Liverpool’s first defeat at Anfield


January 26, 1939
Records were made to be broken, and Liverpool’s series of home matches without defeat – dating back almost twelve months – went yesterday, when Bolton Wanderers won by 2 goals to 1.

In normal circumstances this would have been a shattering blow. As yesterday’s events shaped themselves the shock was double-edged. For one thing, Bolton were the better team when scoring two goals in the first half, and additionally Liverpool lost after a gallant second half when they were without Rogers. As if the handicap of not having a centre-half were not sufficient, Ramsden, who had pulled a muscle in the first half, could only add “featherweight” ability at outside left for the major parts of the second half.

This was the order of occurrences in a first half which showed Bolton in unexpectedly good light. Hunt took Howe’s through pass to score in five minutes. Sinclair made it 2-0 with a shot taken while his colleagues were appealing for a penalty, and then Rogers had to give way to injury he had received when he was accidentally kicked in the face when stooping to head the ball. Unquestionably Bolton deserved their lead, and the honours of this part of the game, whatever may be said of what happened later.

It is a football axiom that nine men can never beat ten. In this case Liverpool had nine and half fit to face a two goals lead in the second half and the reshuffling meant that Taylor became a full-back and Busby a centre-half. Thus the last thing we were prepared for was the verve and success of the depleted side when everything pointed to Bolton consolidating their position. From a free-kick given against Atkinson (incidentally the Bolton player rotested as strongly as he could that he had not handled intentionally) Fagan put his side within sight of a possible “half” – an astounding performance in prospect and all against the probabilities.

Revival that could not last.
But that revival could not last long. It turned out to be the best Liverpool could do, and all credit to them for even hinting at being able to pull the match round. Bolton took charge of the later moments, and but for an occasion or two when Liverpool obeyed Busby’s “all up” command, it was Bolton’s match. I would not care to suggest that Liverpool deserved a point, but no one could deny them their praise for struggling along, hoping against hope that a miracle was possible.

Busby was half a team in himself. While he seems to get twice as much of the ball as anyone else when he is a wing half-back, his conversion to centre-half meant that he was even busier. He gave lessons in bringing Kemp to his aid, and those who decry the reserve pass to the goalkeeper cannot have the true conception of the value of such a move. Yet Busby was one of many heroes, and Phil Taylor’s work in four positions – he became a half-back for the second time when Ramsden resumed at left back late in the game – was also excellent. McInnes played as though the dishonour of being on the losing side at Anfield for the first time since he joined the club was solely his, and moved heaven and earth in his endeavours to stop Bolton and start Liverpool on the goalward path.

Bolton’s strength.
Bolton’s strength lay in their half-back line, which was suited by the unexpectedly firm surface. Atkinson, ever a great “stopper,” prevented Balmer from being outstanding, and the line, as a whole, was strong. The winners’ front line did best when Liverpool were at full strength, and Marsh, who made his First Division debut, gave infinite promise. The ageing, but still very useful, Hunt wanted a great deal of attention.

Once the desperation of the situation livened Liverpool they performed unexpectedly well. Kemp kept a good goal, and his save from Howe at point blank range was the best of the day. There were some incidents one does not expect from first-class footballers, but the injuries were not due to any but accidental causes. Rogers was taken home after the game suffering from concussion. With three centre-halves on the injured list, Liverpool’s position in this respect is precarious.

Liverpool: Dirk Kemp, Jim Harley, Bernard Ramsden, Matt Busby, Fred Rogers, Jimmy McInnes, Ron Jones, Phil Taylor, Willie Fagan, Jack Balmer, Harry Eastham.
Bolton Wanderers: Stan Hanson, Danny Winter, Harry Hubbick, Harry Goslin, Jack Atkinson, George Taylor, Albert Geldard, Thomas Sinclair, George Hunt, Don Howe, Frank Marsh.
Referee: Mr. T. Thompson (Leamington-on-Tyne).
(Liverpool Daily Post: January 26, 1939)

Liverpool Daily Post: January 26, 1939.

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