Football: Ipswich draw chess game

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Liverpool. . . . .0

Ipswich Town. . . 0

THOSE juveniles who booed John Barnes ought to remember that more than 30,000 of Anfield's attendance came to watch Barnes and his Liverpool team-mates and not Ipswich who, to further Gary Lineker's now famous analogy, are only marginally more exciting than watching Ceefax.

Town are a percentage team. They operate, succesfully, on the principle that if they make fewer mistakes than the opposition the law of averages will work in their favour. They must exert a certain fascination on the football purists for theirs is chess-board football: the field is divided up into squares and each player falls into an allotted station as each playing situation develops. If a man goes AWOL then there are a couple of old sweats around, John Wark and Geraint Williams, to ensure that squad efficiency is unimpaired.

To defeat this kind of football you need inspiration to present Ipswich with a situation for which they are not prepared or, if they are, develop it so quickly and ruthlessly then cannot close it down. The trouble is, in English football, there are only a handful of players capable of such exploitation: Giggs, Gascoigne and Barnes are first to come to mind.

Liverpool felt they should have won, Clive Baker having to make the only three good saves, two from Don Hutchison, one from Barnes but they should also look to their accuracy. Too many attempts were snatched rather than measured; another four whistling past the posts or over the bar with Baker at full stretch. Liverpool have scored just five goals this year and have won just two of their last 14 matches in all competitions. Everton may be in trouble but Liverpool are not far behind and the pounds 1m plus that Graeme Souness has in cash will almost certainly have to be spent on a striker.

For a club accustomed to Harrods, this means shopping in Tesco and it will be a test of Souness's ingenuity to see what kind of a deal he contrives.

Ipswich might have touched their peak. There will be gaps next season and they will have to rely on their proven ability to attract promising youngsters from further afield than Suffolk, even as far as Sofia.

What will stick in the memory is that one moment when Barnes, out on the left touch-line, suddenly left Mickey Stockwell rooted, swerved inside into midfield, picked up pace, took his full majestic stride and then hit the most marvellous, swinging 30-yard drive that Baker had no real right to get his fingertips to.

Liverpool: James; Redknapp, Jones, Nicol, Wright, Bjornebye (Marsh, 44), McManaman, Hutchinson (Walters, 81), Rush, Barnes, Stewart. Substitute not used: Hooper (gk).

Ipswich Town: Baker; Johnson, Thompson, Stockwell, Wark, Linighan, Williams, Genchev, Whitton, Dozzell, Kiwomya. Substitutes not used: Goddard, Whelan, Forrest (gk).

Referee: A Gunn (South Chailey).