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Liverpool v Bolton Head-to-Head: Pre-WW2

With Wanderers facing Premier League opposition in Liverpool this weekend, we take a look at the long history between these two famous old English clubs with a three part series - starting with their pre-World War Two clashes.

Wanderers legend Jack Milsom bagged four goals in Wanderers' 8-1 mauling of Liverpool in 1932
Wanderers legend Jack Milsom bagged four goals in Wanderers' 8-1 mauling of Liverpool in 1932

As Bolton Wanderers prepare to make the short journey west to Liverpool on Saturday the overall stats from previous meetings do not make particularly pretty reading for Whites fans, but there are some positives to cling our hopes on.

The two sides have played each other 133 times since they first locked horns back in 1894, with Liverpool taking the overall spoils by a score of 207-174. However, Wanderers defeated Liverpool in both their first ever meeting and their most recent match-up, have an overwhelming dominance in cup ties, and hold the record for the biggest victory between the two sides.

The first clash between Bolton and Liverpool was an FA Cup third round tie, which took place on Saturday 24th February 1894 at Wanderers' former home Pikes Lane. A packed crowd of 20,000 people watched the hosts run out 3-0 winners, but more of that is to come in our cup competitions article. A full report of the match by the Liverpool Mercury, which makes very interesting reading, is available online here.

The first league clash between the teams took place in a First Division fixture at Anfield on 13th September 1896, with Wanderers again claiming the spoils. Cassidy again opened the scoring, but this time Liverpool bounced back with an equaliser from debutant Jimmy Ross - a new club record signing for £75 from Preston - shortly before half-time. Bolton responded through a Robert Tannahill goal three minutes after half-time to secure a 2-1 victory. Wanderers went on to complete a double over Liverpool that season, winning 1-0 at Pikes Lane with a goal from forward Jimmy Settle, who went on to become First Division top goalscorer in 1901/02 and score six goals in six games for England.

Wanderers stretched their winning streak over Liverpool to four games the next season, with a 2-0 victory at Anfield on 7th September 1896. Second half goals from David Nicoll and Bob Jack, who later went on to become Plymouth Argyle's longest serving manager between 1910-1938, sealed the deal for the visitors on this occasion. Later that season, on New Year's Day 1897, Liverpool finally broke the hoodoo with a 4-1 win at Burnden Park. Goals by Fred Geary - the smallest man ever to play for Liverpool, standing at barely 5'2" - and John McCartney, and a brace from George Allan put Liverpool in control, with Jack adding a last minute consolation.

The two sides became very closely matched, trading narrow wins and draws for several years before Liverpool upset the apple cart with a 5-1 victory at Anfield on Christmas Day in 1902. The two sides have played each other six times in Christmas Day league matches.

The following campaign, 1904/05, was the only season in which Bolton and Liverpool have met each other in the second tier of English football. Wanderers won the first clash on Saturday 3rd December in a match that saw a record crowd of 27,824 pack out Burnden Park. Wanderers won 2-0 with a brace from Sam Marsh, who scored 81 goals in 201 appearances for the club between 1902 and 1912. The return fixture at Anfield was a 1-1 draw, with David Stokes' 50th minute equaliser cancelling out Liverpool's tenth minute opener from Tom Chorlton. Both sides won promotion that season, and in the next four seasons Bolton went four games unbeaten against the Merseysiders, then Liverpool recorded back-to-back league doubles over their opponents.

On Saturday 19th April 1913, Liverpool recorded their joint biggest winning margin over Bolton, with a 5-0 victory at Anfield inspired by a hat-trick from speedy striker Jack Parkinson. The Reds have only ever repeated that winning margin once since, as they trounced Bolton 7-2 at Anfield on Wednesday 10th September 1930. Jimmy Smith scored once, with braces from Archie McPherson, Dick Edmed and Gordon Hodgson, whose 241 goals put him third on Liverpool's all-time top goalscorer list behind only Ian Rush and Roger Hunt. Wanderers' consolation goals came from George Gibson and Jack Milsom, who still stands as the club's fourth all-time highest goalscorer with 153 goals between 1929-37.

The following season Wanderers exacted their revenge for the Anfield mauling, racking up an 8-1 victory at Burnden Park on Saturday 7th May 1932 - unsurprisingly their biggest over Liverpool and the highest winning margin between the two sides. The legendary Milsom bagged Wanderers' first four goals, with the rout rounded off by Edmed, Frederick Wilson and a brace from Ray Westwood, Bolton's fifth top goalscorer of all-time with 144 goals and the uncle of Duncan Edwards, the Manchester United starlet who died in the Munich air disaster in 1958.

Matches prior to the Second World War were largely an even affair, with Liverpool leading overall 114-100. Look out for highlights of post-war clashes and cup battles between the two sides in our upcoming posts.