Monday, May 17 – 1943
For 66 minutes of the Lancashire Cup final at Maine-road it did not look as if Liverpool would be giving Manchester United a real fight, but then came the Reds with their characteristic fight back and with luck they would not only have saved the game, as they did with a 3-3 draw but would have wiped out the starting deficit of two goals which served to land the cup in Manchester.
A Scot sitting with me had expressed the opinion that Liverpool were not up to his expectations, but I warned him, “the last twenty minutes will see them at their best.”
No sooner had I said it than “bang,” Jack Balmer hit one from twenty yards high into the net like a rocket. And my Scottish friend settled down to enjoy the culminating thrills. He got them.
Balmer had scored Liverpool’s one first-half goal when he murmured “Thanks” to Cyril Done, and slammed it home from a narrow angle.
Balmer was at outside right then, and, as Jack will admit, was out of touch with it all. The United had secured a two-goal lead through Jack Rowley, although I, like Alf Hobson, thought the second was offside. Balmer’s point gave Liverpool hope, but the Reds were playing poorly with no subtlety, and too much “up the middle.” The attack was lopsided for George Murphy was not all happy.
At the interval, and much to Balmer’s delight, Murphy, nursing a thigh injury, asked to go on the wing. The change was made and in a flash Liverpool’s attack became a potential force. The clever United lost their verve and the Reds were getting a hold on the game when Jack Westby brought off a brilliant tackle from behind off Rowley and came away with the ball. Rowley fell and to our consternation the referee gave a penalty. William Roughton scored easily while Liverpool protested.
The United thought it was all over then, but Liverpool, undoubted, battled back strongly with Balmer the brilliant spearhead of a three-pronged attack, for Murphy was limping and Michael Hulligan could make nothing out of Jack Griffiths. Came Balmer’s glory-shot and then six minutes later Done nodded down another pass and ere the ball hit the ground Balmer had cracked it home with speed and precision. It was mighty shooting.
The United were “on the collar” and when a Murphy centre hit the far post and came back into play, even the imperturbable Eric Eastwood was shaken out of his stride. The Reds kept on top and Balmer almost supplemented a grand “hat trick” with a headed goal, but United clung to their Anfield-won lead and so got the four Savings Certificates apiece leaving the Reds with two apiece.
Yes, it was a fitting end to a splendid season in which Liverpool missed their “treble,” but in which they gained two trophies and were runners up for two others. To both Everton and Liverpool we say thanks for a really enjoyable season.
My one regret about the Maine-road game was that we did not get the chance of seeing Willie Fagan and Alex Stevenson operating in the same attack. Alex went along, but Liverpool could not very well leave out Murphy. Still, I live in hopes of one day seeing ball-artistes Fagan and Stevenson working in harness, maybe next season.
Taken all through, the United were rather better than Liverpool, whose wing half-backs, to grand in defence and recovery, failed to push the ball through on the floor and rather overworked willing Done with those lobs which proved to menace to Manchester. Done was a fine goal-maker, and had a hand in all three, while Fagan supplied all the craft.
Ray Lambert settled down to become an excellent defender, and Westby’s rugged defence was a feature of a game played in fine spirit and before most of the soccer heads of Lancashire.
(Evening Express, 17-05-1943)