With rivalry intense, stimulated by the inclusion of no less than four former Bethlehemites in the visitors lineup, the Bethlehem F. C. and J & P Coats soccer elevens, the latter of Pawtucket, R. I., battled to a one goal draw in an American League game staged on the Steel Field on Saturday afternoon.
Both goals, the one scored by Whitey Fleming, who before joining the Coats crowd played outside left for the Bethlehems, and the other registered by McNiven, the Bethlehem center forward, were indirectly due to fortunate breaks of the game. Both these counters were scored in the opening session and close to the end of the period.
Field conditions seriously hampered the work of the players and made clever football work nigh to impossible. The recent rise in the temperature thawed only a half inch of the frozen turf, leaving it soft and slimy on a solid foundation, making footing treacherous. Spills were frequent but this condition did not seem to deter the determination of both teams who fought hard and fast to the final whistle.
The tie score in no sense indicates the many opportunities Bethlehem had to score but lacking finishing power, these fine efforts counted for naught. It really seemed as though Bethlehem's forwards, successful in pushing the ball into Coats' territory, had no one on which to rely to place it in the net. The forward line seemed miserably weak.
Although held to a draw, Bethlehem fans had the opportunity of probably seeing the local clan at its best. Particularly was this true in the defensive where Davy Ferguson, a brother of Jock, the Coats player, played probably the best game of his career. Ferguson was all over the field checking the movements of the visitors advance and time and again sent the play back into Coats' territory. Bethlehem had another star among its backs in William Carnihan, a center halfback, who recently arrived in this country. His handling of the ball in opening up play was a revelation, especially so in view of the fact that he recently arrived in this country and had but one day workout with the local team. However, the forwards were unable to take advantage of his accurate passing.
There was no comparison to be made between Fleming and Goldie, the latter succeeding the white topped wingmen in Bethlehem, for the simple reason that Fleming merely bided his time in waiting for an opportunity to score while the day was a decidedly poor one for Goldie. The field conditions seriously hampered the speedy and flashy Bethlehem outside left and several times lost or overran the ball, unable to check himself on the slimy turf.
There was, however, one former Bethlehemite with the visiting clan that stood head and shoulders over his teammates. That was Jock Ferguson, the left back who proved a tower of strength in thwarting Bethlehem forward movement. Jock, cool and deliberate and seemingly to sense the direction of the ball, was the same Jock who proved a material asset to the championship teams of Bethlehem. Aiding Ferguson and proving likewise as effective was Stevenson, the visitors' right back.
That Bethlehem did not score more than one goal in the opening half and sew up the game was due entirely to the lack of finish by the forwards for at least three quarters of this time the play hovered in the vicinity of the visitors' goal. Twice in particular the custodian was caught with the ball in his hands at the very mouth of the net where the least bodily contact in view of the ground conditions would have slid him through. Such a situation would have been ideal for that old "mud horse" Jimmy Easton who is at his best on a soggy and slippery field. Jimmy would undoubtedly have proved more effective than Grainger, who although he plays pretty football seems to be entirely without confidence when a well directed kick would register a score. Bethlehem needs scoring forwards and once these are obtained the team will again be within championship range.
More than twenty minutes were played before Coats had a chance to score but that one chance resulted in the lone goal. It was really the first effective breakaway of the game for Pawtucket and could readily have been thwarted but for a miskick by Young. Fleming was hovering in the vicinity and darting in like a flash was on the ball. His drive for goal was far from out and it was evident that he had lost none of his accuracy in placing his kick, for the ball sailing low crashed into the corner of the net, with Kerr having no chance whatever to save.
Bethlehem became desperate and pressed hard, forcing five corners in rapid succession but no goals materialized. However, an instant later, Goldie secured possession and threatening to beat Stevenson, the latter handled in the penalty area. Bethlehem fans rejoicing when McNiven netted the penalty. Prior to this play and following one of the corner kicks, Bethlehem engaged in a fierce scrimmage at the very mouth of the net. A goal seeming inevitable when Referee Young ruling off-side brought the play to an end.
Bethlehem's superiority seemed just as pronounced in the second half but the forwards were unable to locate the net. It was not until late in the game and again in the closing minutes that the visitors became the aggressors. Coats brought the ball down the field, passing to Nielson for the parting shot. The ball when straight and low toward the corner of the net but Kerr by great effort made a sensational save, a play which deprived the visitors of victory. A final effort was a corner kick from Fleming, well placed, but which McIntosh headed over the bar.
Close to five hundred fans witnessed the game. The lineup:
Bethlehem -- J & P Coats
Kerr -- G -- Schofield
Young -- RFB -- Stevenson
McFarlane -- LFB -- J. Ferguson
Cox -- RHB -- Loppin
Carnihan -- CHB -- McIntosh
Terris -- LHB -- McAvoy
Campbell -- OR -- Shepperd
Rattray -- IR -- Morley
McNiven -- CF -- Neilson
Grainger -- IL -- Gilmore
Goldie -- OL -- Fleming
Goals -- Fleming, McNiven (penalty). Linesmen -- J. M. Carpenter and Horace Williams. Referee -- George Young, Philadelphia. Time of halves, 45 minutes.