January 30, 1939
Had either Leeds United or Liverpool taken just a few of their many chances the small crowd of 13,600 would doubtless have considered this to be one of the best games of the season at Elland Road.
There was a lot of good football by both sides, particularly by the half-backs, but the forwards were unable to overcome staunch defences in which the oldest members of each team – Edwards for Leeds United, and Cooper for Liverpool were prominent.
Because of the work of both sets of backs it was unfortunate that the only two goals should have been brought about by their mistakes. Yet in each case an opportunist forward was the actual scorer and as both goals came in the last six minutes we really had nothing to complain about, for it was a grand, exciting finish, and with a bit of luck either side might have snatched a winning goal.
Probably United had the more chances, even tough their forward line was not as well-knit at any part of the game as Liverpool’s, but United once again found that Tommy Cooper, a veteran of many internationals and brought into the side because of an injury to Jim Harley, whom Liverpool rate as the fastest right back in the game, a stumbling block.
Cooper’s check to United.
Cooper must have been very well satisfied with his form. True, he was excellently covered by Matt Busby, another not-so-young player, at right half, but throughout the game he was the backbone of Liverpool’s defence, and surely Hargreaves has never found a man harder to beat.
The United winger did well enough in the circumstances, particularly in the second half when Mills gave him a splendid supply of the ball – three cross-field passes in quick succession from the left half to the outside left were models of accuracy, but all the time he knew that because of Cooper he dare not take any risks.
So United’s left wing was slowed down and as Stephenson had another most disappointing game, despite all the hard work he put in, the wing that should have been United’s most effective because its members were years younger than their opponents was sadly wanting.
On the right, Powell and Armes worked with all the enthusiasm of which they are capable, and between them they were a constant menace to a rather shaky back and half-back who was often out of position, but unfortunately neither could shine so constantly in front of goal as in the leading-up play, with the result that Liverpool were a lot less worried than they ought to have been.
Only a phase.
Added to these shortcomings Gordon Hodgson was made to look slower than we like to see by Bush, a deputy centre-half Liverpool had to field because of injury, so that even though United had rather the greater share of the ball they could not do a lot with it.
Nevertheless, I am sure this is only a phase. The ball at the moment is not running their way and once they start having a little more luck, those wins, which have been escaping the club since Christmas time, will come along again. Surely all this good work Powell is putting in cannot go for nothing, and Stephenson sooner or later is bound to strike form again.
He played a grand game.
It was fortunate for United that for so long their defence, and Holley at centre-half in particular, proved so staunch. Holley’s task was not by any means easy, for there was a “likely” look about this Liverpool forward line, even though the brilliant Nieuwenhuys is not so fast as he used to be. Holley, moreover, was troubled because Goldberg was not too sure and Gadsby, the other full back, was twice knocked out when heading the ball and, as a consequence, knew little about the subsequent play.
Yet Holley played one of the best games of his career as a centre-half back. He had another obstacle in that like most of us he seldom knew which Liverpool forward in particular he had to mark, Fagan, nominally the centre-forward, and Balmer, who started at inside left, were repeatedly changing positions for long spells and no sooner had Holley gained the acquaintance of one man than Liverpool would decide upon a change and Holley had to start all over again.
Add to that the fact that “Nivvy” very often was in the middle of the field and that Taylor at inside right, kept well up, and you will appreciate that Holley was likely to have a lot to do.
He accomplished it well and without any fuss or frills, and I am sure that, but for him Liverpool would have scored more than once, just as but for Cooper United would have added to their goals total.
For a long time all the hard work of the forward and the wing half-backs yielded no more incident than an occasional shot straight at the goalkeeper, but in the second half, after some excellent combination between Armes, Stephenson, and Powell, Hargreaves hit the cross-bar and then United scored what looked to be a winning goal.
Hargreaves again had a “go” but his shot rebounded off two defenders and Hodgson was left with the ball at his feet. He beat Bush, moved a half-step to his right and then flashed the ball past the hitherto safe Kemp. It was then Liverpool’s turn to hit the bar, Nieuwenhuys doing so with a shot made with the inside of his right foot, but with only two minutes to go they were level. Goldberg slipping on the ball as he tried to clear it, Balmer then at centre forward snapping up the chance and driving a hard shot past Twomey.
Hodgson with the same quickness of thought he had shown when scoring, might even then have won the match for United, but he missed a clear-cut opportunity, and so once again United had to be content with a point when they might well have had two.
Leeds United: Jim Twomey, Les Goldberg, Ken Gadsby, Willis Edwards, Tom Holley, Fred Mills, Sammy Armes, Aubrey Powell, Gordon Hodgson, Joseph Stephenson, Jackie Hargreaves.
Liverpool: Dirk Kemp, Tommy Cooper, Bernard Ramsden, Matt Busby, Tom Bush, Jimmy McInnes, Berry Nieuwenhuys, Phil Taylor, Willie Fagan, Jack Balmer, Harry Eastham.
(Leeds Mercury: January 30, 1939)