December 23, 1912
Considering the manner in which they have been vanquishing their foes at Anfield or late the loyalists of Liverpool expected the team to master Sheffield United. And there was the logic of figures behind their hope, but anticipations were not realised, and I must confess to a sense of disappointment in the display that they gave. Twice over they took the lead and had to surrender their advantage, so that in the end the points were divided. Nor can I say that Liverpool deserved a larger share of the spoils. They received what they were worth – and no more.
The United played a surprising game and reaped the reward of their perseverance, although there was a suspicion of fortune about both their goals. And yet there seemed to me more method, more cohesion, and even more thrustfulness about the Sheffield forwards. They swept down the field on occasion in a style which was not approached by Liverpool.
Both sides were rather feeble in their finishing, and I could not really say that a drawn game was an unfair reflection of their respective merits. It is said that the gods never forgive them who neglect their opportunities, and the phrase may afford food for reflection to some of the players – especially in the ranks of Liverpool.
The issue always in the balance.
The game had not been long in progress when Hardinge awakened Liverpool to the fact that the visitors intended to challenge them for the lead, for Hardinge tricked the centre half-back and both backs then testing Campbell with a rare shot on the ground that the goalkeeper fielded. Miller led a raid on the opposition position and troubled Mitchell, who threw the ball out. Again Mackinlay headed in, and then Parkinson became busy. It looked as if Mitchell would triumph though prone he lay on the goal-line, but Parkinson found the netted space at the end of eight minutes.
The Sheffielders responded bravely, and there were several fine centres, especially by Evans, although none of them were turned to account. Still Campbell distinguished himself by gathering a short, sharp, deceptive effort from the foot of Gillespie. Indeed, the work of Evans provided his comrades with several opportunities, but no one could apply the requisite touch at the right moment. Hardinge, instead of passing, made a surprise shot straight and true down the middle of the field, but the ball cannoned off a defender to Gillespie, who was just inside the penalty parallelogram, and with a lofty drive he left Campbell helpless.
Thus after half an hour the teams were still on equality, but just before the interval Liverpool were so insistent that they regained their favourable position. After Goddard had dribbled inwards and tried for goal with his left foot, and after Parkinson had just failed the Liverpool centre-forward. This time he cleverly directed the ball away from Mitchell’s right hand, and it appeared almost over the line when Miller placed the matter beyond all doubt. Really both goals stand to the credit of Parkinson.
In the second half the game was desperately fought, but Liverpool at times exercised severe pressure. They were conceded numerous corner-kicks, but they were all abortive, although Metcalf with half-a-yard more pace could not have failed to score. Still, the United never relaxed their efforts, and in one of their raids Longworth was adjudged to have fouled – I think it was Hardinge – inside the dreaded area, with the sequel that Benson drove the ball from the spot into the net at such a pace that Campbell could hardly have seen its flight. Directly after Liverpool attacked most fiercely, and someone in a Sheffield jersey unquestionably handled the ball in front of goal, but he referee probably could not see the offence with the players bunched together and struggling in a mass. Hence the draw.
A keen and even struggle.
Readers will gather that he difference between the rivals in a vigorous, keen, and fair game was infinitesimal. It was the misfortune of war that the referee saw what he deemed a fatal offence, and did not observe the other incident. At the same time the referee handled the game extremely well, and of course he decided the issue as it happened. I have every respect for Mr. Bullimer. He appeals to me as a capable official, but the incident which brought the extreme punishment against Longworth did not appeal to me at a distance of 50 yards as a breach of the law, but Mr. Bullimer was much nearer, and had the courage to instantly and firmly set on his belief.
His rulings were generally so correct that I hesitate even to express the view that there was a doubt which should have been given to the offending side.
The game was lacking in many of the finer points of play, and I have seen amateurs and teams of less repute play considerably better – with more cohesion and fewer mistakes. The forwards on both sides were often placed at a disadvantage by the long returns of the backs, and there were many occasions when the ball was transferred to a foe instead of a friend. Moreover, the shooting was not on the mark, and the game as a whole furnished few thrills.
Clever Scotsmen at Anfield.
There is no question that Campbell, the custodian of Liverpool, fields in beautiful style. His display disarmed the critic, and one save when the ball was shot in – I think by Gillespie – on the ground at short range following a corner, was really a splendid piece of work. With so many men in front of him, Campbell might easily have been unsighted, but he evidently so judged possibilities that he never lost sight of the ball – a golden rule for all keepers. Longworth began excellently, and a long time elapsed before he put a foot wrong, but at half-time I had three miskicks down to his discredit, and afterwards he did not appear at his best. On the whole, I should say that Crawford was the more reliable. In spite of his frail figure he never draws back, and considering his lack of weight he is wonderfully effective.
The wing half-backs were tireless, and Lowe was particularly able in defence, but Ferguson was just as capable in that respect, and made the best passes to his forwards of any middleman on the field. There were no wild lunges about Ferguson, who glided the ball on the ground to the left wing, and gave them every possible opening but they failed to take them.
Ferguson is quite an able left-wing half back – a most difficult position to fill. Although he played well at times, Peake was not able to hold Gillespie, and in the second half Peake made the mistake again and again of placing himself well up among the forwards.
He followed right up, was beaten, and then left an open road for the Sheffielders to sweep down the field in a body. He might have taken warning by his first experience, but he was several times out of place, and then he was found toiling after the invaders, who had a sufficient start, a man less in opposition, and the ball at command.
A disappointing attack
While the defence of Liverpool was, as I have intimated, not beyond reproach, still it was superior to the attack. Goddard accomplished little, and often toyed with the ball until he beat himself, while after all I had read Mackinlay was far from satisfying. He was so slow in getting under weigh when he had the ball. A bird cannot fly without wings, and a football team cannot concentrate much danger in an open game without wings. Liverpool were without wing power. Comparatively few high class centres were delivered by either Goddard or Mackinlay, and their partners accomplished little that riveted the eye. Metcalf and Miller were quite mediocre, and their shooting was by no means noticeable. The only inside forward of any mark was Parkinson, who still has flying feet, is quite a reasonably sure shot, and has an idea of opening out the game. Still this is Parkinson’s old weakness – he does not make enough play for others. Like so many modern centres, he requires to be played to.
Hardinge and Evans still a power.
Although not the Evans of old, I should say that he was incontestably the finest outside wing player on the field. He has lost some of his resource, but he takes a pass in the best manner, and his centres are beautiful – square, about eight yards in front of the goalkeeper, and of a nice pace and height. He and his partner, Hardinge, were the cleverest pair in the match.
While reproducing many of his most adroit touches Hardinge has rid himself of the baneful habit of dribbling until tackled, when it is too late to make the pass. Still a trickster on the ball, he held it just long enough and served Evans to that player’s content – although Hardinge might to the confusion of the defence remember that there is a right wing. Those long slantwise passes to the opposite side of the field are very harassing. Gillespie and Leafe are well-built and earnest men. With chances I can imagine that they can score, but I was not struck with their initiation in midfield. Their efforts were of the crude.
Kitchen had few openings made for him, and when he had the ball he was prone at times to play like a centre on the wing. With the touchline on his right and a half-back generally in front of him, this policy did not pay. It is best for a wing man to set about his business, which is making ground and delivering the ball before the back closes with him. At the same time I thought that Kitchen was by no means a failure.
Benson at his best.
The United half-backs were all plodders. They never ceased to persevere, with Brelsford, the little sturdy man in the centre, the most prominent, although he was several times in the wars. There was not much opportunity of judging Cook, as Benson did the work of two men and did it well. This season he is playing a fine game as left-back, being a robust tackler and a sure and powerful kick. Mitchell was so active and gallant under pressure that one felt sorry for him each time he was beaten. Buts such is the lot of goalkeepers.
Liverpool: Kenneth Campbell, Ephraim Longworth, Robert Crawford, Harry Lowe, Ernest Peake, Bob Ferguson, Arthur Goddard, Arthur Metcalf, Jack Parkinson, Tom Miller, Donald Mackinlay.
Sheffield United: Joe Mitchell, Bill Cook, Bob Benson, Albert Sturgess, Bill Brelsford, Albert Trueman, Joe Kitchen, Dicky Leafe, Billy Gillespie, Wally Hardinge, Robert Evans.
Referee: Mr. L. Bullimer, Northampton.
(Source: Athletic News: December 23, 1912)