Reds in Reserve: Liverpool 0 - 3 Blackburn

Posted by AdamS on October 26, 2005, 09:41:49 PM

I was hoping to write a report tonight that would at least slightly cheer up all the depressed Reds. Unfortunately the best I can do is to say before you read this, put away all sharp objects and ask a loved one to hide the paracetamol.

I arrived at The Racecourse on a relatively warm evening full of hope. I was looking forward to the wonderful distraction the reserves have proven to be this season. With some of the more senior lads having played for the first team and with Guthrie and Hammill out injured there were a few changes. Charlie Barnett was called up from the Academy and on the bench wearing number 16 was sixteen year old trialist Tunnicliffe. He was looking to impress this week after making the short trip from Stockport County (trivia: the nearest club ground to the Mersey) to try his luck.

In the Blackburn line up was ex-red David Thompson as he made his comeback from injury. He was playing in centre midfield  and was up against Peltier getting a chance in his preferred position. Dudek continued for the Reds in goal.

From the kick off it wasn't clear what formation the Reds had adopted. It seemed they were playing a 4-1-2-3 when attacking and dropping back into a 4-5-1 when defending. I will refer to it as the bonsai tree formation.

It was an extremely scrappy start and the first real action came on the quarter of an hour mark. The tricky and cocksure Jemal Johnson was brought down by captain for the night O'Donnell on the edge of the box. David Thompson took the free kick which deflected off the wall for a corner. Three minutes later and Thompson was involved again. He shot from twenty five yards out forcing Dudek to make a save low to his left. Blackburn had an almost identical effort through Peter just moments later, but he pulled his shot wide.

Liverpool's best chance of the whole night came on twenty four minutes. Mannix was fouled on the left-corner of the penalty area. He got up to take the freekick himself. It was well hit but straight at the keeper, who parried and collected on the bounce. That was as good as it got.

Within three minutes Blackburn had taken the lead. Johnson again was the danger, he shot from the left angle of the area and appeared to beat Dudek on his near post. If the ball wasn't deflected then I think Dudek should have done better.

Liverpool's woes were almost compounded moments later when Peltier went in with what can only be described as a shocking tackle on Nolan. He some how escaped with just a caution and Nolan was lucky to be able to play any further part at all. As it was he limped off five minutes later.

Johnson was again making a nuisance of himself on forty minutes when he hit a cracking left footed shot which went across Dudek diving to his right and hit the join of crossbar and post. The ball bounced out to Peter who shot well but this time Dudek, reacting swiftly, got his hand to it and turned it round for a corner.

Liverpool  briefly forced a couple of freekicks around the Blackburn area but Mannix was unable to test the goalkeeper from either. The half time whistle blew and Liverpool went in deservedly trailing 1-0. Blackburn always appeared to have more time on the ball and more options. When Liverpool defenders were on the ball nobody in midfield was making space. Guthrie has been excellent at making himself available in such circumstances all season and he was clearly being missed. Hobbs was doing well, but collecting the ball in these areas is not his natural game.

Tunnicliffe came on at half time moving to centre back. Connall Platt also came on and Liverpool reverted to a straight 4-4-2. The players coming off were Antwi and Nardiello. Within five minutes of the restart Blackburn had doubled their lead. Johnson was again the protagonist. He cleverly shot through Tunnicliffe's  legs to Dudek's right. Dudek really should have done better, but he only succeeded in pushing the ball into the path of Peter who tapped home from two yards.

The excellent David Thompson nearly ruined his night on 55 minutes. Calliste hit him with an impetuous late tackle and Thompson reacted angrily, jumping to his feet and gripping Calliste around the throat. He could easily have gone for that, but he escaped without so much as a booking. Calliste was not so lucky, he collected a yellow for the challenge.

Tunicliffe settled in quickly at centre back. Whilst there were clearly a few issues about holding the line, he was dominant in the air and confident on the floor. He showed no signs of being overawed.

Blackburn were completely dominant as the second half progressed. On 67 minutes Roque was sucked inside leaving his right back duties. This left Peter free to cross from the left. Thompson of all people rose to head in the box but Dudek made a good save tipping over the bar.

This wasn't the only header Thompson was going to win in the area though. Blackburn won a corner on 78 minutes and Thompson was first to it again. Dudek did well diving to his left and gathered at the second attempt.

Five minutes later though and Dudek was helpless to prevent the inevitable third. Again it was Johnson who cut inside O'Donnell on the right and fired inside the left post from 16 yards.

The score didn't flatter Blackburn. In fact it flattered Liverpool. Blackburn could have scored a few more in the dying minutes. This was an abject performance from a team that has looked very good for most of this season. Of the outfield players Mannix was the oldest and he's only just turned twenty. These are a good bunch of kids and they may well learn more from a horrible defeat like this than they will from any other kind of game.

Man of the Match: I'll give it to Hobbs. He lacked support in the middle but he is growing in confidence. He was vocal tonight and though not particularly eye catching he was very assured and didn't give possession away. Smith played well at left back and Roque was also steady. A mention must go to Tunnicliffe who was excellent for a 16 year old making his debut.

Liverpool Team: Dudek, Antwi (Tunnicliffe 45), Smith, Roque, O'Donnell, Hobbs, Barnett (Paul Barratt 70), Peltier, Calliste, Mannix, Nardiello (Conal Platt 45).

Unused Subs: Woods, Willis.

© AdamS 2005

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