FOOTBALL: Liverpool able to exploit respectful tranquillity

Shrewsbury Town 0 Liverpool 4
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Shrewsbury Town 0 Liverpool 4

It is a feeling most of us have had on a bright Sunday morning. The sun was out, there was a hint of spring in the air and a leisurely stroll on the river bank positively begged to be undertaken. And believe me, languid Liverpool did.

The scoreline was wholly misleading. Liverpool reached the FA Cup fifth round barely breaking sweat at Gay Meadow. It was soporific Sunday, that only stirred itself when the visiting players, perhaps wary of the verbal rockets being primed by their manager, Roy Evans, stirred to score three times in the last 21 minutes.

"Let's be honest," Evans said. "There were enough upsets in the week for us to be complacent. We knew they wouldn't come at us so the important thing was to keep the ball. If we had a fault it, was that we were too individualistic at times."

Hope of a shock was all but killed by Stan Collymore's strike after eight minutes. Liverpool waited for Second Division Shrewsbury's response but when the home team stuck rigidly to their 4-1-4-1 formation they could afford to wait again. The result: a match almost devoid of passion.

The late flurry - an own goal from David Walton and further efforts from Robbie Fowler and Jason McAteer - merely confirmed Liverpool's tie against Charlton Athletic at Anfield a week on Wednesday. After the snow, which delayed this tie 22 days, the avalanche.

And no one was buried more than Walton, whose two mistakes embellished the scoreline. A Liverpool supporter as a boy, the 22-year-old centre- back turned an innocuous looking header from Phil Babb into his own net after 69 minutes and then was caught in possession by Fowler six minutes later.

Fowler, who had hitherto been dreadful, skipped past Walton's despairing effort to redeem himself and then walked round the Shrewsbury goalkeeper and passed the ball into the net. With that, the home management showed mercy and Walton was taken off to escape further punishment.

The reflective mood of the morning was set before the kick-off. The Shrewsbury supporters, wonderfully respectful, stood immaculately as the Liverpool supporters were allowed to sing a full three-minute version of "You'll Never Walk Alone" and undertake a minute's silence in honour of the late Bob Paisley.

Moving as that was, the Liverpool team could hardly have expected Shrewsbury to extend the respect to the match itself, but the home players made hardly a robust challenge. Just nine fouls were committed all game, and only five of those came from Shrewsbury.

Collymore was the first to profit from the challenge-free zone, receiving a pass from Steve McManaman and beating Edwards with a shot from the left edge of the area that went under the goalkeeper's dive and into the far corner.

Until Walton's lapses, the match then dawdled along, only to be relieved by occasional sparks from McManaman. Not surprisingly, the England winger had the final say, skipping in from the left to prime Jason McAteer with an immaculate pass to the edge of the six-yard box. From that range he could hardly miss.

The suspicion is Charlton, riding high in the First Division, will provide a stiffer challenge.

Goals: Collymore (8) 0-1; Walton (og, 69) 0-2; Fowler (75) 0-3; McAteer (84) 0-4.

Shrewsbury Town (4-1-4-1): Edwards; Seabury, Walton (Reed, 76), Whiston, Withe; Taylor; Woods (Stevens, 76), Evans, Dempsey, Berkley; Anthrobus. Substitute not used: Clarke (gk).

Liverpool (5-3-2): James; McAteer, Wright, Scales, Babb, Jones; McManaman, Thomas, Barnes; Collymore, Fowler. Substitutes not used: Rush, Harkness, Warner (gk).

Referee: M Bodenham (East Looe).

Bookings: Shrewsbury: Whiston; Liverpool: McAteer.

Man of the match: McManaman.

Attendance: 7,752.