Collymore commands centre stage

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The Independent Online
Liverpool 4 Nottingham Forest 2

Nottingham Forest's players never went overboard to celebrate a Stan Collymore goal even when he was a colleague, so it can safely be assumed his performance for Liverpool yesterday will not have had the visiting dressing-room emitting many noises on the "nice to see you're doing well" line.

Given his pounds 8.5m move between the clubs, attention was bound to focus on Collymore. Twice he provided crosses for Robbie Fowler to pounce and with the script line heading in his favour, he supplied the denouement, getting Liverpool's third and forcing Colin Cooper to concede a fourth with an own goal.

It was a victory savoured at Anfield for more than the chance to throw the "what a waste of money" chant back at the visiting supporters. Going 2-0 down to opponents as obdurate as Forest usually makes the result a foregone conclusion. To prise a win from such an unpromising position restores belief in a championship campaign.

"Stan Collymore is a good player, we know that," Frank Clark, the Forest manager said, "And if you give him as much room as we did, he'll hurt you."

Liverpool's black November proves they are capable of dross as well as craft, but even Doctor Jekyll would have been shaking his head at the character lurch they underwent in the first half. For 15 minutes they were appalling; for 20, breathtaking.

The former mood was more surprising, given a start in which Collymore had three headed attempts at goal. As if someone had pulled a switch, however, they stopped and by 18 minutes they were two down.

The first stemmed from a mistake by Steve McManaman, who was caught in possession by Ian Woan. The Forest winger poked the ball forward and Steve Stone swept the ball past David James, curling it beyond the goalkeeper's ungainly move to his right. Stone is already miles ahead in Radio Nottingham's sports personality of the year poll and the goal might induce a landslide.

Certainly Liverpool gave the impression of being overwhelmed when Woan side-footed in from five yards and Forest would have been 3-0 up if Woan had been similarly accurate with a close-range header after 21 minutes.

By now, Anfield had become a near silent pocket of dismay, yet from this dismal start Liverpool produced a stirring fightback. Forest should have been in command, instead they could barely get a foot to the ball.

Fowler had done little right, but when Collymore crossed after 30 minutes, his predatory instincts directed him to the near post and he stooped to head past Mark Crossley. Seven minutes later the plot was repeated, Collymore again crossing from the left and Fowler heading in his 17th goal of the season.

After a pulsating first period the second half was likely to be an anti- climax; Collymore ensured it was not. A goal to send the "Judas" chant back to the Trent frequently seemed possible and after 61 minutes it arrived, the Liverpool striker profiting from a horrible mix-up between Crossley and Steve Chettle to nip between them and score into an empty net.

If that was hard to stomach for the Forest fans, worse was to follow four minutes from time. Collymore again crossed and, as the visiting defenders looked for Fowler, Cooper slid the ball into his own goal.

Liverpool (5-3-2): James; McAteer, Scales, Harkness, Babb, R Jones; McManaman, Thomas, Barnes; Collymore, Fowler. Substitutes not used: Clough, Kennedy, Pears (gk).

Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): Crossley; Lyttle, Cooper, Chettle, Pearce; Stone, Bart-Williams, Haland, Woan; Campbell, McGregor (Roy, 72). Substitutes not used: Phillips, Silenzi.

Referee: P Alcock (Redhill).