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FA Cup 1896/97, Final
Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2022-05-12 13:19:55
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This was the twenty-sixth final of the FA Cup. On one side, Aston Villa F.C. who carried out an interesting campaign throughout the Cup. The Villans, even though they didn't finish the Football League at that time, were already mathematically winners. Therefore, only the FA Cup would remain to equal the double won by Preston North End in 1888/89. On the other hand, the Everton F.C. that had reached its first disputed final.
Even Aston Villa tended to be the favorites for this match, both had interesting results in the league. Everton were one of the only teams, alongside Bury, Sunderland and West Bromwich Albions, to beat Villa's team. In the sum of the two matches, 5-5 was the aggregate.
FA Cup, Final: 10/04/1897, Saturday 16:00.
Aston Villa F.C. — Everton F.C. 3:2 (3:2)
Place: Crystal Palace, London — Referee: John Lewis (Blackburn).
Linesmen: Jack Howcroft (Redcar) and Aaron Scragg (Crewe)
Aston Villa F.C.
Coach: George Ramsay.
XI: Whithouse — Spencer, Evans — Reynolds, Cowan II., Crabtree — Athersmith, Devey(c), Campbell, Wheldon, Cowan I.
Coach: Dick Molyneux.
XI: Menham — Meechan, Storrier — Boyle, Holt(c), Stewart — Taylor, Bell, Hartley, Chadwick, Milward.
Goals: Campbell(18min), Wheldon(35min), Crabtree(44min) — Bell(23min), Boyle(28min).
The first half went slightly in favour of the Villa, the passing of whose forwards was neater and cleaner than that of the Everton front line. Had the Perry Barr men taken the ball nearer to goal before shooting they might have scored even more points than they did. But perhaps it would be unfair to Everton to say too much on this head. To obtain three goals prior to the interval was a great performance — a performance of which any team might have been proud.
The second half opened in favour of the Villa, but its closing stages went unmistakably the other way. Nothing could have been finer than the way in which the Everton five made for the Villa goal in the last eight or ten minutes. There was an earnestness an vigour about their attack which well deserved to succeed, and it was only the magnificent defence of Spencer, Evans, Cowan, and Crabtree that kept the Villa goal intact.
Coming to the individual play, no one can contest the fact that all the players gave a performance worthy of their team, and of the competition. For the Villa, Whitehouse was a wonderfully safe custodian, playing with remarkable coolness and resource.
One questions whether Wilkes would have proved so reliable under the severe tension to which Whitehouse was occasionally put, and the latter always dealt decisively with the attacks, and showed no sign of that hesitancy which would on more than one occasion have proved fatal. The first goal can hardly be attributed to him, for he was not covered by the backs, and his only chance was to rush out.
Spencer was characteristically strong, and played up to his high reputation; whilst Evans was responsible for one of the soundest displays for which he has yet been responsible.
Any doubts that may have existed as to the desirability of risking the introduction of Crabtree into the team were soon dispelled. His judgment was unfaltering, and he tackled with all his old skill and determination. As is usually the case in big matches, Reynolds was in the best of form, playing with untiring energy, cleverness, and zeal. James Cowan was without doubt the finest tackler on the field, and no man had a greater share in the Villa's victory.
Of the forwards, Athersmith and Devey made a splendid wing, and few better exhibitions of passing have been given in a great match than that shown by these two. Their understanding seems to be thoroughly complete, and in addition Athersmith ran fast and made a series of accurate sand telling centres. Campbell shot hard and straight, and aided the combination considerably, while Wheldon and John Cowan were in average form.
Everton, while not showing the polish of the Villa in regard to attack, were far more dangerous when they managed to get the ball within shooting range, and had the Villa defence faltered the victory would have gone to Everton. Bell was possibly the most dangerous forward on the field, and it took all Crabtree's ingenuity to keep him in check. Taylor proved to be a useful partner. Hartley was untiring in the centre, and, in the closing stages more particularly, Chadwick and Milward gave an exceedingly fine exhibition. Holt was the pick of the halves, though Stewart played a useful game. Meechan was of great service in the back line, and Storrier played much better than most critics thought he would. Menham, while not shaping so well as Whitehouse, made no palpable mistake.
This was probably the best final that has ever been played i the Association Cup competition. On both sides the football was good, and no one could wish to see better half-back play than that of Reynolds, Cowan and Crabtree.
The pace was hit throughout, yet the men were going as strongly at the finish as at the beginning, and the whole twenty-two were as fit as possible.
Aston Villa deserved the win. In the first half they had undoubtedly the better forwards, and in the second their half-backs were superb. It was in this line that their real strength lay, and their superiority here gained them the victory. Though evidently excited, the Villa forwards worked well together, and their combination was better than that of Everton, who never seemed to get into their stride.
Campbell was industrious and steady in the centre for the winners, while Devey fed Athersmith most unselfishly. This policy paid, as the last-named completely outpaced Stewart, and this frequently sprinted well up towards the Everton goal, while his centres were generally judicious and accurate.
These three — Campbell, Devey, and Athersmith — were the pick of the Villa forwards, as Wheldon and Cowan were kept in hand by Boyle and Meehan. They worked hard, but were seldom prominent, and, in fact, Wheldon was more often playing among the halves than by the side of his partner.
Crabtree has recovered from his injuries, and his cool, clever tackling, and sound placings to the forwards, was one of the features of the game. He had a fine wing to face in Taylor and Bell, but he rendered the former harmless, as he bustled him so quickly, that Bell was seldom allowed to settle down.
James Cowan was on par with Crabtree, these two being the best halves on the field. He tackled Hartley cleverly, besides generally keeping Chadwick in hand; and, in defence, his judgment was never at fault. Reynolds was safe, and did not make any mistakes.
Spencer and Evans were given a great amount of work, and came successfully through the ordeal. The former was quick in tackling, and strong in defending, and Evans proved quite as safe as his partner. Both worked cleverly together in attending to the ball and the man, and thus the defence, about which fears were entertained, did not show the slightest sign of weakness. Whitehouse saved several difficult shots in goal, and displayed both quickness and coolness in getting the ball away, and he had not a chance of saving the two that scored.
Everton played a determined game, and it several times appeared certain that they would change defeat in victory; but the Villa's defence, and a mistake or two by their own forwards, prevented them from carrying off the Cup.
Bell was the best forward on the side, but he was too well watched to prove dangerous. Yet he was constantly on the ball, and gave Whitehouse more anxiety and trouble than all the other forwards together. Taylor was a rank failure, and Hartley, though industrious, was beaten by James Cowan. Chadwick was not fast enough to assist Milward effectively. The latter was quite up to his usual form, and, had he got off side so frequently, he might have been more useful.
Boyle was the pick of the halves, of whom both Holt and Stewart were slow. Their judgment was as good as ever, but when once beaten for pace they could not recover themselves, and the Villa forwards often ontran them.
Meehan and Storrier were a first-class pair of backs, their tackling and kick being almost above reproach. Meehan has not given a better display of cool judgment and brilliant tackling and bustling since he came to Everton, and, with Bell, the honours of the day, so far as their team was concerned, belong to him. Menham was generally safe in goal, though he once or twice took risks that might have given his opponents points.
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