Liverpool out of the picture


March 22, 1915
Poor display at Middlesbrough.
It is a trite observation in certain contingencies that “the least said, the soonest mended.” Liverpool’s display against Middlesbrough, at Ayrsome Park, on Saturday, is a case in point. There are, in its true, legitimate excuses for the feeble play of the Anfielders, but even when these are taken into consideration it would be idle to deny that they gave a most disappointing account of themselves.

To put the matter in a nutshell, they never really got going in an organised way, and with a few precious exceptions in the later stages of the second half the forwards were rarely dangerous. Even when the home side were without the services of two players – Andy Wilson was ordered off in the first half and Jackie Carr was absent through injuries for at least twenty minutes – the Anfielders failed to make any impression on the Middlesbrough defence, and though, as we have indicated, Fred Pagnam and company rallied towards the close, it was too late to wipe off the heavy arrears. To sum up, Liverpool were rarely in the picture, and the most unbiased onlooker must admit that they were fairly and squarely beaten.

The main incident in the first period of the contest was the ordering off of Wilson. The Middlesbrough centre forward is admittedly a trustful and vigorous player, but it came as a great surprise to the onlookers – who numbered about 6,000, by the way – when a melee in front of the Liverpool goal was stopped by Mr. E.H. Spiers, the referee, and Wilson was peremptorily told to seek the seclusion of the dressing-room. It appears that he deliberately kicked William Lacey – an infringement of fair play which cannot and ought not to be allowed to pass without punishment. This left the home side with ten men, and when Carr had to retire owing to ricking the muscles of his side it might have been thought that Liverpool would improve the shining hour. That they did not do so is shown in the result.

All that can be offered in extenuation of Liverpool’s reverse is the fact that they were without their two regular full-backs, but shaky as was their play, we are inclined to put the blame wholly upon the forwards. As one candid critic in the crowd said: “They never looked scoring,” and this assertion, sweeping as it may be, is not very far from the truth. Middlesbrough, on an almost perfect playing pitch, set a merry pace under a cloudy sky and with a rather troublesome cross win blowing. It was soon seen that Sam Speakman and Walter Wadsworth had a difficult task before them, and, to their credit be it said, they strove manfully to resist the oncoming tide. They were, however, speedily swept aside when the home advance guard came through in well-ordered array and made an opening for Walter Tinsley to score with a shot which gave Elisha Scott little chance of saving. This initial success struck the keynote of the contest. The Anfielders broke away several times, and one or two beautiful centres from Jack Sheldon might have been turned to advantage. They were, however, badly mulled, and Liverpool crossed over one down.

In the second half it was the same story of slackness and lost opportunities. Harry Lowe tried to galvanise the forward line into a semblance of life, and Sheldon again showed his cleverness in getting away and centring the ball with precision. But it was all to no purpose. Pagnam was either too late or was effectively “blanketed” by the hefty Middlesbrough backs, Walter Holmes and John Walker. Meanwhile the home side made almost constant running, and a beautiful bit of short passing culminated in Tinsley netting the ball a second time. This was not the end of his endeavour, for the clever inside left, getting the leather again from a neat pass, scored a third goal, and so secured the coveted honour known as “the hat trick.”

Scott could not be blamed for any of the three shots that beat him. Indeed, had he been less alert or agile the score against him might easily have been double. The backs it is only fair to say, might well have been nervous under an admittedly trying ordeal, but they must not be saddled with all the blame. Lowe was always strenuous in endeavour, and Lacey once indulged in a characteristic pot shot. With the exception of Sheldon, the forwards were frankly disappointing, though Pagnam was undeniably unfortunate in not netting the ball upon at least three occasions.

For Middlesbrough, Andrew Jackson played a particularly fine game at centre half, and the two backs were most effective stumbling blacks. Result: Middlesbrough, 3 goals; Liverpool, nil.
(Source: Liverpool Daily Post: March 22, 1915)

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