Prescot FC in the Liverpool FA Cups

An undated early team picture, thought to date from around 1900

This is quite a long piece which looks at the exploits of the original Prescot Football Club in the local cup competitions. It appeared in the programme for the visit of Kendal Town on 10th March 2018.

From the very start, the Prescot players were keen to test themselves against the best sides in the area, and in just their second season in existence, the fledgling Prescot club entered a local cup competition.  

Prescot’s first cup match, was against the well-established Aigburth Vale side, in the first round of the 1885/86 Liverpool and District Amateurs Medal Competition.  Unfortunately, the Watchmakers went down 2 — 1 to the strong Vale side. Prescot’s team for the match was;

Prescot: Jos. Scott, C. Wilkinson, J. Case, Jno. Hobbins, J. Welsby, P. Pendleton, R. W. Woods, F. Allen, J.T. Scott, W. Knox, Jno. Allman.

In season 1887/88 season Prescot made better progress in the Liverpool Junior Cup, generating more and more interest in the town as they did so. After a first round win over Southport Wanderers (the cup holders), 4-1, a second round win over Linacre Reserves (5-1), and a third round bye, a good crowd saw the Prescot side demolish Liverpool Regent 8-1, for a place in the semi-finals. The semi-final was played against Garston at the Liverpool Police Athletic Ground, Fairfield and a special train enabled some 300 fans to make the journey. For the previous two weeks, special training sessions had been organised for the Prescot players and “their appearance in the arena deserved the complimentary cheers heartily given.” By now Joseph Scott, who had earlier played in goal for Prescot, was firmly established in the forward line and contributed to the score with a fine headed goal in the easy 5-1 victory. So, just four seasons after their formation, Prescot had reached the final of a premier local cup competition, scoring 22 goals and conceding just four in the process.

On Wednesday April 18th 1888, the Liverpool Junior Cup Final was held at the Bootle Cricket Club ground, Hawthorne Road, and an estimated 2,000 spectators attended, including some 400 who had travelled by special train from Prescot.

The early stages of the game belonged to the Aintree Church side and after five minutes they took the lead when centre forward Curnoch charged both ball and Prescot goalkeeper John Hobbins through the posts. This temporarily put Hobbins out of the game and play was suspended until he was able to continue. Curnoch made it 2-0 to Aintree five minutes later and this seemed to spur Prescot into action. However, just as the blue and whites were getting on top, the ball was lost in the crowd, and play was suspended again until it was returned. On the stoke of half time, Tip Stockley did score for Prescot only for the referee to, mysteriously, disallow the effort to the consternation of players and spectators alike. Early in the second half, Aintree scored their third goal and, effectively, killed off any hopes Prescot might have had of lifting the trophy, especially as heavy rain now made conditions difficult. Joe Stott did notch a consolation goal in the final minute for the tired Prescot side, but Aintree Church ran out winners by 3 – 1. The teams for the final were;

Prescot: John Hobbins, Gatley Lyon, Joseph Case, Knox (Captain), Tom Seddon, Whitfield, Joe Stott,  Jim Welsby, Scott, Charles Wilkinson, Jack ‘Tip’ Stockley.

Aintree Church: Barton, Jones, Taylor, Wright, Nidd, Dodd, Curnoch, Meakin, Shaw, Jones, Orrett

In season 1889/90, Prescot entered both their first team and reserves, better known as the Swifts, into the Liverpool and District Junior Cup.  Both teams did exceptionally well, and when they were kept apart in the semi-final draw, the prospect of an all-Prescot final became very real. The first team’s semi-final tie with Saltney Borderers was a titanic struggle, requiring two replays before the Watchmakers emerged victorious. The Cheshire Observer of 19th April 1890 wonderfully reported the first replay:

The proceedings opened rather tamely, but the combatants eventually warmed to their work, and some really clever football was shewn. Saltney passed with neatness, several times nearly effecting the downfall of their opponents’ fortress, but their shooting was inaccurate – probably due to excitement – and numerous easy chances were thrown away. The Prescot men were by no means idle and swooped down on the opposing goal, with unmistakeable earnestness, but the backs were not to be caught napping, and sucessfully resisted the onslaughts of the forwards. The special feature in this half was the splendid goalkeeping of the Saltney custodian (Jones), who cleared his charge in first-class style, and earned for himself the warm encomiums of the spectators. Try as they would neither side were able to register a single point, and they crossed over with the score sheet blank.

Saltney, after the restart, forced the running, and had much the best of the affair, the Prescot goalkeeper experiencing considerable difficulty in negociating the lightning shots from the Saltney forwards, who were shooting as staight as a die at this period. After about ten minutes had elapsed, the Cheshire contingent found a loophole in their adversaries’ defence, and quickly taking advantage of it, scored their first point. Prescot now retailiated, and although corners and free kicks fell to them, they were unable to gain any advantage. Saltney returned to the attack, but the backs this time were on the alert and nothing tangible resulted. Just when victory appeared to be in the grasp of Saltney, one of the Prescot men sent the ball through the uprights, a minute before the conclusion of the fray, thus equalising matters. An extra half hour was then decided upon, but at the expiration of that time, neither team were able to gain the mastery, and they will therefore have to meet again.

In the second replay Prescot finally overcame the spirited Borderers by 5 goals to 2.

The other semi-final also went to a replay before the Swifts claimed their place in the all-Prescot final.

May 13th 1890 saw Moss Meadow, the Bible Class ground in Prescot, comfortably filled with interested supporters to witness this unprecedented final clash. Unfortunately, the game itself never lived up to the expectations and the first team gained an easy 7-2 victory, to lift the trophy. In addition to the handsome cup, valued at 25 guineas, each member of the winning team received a medal in the form of a Maltese cross, with a gold centre in the form of a Liver bird. The Swifts received similar medals with silver centres.

After the match, the band of the 2nd Volunteer Battalion led a procession of the players and jubilant supporters through the town to a celebration at landlord Mark Kellett’s Eagle and Child Hotel on Warrington Road. The cup was exhibited in the window of Mr. J. Young’s shop in the town for a week, before eventually finding a place in a glass cabinet at the Eagle and Child Hotel.

The following season (1890/91) Prescot entered in the Liverpool Senior Cup whilst the reserve team contested the Junior Cup competition. The senior Prescot side surprised even themselves as they won through to the semi-final stage of the competition where they faced the mighty Everton at Anfield. Despite an 8-1 defeat, before “a capital attendance of 3,000”, the result was hailed as a moral victory for the Prescotians, for Everton fielded Alex Latta, Alec Brady and Jack Elliot  from their Football League Championship winning side, and the hugely experienced Robert Smalley in goal. The five Everton forwards alone were said to be paid £20 per week, (almost one-fifth of the annual income of the Prescot club). The teams for this match were;

Prescot: Harrison, Lyon, Whitfield, Woodward, Fairish, Alcock, George, Prescott, Lawrenson, Stockley, Scott.

Everton: Smalley, Dobson, Cresswell, Martin, R. Jones, W.H. Jones, Latta, McGregor, McMillan, Brady, Elliot.

Prescot were proving doughty cup fighters as they battled through to another appearance in the semi-final of the 1891/92 Liverpool Senior Cup. This time the strong, but short-lived, Liverpool Caledonians got the better of Prescot in a 4-1 victory at the Stanley ground.

In 1894/95 Prescot reached the final of the Liverpool and District Shield after a thrilling semi-final victory (2-1) over the previously unbeaten Liverpool South End outfit in a snow affected match at Whiston’s ground. At the time it was rumoured that the South End men were receiving between 10 and 25 shillings per man per week, whereas the Prescot players were wholly amateur and played only for the love of the game.

The final was contested at Goodison Park against White Star Wanderers, who had taken 3 games to overcome Aintree Church in the other semi.  Hopes were high as some 800 Prescotians made their way to the ground by special train, but, alas, not even their presence could help the watchmakers to victory.

In an end to end game, the whites of Prescot scored first through Middlehurst, and they reached the “breathing and refreshment interval” ahead by the solitary goal. ln the second half, however, White Star Wanderers decided that the cup would be theirs by fair means or foul, and these tactics seemed to unsettle the Prescot side. Soon after half time, Wanderers had scored twice in quick succession and when the unlucky ‘keeper, Jenkins, put through his own goal, the faithful realised that this was not to be Prescot’s year. To cap it all, White Star scored two more before the end to retain the trophy for a second year by a 5-1 margin. In presenting the Shield to the winning team, Mr. Clayton “condemned in the strongest possible language” the rough play of White Star and intimated that, “if he had been the referee, they would have been one or two short before the finish.”

Prescot:  Jenkins, Alcock (capt.), Robinson, Hunter, J. Lyon, Foster, Prescott, Middlehurst, Woodward, Barlow, Crawley.

White Star Wanderers: Sterling, Lambert, Brown, McArdle, McCarthy, May, Platt, Hankin, R. Jones, McCarthy, McCullock.

Many of the players from that Prescot side enjoyed long associations with the Club, notably, Bob Alcock, Bill Robinson, Wick Hunter, Harry Prescott, Bill Middlehurst and Jack Woodward. In the Prescot side that day was one, John Barlow. Barlow was signed by Everton in 1897 and made 4 first team starts. After leaving Merseyside, he ventured south to play for Reading and Tottenham Hotspur, both still non-league sides at the time, before he graduated back into the football league with Leicester Fosse. He scored 3 goals in 27 appearances for the Fosse in 1903/04.

The highlight of the 1895/96 season was the club’s entry into the Liverpool and District Shield, where after defeating local foes, Whiston on their own ground, (2-0), Saltney Borderers (6-1), and old enemy White Star Wanderers in the semi-final (2-1), they reached the final for the second consecutive year, where they met Tranmere Rovers on the Liverpool Police Athletic Ground, Fairfield.

Prescot went 2 goals down but managed to come back to draw 2 – 2 in a relatively dour game. The replay was held on the Garston ground, and this time, Prescot began this game determined to lift the shield. After five minutes they scored through Harry Prescott. The watchmakers dominated the first half and added a second after 30 minutes. But if the first half had belonged to Prescot, then the second was Tranmere’s and when they pulled back a goal from a corner, it seemed only a matter of time before they would score the equaliser. However, against the run of play, H. Roberts scored a third for Prescot just before the end to clinch the victory.

The train carrying home the jubilant supporters was greeted at Prescot station by the explosion of detonators placed on the line by the happy stationmaster.

Prescot: R. Roberts, E. Prescott, Alcock (capt), Hunter, Woodward, Foster, H. Prescott, Middlehurst, H. Roberts, Barlow, Crawley.

Tranmere Rovers: J. Broley, A. Gill, W. Price, W. Spencer, J. Douglas, W. Hilton, G. Raby, W. Davies, Drain, J. Spencer, J. McKinley.

So, after just missing out the previous year, Prescot captain Bob Alcock could lift the second trophy of their short career.

In 1896/97, defending champions Prescot’s run of strong performances in the Liverpool Shield continued, and it took two replays of the semi-final to finally establish Liverpool Police Athletic as victors by 3 goals to one, at the Engineers ground in Birkenhead.