy Saul were nearer the goal than himself. Mr. T. Kirkham, than whom there is no better referee, was completely deceived by West’s movement, although he hesitated so long that Hilsdon ran on over thirty yards and scored with a judiciously placed shot before he was whistled offside. Had that point counted, as it should have done, Chelsea would probably have won, for the Liverpool rally, which came  after Hilsdon scored the goal which the referee did not negative, would have not have been so determined.

Hilsdon’s second success was the result of an ever greater individual effort than the ill-rewarded first. He pounced on the ball in Chelsea’s half of the field, and outwitting West with a beautiful feint, he went along at top speed, and when challenged by Rogers simply kicked forward and hopelessly outpaced his opponent. Sam Hardy made an attempt to get to the ball before Hilsdon could recover possession, but realising that to be impossible he backed into his goal again. Hilsdon shot at six yards range, cleverly out of Hardy’s reach, but well into the net.

Up to that point Chelsea had outplayed Liverpool, the goalless first half having been almost wholly in their favour.

Gaps in the team.
Yet the visitors were never going “all together.” They played an immensely improved game as compared with their exhibition against Preston North End, but there are still gaps in the side. The defence is very ordinary. Jack Whitley is excused. I agree that he is less accomplished than Nat Robinson, but he is a first class custodian all the same, and should not be dropped until he has forfeited his prior claim by making a mistake. He has yet to do that. Jock Cameron and Tommy Miller are not reliable, have little understanding with each other, and neither gave Whitley a chance under the bar. The goalkeeper is so lengthy and strong that he is respected by his opponents, and much more of the work of the defence should be left to him.

Miller’s kicking is always exceedingly clever when he is pressed, but he too often unsights Whitley. In the opening Miller’s placing is atrocious. He is too fond of volleying, and his aimless lunges, besides being a handicap to his halves and forwards, are distinctly to the liking of his opponents.

Like most old players, Bobby McRoberts is starting badly, and James Stark’s loss is proving costly. McRoberts is too slow for First Division football at present. He will, no doubt, improve as the season progresses, but in the meantime Chelsea are losing points. Ben Warren wore badly on Saturday, being a giant in the first half, but comparatively tired and ineffective in the closing stages. Ted Birnie is not well. His smile has disappeared, and his face is drawn.

Forward, Billy Brawn’s appearance will be welcomed, for Angus Douglas is much too spiritless, and inexperienced. I prefer Fred Rouse to Percy Humphreys, in the form of the two men with Chelsea, but neither can be blamed if they cannot get along with Douglas.

George Hilsdon, Jimmy Windridge, and Norrie Fairgray, to use football slang, are “the business.” Against Liverpool they were brilliant as a trio. Windridge is still the best forward in the kingdom. He has yet to receive his shooting qualities, but in the open he is incomparable. I cannot remember any player whose football I have admired so greatly.

Raisbeck is missed.
Liverpool, without Alex Raisbeck, are not a great side, but they are a plucky crew. Their forwards, excepting Ronald Orr, though not clever, make up a useful storming party. Both Arthur Goddard and John Cox appear to have lost pace, Joe Hewitt has not enough individualism to shine at centre forward, and Robinson is merely a tireless worker. Orr is the one general, and on Saturday he scored both goals into the bargain. Chelsea were leading with 15 minutes to go, when, after McRoberts had got in front of a hot shot from Hewitt, the ball went out to Goddard. What the outside right intended as a shot turned out to be an admirable centre, and Orr nipped in skilfully to score a goal.

A few minutes later Orr netted again from Goddard, but this time I should say he was well off side, although Mr. Kirkham was on the spot, and unhesitatingly dismissed the Chelsea players’ unanimous appeal.

The last word must be in congratulation of the Liverpool Club in regard to its ground. The turf is perfect, and the new stand a noble structure. Anfield Road will now comfortably accommodate 50,000 people, and at the same time is the most compact enclosure in the League.
(London Daily News: September 7, 1908; signed by ‘D.D’)

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