The Daily Mail, September 15, 1913
48 FREE KICKS.
STURDY DEFENCE AT MILLWALL.
ONLY ONE “THRILL.”
By P.G. WODEHOUSE.
Millwall .......... 0 Crystal Palace ... 0
Honours were easy at the Den on Saturday. When no-side was called the Palace had had twenty-five free kicks awarded against them and Millwall twenty-three, and in the brief intervals of football which took place between the penalties neither side managed to put the ball through the goal or even to give the impression for a moment—at any rate after half-time—that they were likely to do so.
If ever there was a match where the defence was on top of the attack this was it. There was not a flaw in the back play on either side. Kirkwood was extraordinarily sound. Some of his clearances were acrobatic. He was well backed up by Garrett; while for the Palace Collyer was always good and Colclough at times very good. Add to this that the forwards on both sides were erratic, slow, and poor shots in front of goal; and that all the half-backs, notably Hanger and Voisey, and both the goal-keepers were almost as good as the backs; and it is not to be wondered at that no goals were scored.
There was just one big thrill in the game, and that was when Lamb, the best forward on the field, raced down on the left, after play had been in progress about twenty minutes, and wound up with a grand shot from far out which hit the left post. For a few moments it looked as if Millwall were about to score; and then Davies got away and might have transferred the excitement to the other end if he had not been fouled on the half-way line. This was one of the two or three good things which Davies did in the course of the game. In the first half he always wanted watching, but after half-time he seemed less dangerous.
Some good work by Moody in the first quarter of an hour nearly put Millwall ahead. He tricked the defence and gave Davis a neat overhead pass. Davis put in a fine shot but the ball hit the bar. It was almost directly after this that Davies made one of his best efforts. Unfortunately for the Palace, after running well nearly the whole length of the field he tried an impossible shot when a pass to Smith might have meant a goal.
Shortly after this the referee got to work in real earnest with the whistle, and play became ragged. On several occasions Millwall forwards were fouled in front of goal within easy shooting distance, but Johnson, who was in great form throughout, always saved without difficulty. The play of Johnson and Orme in goal was almost as much a feature of the match as the work of the backs. Half-time came without either having let the ball through. Millwall had a shade the better of the play.
The Palace went off with a rush after half-time and for a while had all the game. Kirkwood, Voicey, and Garrett were repeatedly stopping well-meant attacks. Once Smith headed into goal and was only just kept out by Orme. A falling-off in Wilson’s play at centre-half at this point helped to make the Palace forwards more aggressive; and a strong effort on the right was just pulled up in time by Liddell. Then the continuity of the game broke up in a spasm of free kicks, distributed impartially to both sides, and after that Millwall seemed to settle down and neither side had the advantage.
Towards the middle of the second half Millwall had their turn of aggressiveness. A very poor shot by Lamb was followed by a long run by the same player, and from a good centre Davis nearly headed a goal. A free kick to Millwall was about due here, and it came. Then followed a couple of corners to Millwall, from one of which Johnson saved with some difficulty. The game returned to the neighbourhood of the Millwall goal, and a good shot by Hewitt was well stopped by Orme. Then Voisey got through cleverly but passed badly. Three free kicks to the Palace followed in rapid succession, then one to Millwall, then another to the Palace. Millwall forced a corner, but nothing came of it; and two more free kicks to the Palace put the visitors momentarily ahead in the matter of penalties.
It had been evident for a long while that only an accident could lead to either side scoring, so complete was the superiority of the defence on either side; and there was very little excitement when, just before no-side, the Palace forwards got away in a row. There were only Kirkwood and Orme between them and the goal, but the crowd had seen enough of Kirkwood to know that there would be no score. Kirkwood is, I should imagine, a man of a rather unemotional temperament. He watched those five forwards sprinting towards him with an abstracted air. Other matters seemed to by occupying his mind—Fiscal Reform, perhaps, or the hard case of Mr. W. Class B. Maxwell. Eventually, he roused himself from his reverie, went up to the forwards, and took the ball away from them. I think even the referee must have been touched, for shortly afterward he gave Millwall two more free kicks.
From a spectacular point of view it was not a great game. One got the impression that both teams would be a good deal better later on in the season. The lively ball and the blazing sun seemed too much for the players. The crowd of twenty-five thousand began by being enthusiastic and ended a little limp. Forty-eight free kicks toned down the fine frenzy of the keenest spectator.
This previously unknown item is a rare instance of Wodehouse reporting on soccer; he himself was a keen and enthusiastic Rugby football player and followed that game avidly after his playing days were over, writing up Dulwich rugger matches for the Alleynian as late as the 1930s.
the Den: From 1910 to 1993, the Millwall association football team’s stadium in Cold Blow Lane, New Cross, Lewisham, London. The current Den is in Zampa Road, Bermondsey, less than a quarter-mile away.
“the hard case of Mr. W. Class B. Maxwell” seems to refer to W. B. Maxwell’s book The Devil’s Garden, published early September 1913. The Libraries Association restricted the book and made it available only by request due to the “sex problems.” Great outcry and protest from the literary community at the unfair treatment.
Transcription by John Dawson;
notes by John Dawson and Neil Midkiff, with thanks to Norman Murphy