Evans' problems with Liverpool extremists

GUY HODGSON

Sheffield Wednesday 1 Liverpool 1

There are many things a Newcastle supporters can be grateful for. David Ginola for one thing, knowing the words to "One Kevin Keegan" another. But most of all they should go on their knees to give thanks that sides like Liverpool are in not-so-hot pursuit of their heroes.

Manchester United are probably too raw to catch the Premiership leaders, but Liverpool should have the talent and experience to be putting a scintilla of pressure on Newcastle. And are they? Does Stan Collymore irritate people in Nottingham?

Being Roy Evans can not be an easy thing. Twice a week he whips his charges to a frenzy of ambition and then sits back not having a clue how they are going to perform. Mostly they are a delight yet they can be truly dreadful as well. This match, like the Forest one last month, had them swaying crazily from one extreme to the other.

For a long period they were so poor it required opponents of Wednesday's Shetland-pony-like killer instinct for them to escape with only a one- goal deficit. After the interval they steamrollered the home team and should have taken all three points. They did not, of course, and Newcastle could play Coventry yesterday knowing that a defeat would not be a cause for grave concern.

"For some reason we need to be stung into action," Evans said. "In the first half we didn't compete, we couldn't get into the game. After the interval we were dominant."

That was due, too, to Wednesday who are a diluted version of Liverpool in that they can be good and bad within seconds. At first they were terrific, tearing their opponents' defence to pieces with their changing patterns and intelligent, dangerous running from David Hirst and Darko Kovacevic.

The latter put them ahead after six minutes, sweeping Ian Nolan's pass past James, but Wednesday could, and probably should, have quadrupled that in the first hour. Guy Whittingham hit the bar after 47 minutes from point-blank range and was denied a candidate for the goal of the season by James' save at his feet after an exhilarating run. Steve Nicol and Hirst also might have scored.

Liverpool had suggested, however, that something positive lurked underneath the defensive chaos when Rob Jones hit the post after 40 minutes, and in the final half hour they pounded forward as Wednesday tired alarmingly.

Not with ruthless efficiency, Liverpool are too fond of proving how good they are to do that, but with a slow, steady increase in momentum.

By the last 20 minutes Wednesday could barely get out of their own half and it said volumes about Evans' innate caution that he waited almost until it was too late to do what the situation screamed for: taking off a defender to bring Ian Rush on.

The master striker had only one chance but if anyone personifies the goalscorers' maxim of always making sure shots hit the target it is him and with two minutes remaining his low drive was deflected past Chris Woods off Des Walker.

It was hard on Wednesday although you would have to be wearing blue and white spectacles to deny Liverpool deserved a point. The problem is the visitors require more if they are to catch Newcastle and at the moment they do not look capable of it.

Goals: Kovacevic (6) 1-0; Rush (88) 1-1.

Sheffield Wednesday (5-3-2): Woods; Nolan, Atherton, Nicol, Walker, Briscoe; Degryse (Hyde, 86), Waddle, Whittingham; Hirst, Kovacevic (Bright, 76). Substitute not used: Stefanovic.

Liverpool (5-3-2): James; McAteer, Scales, Ruddock, Babb, Jones (Rush, 79); McManaman, Thomas, Barnes; Collymore, Fowler. Substitutes not used: Matteo, Pears (gk).

Referee: D Elleray (Harrow).

Bookings: Liverpool: Ruddock.

Man of the match: Nicol.

Attendance: 32,747.

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