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Everton vs Bolton Wanderers: The FA Cup History

On the occasion of their seventh FA Cup meeting in January 2013, Tony Onslow takes a look at the first meeting between two historic northwest clubs

Honours are, at present, even between Everton and Bolton Wanderers as they prepare to face each other, for the seventh time, in the fourth round of the FA Cup at the Reebok Stadium next Saturday. The more senior of the Everton fans, the author included, can still remember the epic semi-final tie that took place at Maine Road Manchester between the two clubs in 1953. Everton, trailing 4-0 at the break, hit back in a pulsating second half and scored three times before, finally, losing by 4 goals to 3. It had been, to date, the most exciting FA Cup tie yet played between these two famous old clubs since they had first met in 1887 in a game that was to prove a landmark in the history of Everton Football Club

Formed in 1874, the Bolton club had already enclosed their Pikes Lane ground when they first consented to travel to Liverpool in order to play a match against Everton. The visiting side, which included three players imported from Scotland, brought a record number of people in to Stanley Park where they viewed the match free of charge. They clustered around the unguarded playing pitch and, during the course of the game, frequently encroached upon the playing area, thus bringing play to halt. Bolton proved far superior to Everton and beat them by eight goals to two. Bob Struthers, who had been signed from Glasgow Rangers, scored three of his sides’ goals. The visitors brought with them a local journalist who, having witnessed the events of the day, concluded that... "Association Football does not find much favour in Liverpool; consequently there are no big gates and the arrangements for matches are somewhat primitive." (Bolton Evening News 5th March 1883.)

Everton had acquired a new enclosed ground on Walton Breck Road when, on 24-11-1884, Bolton Wanderers next decided to visit Liverpool. The crowd of 4,000, who had paid for admission, expected to see the strongest set of Bolton players and they were disappointed when they discovered that it was only the club's second eleven who had been detailed to contest the match. The game ended in a 2-2 draw. Nevertheless, a keen-eyed member on the home committee had noticed the potential displayed by one George Dobson who, following the game, agreed to leave Bolton Wanderers and join Everton at the end of the season. He was offered professional terms by club along with George Farmer who had also agreed to join Everton from Oswestry.

Both players were in the Everton team when, on 17-10-1885, Bolton next arrived at Anfield and this time they brought with them their strongest available side. They proved too good for Everton and beat them by 4 goals to 1. Still, the Bolton side proved to be popular with the fans in Liverpool who were delighted when their best set of players arrived back at Anfield to open the forthcoming 1886/87 football season. The Wanderers again proved too strong for Everton and beat them by 3 goals to 1.

It had been the fourth time that Bolton Wanderers had visited Liverpool and each time they had refused to grant Everton a return match on their home ground at Pikes Lane. Fate then took a hand. Both sides had entered the 1887-88 FA Cup campaign and the draw gave Bolton Wanderers a home draw with Everton at Pikes Lane. The newspapers of the time predicted that Everton would be easily beaten but they were to be proved wrong.

It had now been three seasons now since Everton had opened their ground at Anfield and large crowds were pouring through the turnstiles bringing with them the revenue that was needed by the clubs executive to improve their side. Andrew Gibson, who had been declared a professional player, joined Everton from Bootle along with Sandy Dick who came from Liverpool Stanley. Both players were Scotsmen who had previously played together at Kilmarnock Athletic. Nevertheless, the club still needed more players, “of proved ability”, if they were going to develop in to a “force to be reckoned with” and they recruited them from Scotland.

First to arrive was John Goudie from the Abercorn club in Paisley. He was a goal-scoring forward who had previously played for Scotland. He was quickly joined by a promising teenaged player from Kilmarnock Athletic whose name was James Cassidy. Next to arrive was Rob Watson, a goal-scoring forward who had learned his football with the Thistle club in Glasgow. The pre-season spate of new signings was then completed by John Murray who arrived in Liverpool from Motherwell. When the FA Cup draw became known, Everton then further strengthened the side by persuading John Weir and Rob Izatt to join them from neighbours Bootle. Both men, who were now residing on Merseyside, had previously played together with the Third Lanark club in Glasgow. So it was that, on 15-10-1887, the new Everton side stepped out, for the first time, on the home ground of Bolton Wanderers at Pikes Lane.

The match caught the imagination of the Everton fans and over 700 of them made the journey to Bolton on what was the first recorded football special-excursion train ever to leave Liverpool. Their presence at Pikes Lane helped to swell the attendance to around 5,000 people. Liverpool-born Charlie Joliffe took his place in the Everton goal while George Dobson and Alex Dick were selected as full backs. Mike Higgins, the only other Liverpool born player, was featured in the half-back line along with Andy Gibson and John Murray. Rob Izatt and Bob Watson formed the right-sided partnership with John Goudie playing at centre forward. The Everton line up was then completed by the left-sided partnership of George Farmer and James Cassidy.

The home side was made up of eight local players along with three imported Scotsmen one of whom, Bob Struthers, had been at Bolton from as early as 1878. The match that followed was a closely-fought encounter as the determination and the sudden upturn in the Everton side caught their hosts by surprise. Nevertheless a single goal, scored by Roberts, appeared to have won the game for the home side and Everton returned home thinking they had been eliminated from the contest.

The storm then broke when the FA committee, having checked the home side’s line-up, found that the Bolton executive had forgotten to register Bob Struthers in time for the contest and therefore, he was not eligible to play in an FA Cup. The FA committee declared the game void and ordered it to be replayed at Anfield two weeks later with Struthers, the only change from the previous encounter, being replaced by Owen. The match enticed a crowd of over 8,000 people in to the Anfield ground to watch Everton, with goals from Farmer and Watson, hold their opponents to 2-2 draw so a third match was arranged to take place at Pikes Lane two weeks later. The closely fought encounter was now attracting the attention of the FA executive in London who promptly dispatched their president, Major Marindin to take charge in the middle.

The Everton party, along with their supporters, arrived at the ground late owing to their train being delayed and they aired the displeasure of the Major by keeping waiting on the field for over fifteen minutes. There were three changes made to the Everton line-up. Rob Smalley, who was born in Darwen, replaced Charlie Joliffe in the Everton goal. Murray was replaced by John Weir in the half-back line while George Fleming came in for Kennedy in the forward line. Bob Struthers, his registration now in order, was the only change made to the home side.There was reported crowd of around 4,000 looking on to see the home side take a1-0 lead which they still held as the end of the game approached.

However, the resilience of this new Everton was starting to reduce the confidence that their opponents once had over them and it came as no surprise when a late equalising goal, scored bye George Farmer, took the game back to Anfield for a third replay one week later. The turnstiles, once again, clicked away merrily as another 8,000 people paid for admission in to the Anfield ground.

There was one change in the previous Everton line up where William Briscoe, a local player, replaced Fleming in forward line. The home side, since the tie commenced, had steadily grown in confidence and this fact was reflected in their play. Everton got quickly into their stride and John Goudie gave them the lead with the first attack of a game. The cheering which followed the goal had not had time to subside when Tom Watson was on hand to double the Everton total. This breath-taking start rocked the Bolton players to their very foundations and they struggled throughout the rest of the first half to contain the rampant home forwards. Nevertheless they played much better in the second half and were rewarded with a goal from Brogan. Everton, however, were in no mood to surrender the tie and, when the final whistle sounded, their supporters poured on to the pitch to celebrate their 2-1 victory. Everton had knocked Bolton Wanderers out of the FA Cup.

It had been the first time, in the brief history of the contest, that four games had been required to settle the issue of an FA Cup tie. The games had been watched by a combined total of over 25,000 spectators thus making it, to date, the largest crowd to watch two sides compete in a knockout round of the tournament. The two sides were next paired to-gather in 1907, and then again one year later, and Everton were successful on both occasions. However, Bolton Wanderers have eliminated them on the last three times that the two sides have met in contest so let us hope that Everton can reverse the trend when they take to the field at the Reebok on Saturday. (COYB)

Tony Onslow


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