Football: No kidding Kop as Fashanu strikes

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The Independent Online
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LIVERPOOL ended the turbulent, trophy-less year the way in which they began it yesterday, enduring a disappointing stalemate against opposition Anfield would once have expected to see overrun.

Whereas the draw at Bolton with which they rang in 1993 came as a shock - with a worse surprise in store from the replay - the outcome here was more predictable. John Fashanu's 40th-minute goal for Wimbledon, his first since the Gary Mabbutt incident in November, cancelled out an own-goal by John Scales 11 minutes earlier to ensure the sides' third draw this month.

Since Wimbledon had prevailed on penalties after their Coca-Cola Cup replay, and also won the previous three Premiership meetings, Liverpool could argue that parity represented an improvement. However, there will be no kidding the Kop: this result left Liverpool with the mediocre record - by their own standards - of 17 wins in 43 League fixtures over the past 12 months.

Writing in the programme, Graeme Souness admitted it had been a 'Jekyll and Hyde season' so far. The Liverpool manager might have been presaging a performance which, while hardly justifying the Evertonian jibe that Souness has more turkeys to offload than Bernard Matthews, ultimately flattered to deceive.

For the first half-hour it was almost the Liverpool of old, with Wimbledon forced into deep defence by quickfire passing and movement off the ball.

Robbie Fowler, the 18-year- old who has made the No 23 shirt his own, was a constant threat. Yet the breakthrough came courtesy of Scales, who deflected Ian Rush's cross past his goalkeeper.

Fashanu, who had already come off second best in a one- on-one race with Bruce Grobbelaar, was soon put clear again by Neil Ardley. This time Grobbelaar gambled on standing his ground and blocked the first effort, but was helpless as Fashanu converted the rebound.

Segers made two stunning saves to prevent Fowler adding to his haul in the second half, while Mr Cooper, who had an excellent game, rightly refused two penalty appeals by Liverpool. In the end, though, Wimbledon's tireless harrying and indomitable spirit meant they just about deserved their point.

Joe Kinnear, who has yet to lose to Liverpool in eight matches as the Dons' manager, certainly thought so. Praising his captain and goal-scorer, he said: 'Fash has gone through hell since the Mabbutt thing - people of lesser character would have collapsed.'

Souness considered the result 'very unfair', adding that he was proud of his young players for 'standing up to everything that went on'. For once, that was unfair on Wimbledon.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Grobbelaar; R Jones, Wright, Ruddock, Nicol (Walters, 79); McManaman, Clough, Redknapp, Matteo; Fowler, Rush. Substitutes not used: Harkness, James (gk).

Wimbledon (4-4-2): Segers; Barton, Scales, Fitzgerald, McAllister (Clarke, 67); Fear, V Jones, Earle, Ardley; Holdsworth, Fashanu. Substitutes not used: Blissett, Sullivan (gk).

Referee: K Cooper (Pontrypridd).