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Liverpool Report Part 3
By: Richard Lord
Second half. This half saw the Mariners attack the goal in front of the travelling fans. There were no changes and the formation remained the same. Lennie's tactics were just about perfect.
Most of the action was once again away from us in front of the Kop. Coyne was greeted well by the home fans as he ran towards the home support for the beginning of the second half. The Town substitutes were warming up down the touchline and were greeted with cheers every time they came near us. Once again Liverpool tried to push forward. Litmanen tried two long range shots which both flew over Coyne's bar. It wasn't long before Gerard Houllier made the inevitable change and brought Heskey on for Hamann. Smicer went on the left and this was the beginning of Town's troubles for the rest of normal time.
Hyypia, Murphy and Barmby all played balls over Beharall's head to Smicer who controlled the ball out wide and cut inside every time. Once he was bundled over in the area although the referee rightly waved play on. Heskey was a central figure in Liverpool's moves forward, and he had to drop back to pick the ball up, but was simply not allowed to run at the Town defence. Either Butterfield or one of the wide midfielders got back to help out. A cross from the left was behind Litmanen, who attempted an overhead kick, but this was fisted away by Coyne.
Smicer then received the ball on the edge of the area and drove it low to Coyne's right. The Welsh shot-stopper got down well and parried it away for another corner. From the McAllister corner Heskey flicked the ball past Coyne but Butterfield again was on hand to clear off the line.
Coyne was having a stormer in goal. He had only been required to make about three serious saves, but it was his reading of the game as well as his positioning on the line, which made each save look rather easy. He did the simple things right. He punched when the defence looked weak in the air. He rushed out of his goal to collect the ball at strikers' feet more than once and his clearances were all over the half way line.
Time ticked on and every Town fan was looking at their watch. There wasn't long left before the end of normal time, if only Town could hang on in there. Then Lennie Lawrence made the first change, and brought Boulding on for Rowan. The Tetney-born striker was given a generous round of applause as he left the field but had been rather ineffective. Hyypia and Carragher were too strong in the air. Kippe and Wright gave no room out wide. Jevons was another one who hardly had a touch of the ball in the second half.
With not long left on the watch, Town started to clam things down at the back. They held the ball up and stroked it across the back line with confidence. Butterfield dropped back to pick the ball up and brought in Campbell. This was much better by Town and maybe we could snatch it at the death? Pouton played it forward to Boulding, who turned and knocked it in front of Carragher and tried to beat the England man for pace, but Carragher was too strong to let Boulding past.
Then, with extra time looming, Pouton's ball over the top released Boulding. The ball looked to be skidding away from him but the keeper remained on his line. The former Mansfield striker looked to be entering the area when he went down after a tug back by Hyypia. It looked a clear foul but the referee waved play on once more. A poor decision, because that could have reduced Liverpool to 10 men.
Since Boulding entered the fray he gave Town another option. Instead of hoofing it to the front men (as against Rotherham), Boulding dropped back to midfield to receive the ball and his pace gave the Liverpool back line something to think about. It was so nice to see Town pass it rather than to aimlessly boot it up field.
I believe Jamie Redknapp was brought on for Litmanen about 15 minutes before full time, but he had little impact. He was the central figure in midfield but they failed to create chances via the boot of the 28-year old. The crowd whistled for full time, and after about three minutes of added on time the referee blew. Cue the cheers of celebration. Town had seemingly done the impossible: taken Liverpool to extra time at Anfield. There were no signs of the defensive frailties that had cost the Mariners games in the past month, they were defending resolutely and a shock was on the cards. Even at this point it seemed that the only way we were going to win was by holding out for 0-0 and winning the shoot-out competition, or snatching a goal in extra time through the pace of Boulding. However, Kirkland hadn't been required to make a save all game so the second looked most unlikely.
The report continues in Part 4
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