Collymore calms Anfield's nerves

Liverpool 1 (Collymore 67) Southampton 1 (Shipperley 60) Attend ance: 38,007
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LIVERPOOL were perilously close to completing their worst sequence for 41 years at Anfield yesterday, but that present rarity, a goal from Stan Collymore - only his third of the season - brought them an equaliser after more than an hour when their play and their confidence had virtually disintegrated.

The draw was still only the smallest consolation as it meant that Liverpool have now gone seven games without a win. Out of Europe, out of the League Cup, and losing ground in the Premiership, the Reds have a bloodless look, which even the return of Jamie Redknapp will do well to alleviate. It says much for their plight that the crowd were relieved to gain a point against Southampton, who they had destroyed in October.

The solutions for Roy Evans will largely rest on the confidence this escape from ignominy will transfuse into them. The return to a flat back four was granted yesterday, albeit due to injuries, but it hardly looked the solution in a first half which Southampton dominated with assiduous defending and clever breaks.

With Steve Harkness moved to centre-back to partner John Scales and Phil Babb switching to left back, Liverpool were temptingly disorientated, and Southampton should have had a reward for their early attacks in the eighth minute, but David James flew to his left to parry Matthew Le Tissier's header.

Liverpool's unease was made worse by Stan Collymore's first miss, the striker failing to turn home a John Barnes cross when no more than six yards out. As confidence ebbed even Liverpool's passing game began to fall apart and their best chance came when a Barnes snap-shot beat Dave Beasant only to be cleared off the line by Francis Benali. The sight of Scales pumping hopeful balls forward signified the home team's desperation, and there was no quick sign of improvement after the interval.

When Southampton deservedly scored on the hour it looked like Fortress Anfield had become a sandcastle. Kenneth Monkou dispossessed Collymore, Le Tissier carried the ball forward and when Jason Dodd's cross came in, Neil Shipperley flicked his header into the far corner of David James's net.

The prospect of a fourth successive home defeat forced Liverpool to bring on the virtually abandoned Nigel Clough for the first time this season. But moments after the substitution Clough's run and Barnes' pass set Collymore free and, in an act verging on exorcism, the frustrated striker battered the ball into the roof of the net.

With Clough eager to please and Robbie Fowler almost scoring with an audacious lob from 50 yards, Liverpool at least ended on an upbeat note. But only they will know how close to the edge they came.