December 31, 1945
Saturday’s big crowd at Goodison Park had thrills in plenty and again saw a fighting Liverpool battle back against the odds and pull the game out of the fire. This is getting a habit with the Reds in Liverpool matches.
The crowd of 60,926 was within a few thousand of Everton’s all-time record – when stands at 68,158 for the cup-tie with Sunderland in 1938. It was a nearly a record for the Liverton match, the best figure for this being 64,977 at Goodison in 1938-39. When we consider the absence of promotion and relegation. Saturday’s gate was an amazing one. And the expeditious way the crowd was managed was a triumph of organisation for all concerned.
Spectators also helped by their good response to the appeal to tender the exact admission money. Keep it up. Reckoned on the plane of stylish football I’ve seen better games, but what was lacking in that direction was adequately compensated by the thrills and rousing finish. Curious thing about this match was that although Everton had a two goal lead up to ten minutes from the end, Burnett had about four times the work to do than Harry Nickson had been called on to perform in the visitors goal.
Nickson had not been over-worked in the first half and had little more than a watching brief in the second portion. Reason for that was Everton’s fondness for an extra move or two in their approach work rather than the first time shot, which was their hall-mark and saving grace against Stoke and Blackpool. They paid the penalty, as they have so often done in the past. All the stylish and classy work in midfield though a treat to watch, and always worth the money, doesn’t count in the final balance-sheet on which points are awarded. Everton should have made Nickson work more than they did, was their own fault that they didn’t.
A Gift Goal.
Everton it was they were fortunate with their first point for the Liverpool goalkeeper was too gentle “hand-out” of Syd Rawlings centre presented Wally Boyes with his goal on a plate, and Wally doesn’t miss many of that kind. While the second goal was a good one, Liverpool could reckon themselves a trifle unlucky with that also, for it came straight from a period of Red pressure on the home goal. That does not detract from the merit of Wally Fielding bonny pass to Harry Catterick’s opportunism and these two get a pat on the back to a good bit of work.
Billy Liddell had an off day. He missed an easy chance early on, a rub of the green which might have turned things inside out had he taken it, for it would have set Liverpool alive and though he got a bonny equaliser, after Kevin Baron had reduced the deficit; he was not the Liddell we know. That was partly due to a heavy cold and partly to the good work of Norman Greenhalgh and Gordon Watson who saw to it that he did not have the space to operate in that he likes or the chance to get away unchallenged with these lightning flashes of his.
The home goal had more escapes than Liverpool’s though the latter had the narrowest when Boyes cracked his express free kick up against the woodwork with Nickson helpless. The low rays of the sun were probably responsible for George Burnett dropping two balls which resulted in heart attacks for Everton’s supporters before they were scrammed away to safety.
These are the sort of occasions where a struck out foot have mean disaster. Nickson did the stumble with a long lob from Watson, but here also nobody in the Blues shirts could just get his foot to it.
All the lads who were taking part in their first Liverton game can look back in their display with satisfaction. Fielding had a great day. He uses the ball to advantage with the skill and coolness of a veteran, arises up the attention in a bash when in possession – his pass which led to Everton’s second goal was a real gem – and had all the trademark of an international to-be.
The Everton line was thrown out of gear through Rawlings injury, which made him a passenger for three parts of the game, yet he got more passes than Boyes which recent form is such that he can be a match winner off his own boot, if he gets the right services of the ball. He didn’t get it on Saturday.
Alex Stevenson was good without being the imitable wee Alec of old and Catterick did as much as could be expected with the few channel he got. Joe Mercer settled down to a solid display after a slow start and few regular centre halves could have put up a better show against Willie Fagan, who was in his brightest form. The rest of the defence was as good as we have come to expect from Everton these days though it was not entirely blameless when Liverpool got their goals.
Baron and Bob Priday were the stars of Liverpool’s debutants with Fred Finney giving a promising display as well. Liverpool have had a lucky find in Kevin Baron, a Benvin boy who was once on Preston’s books and might have been in the Army today had he not been the youngest of five sons. After four had gone into uniform it was felt that Kevin should be left, and accordingly he became a Bevinite Baron not only got one goal but was the “maker” of the Liddell’s and when he has had a little more experience it will be a good man who will keep him out a regular first team place.
Priday had speed and constructive ideas and is another who looks like making his place acute. His half-the-length of the field dribble was a grand bit of work. Had he only tapped the ball out of Burnett’s reach at the finish it would have gone down as one of the finest goals in any modern local Derby.
Bob Paisley have his usual hard working display. He is a real 100 p.c. grafter. Laurie Hughes was again the all-out “stopper” at which phrase of the defensive art he has few superiors, but Jim Harley, hasn’t yet got back to the pitch we know he can reach at his best. Ray Lambert did well.
This was my first view of Nickson and there was not much to see. He need not lose any deep over his error with the first goal. I’ve seen international did the same thing. He has the build but on little I saw seems to lack experience and positional sense, and once or twice stumbled a bit probably through nervousness, for this was a big test, and of all people the goalkeeper has the least, inevitable job, for his mistakes stand out and often cannot be retrieved.
Time and practice may work wonders with him. Just a final word about the cleanliness of the game. There wasn’t a foul worth calling one all through and Referee George Twist had an easy day. That’s the sporting spirit I’d like to see in all games. This one was a credit to all.
(Liverpool Echo: December 31, 1945)