Football: Rush finds his range

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The Independent Online
Liverpool. . . . . .1

Oldham Athletic. . .0

OLDHAM ATHLETIC showed few signs of a revival as they slumped to defeat at Anfield. Joe Royle's team have earned a reputation for playing attractive football but they did little to enhance it here and were flattered by the narrow margin of defeat.

The home side might have been two goals up within 10 minutes if Rob Jones's shot had not come back off a post and Mark Walters not miscued with the goal at his mercy.

Their bright opening having come to nothing, Liverpool lost their way but the visitors were unable to impose themselves. Oldham were not helped by the enforced substitution of Mike Milligan in the 40th minute, but were nevertheless short of attacking ideas.

They replaced Ian Olney with Orpheo Keizersweerd at half-time and the Dutch trialist promptly set up a chance for Neil McDonald. McDonald's shot was well struck but cannoned off Steve Nicol's head, stunning the Liverpool defender and relieving David James from the responsibility of making his first save.

After his promising first touch, Keizersweerd evaporated from the contest and Liverpool reasserted their authority. Steve McManaman and Ian Rush both had shots well saved before - on the hour - Rush received the ball clear on the right, cut inside and unleashed a left-foot strike into the top corner.

It was a spectacular goal even by his high standards and continued a return to form that has seen him on the scoresheet in six of the last seven games.

The goal injected some much needed excitement into the match but, strangely, it seemed to settle Liverpool more than it galvanised Oldham. The home side continued to pile up the chances. Ronny Rosenthal came on for the fading McManaman, Walters tested Paul Gerrard with a swerving drive and Rush saw his goal-bound header cleared off the line by Neil Pointon.

Don Hutchison capped an impressive midfield performance with a palm-stinging shot from 25 yards.

It was not until the final minutes that Oldham managed to mount any sustained pressure. But one awkward corner and a Paul Bernard shot into the side netting represented much too little. And unless they can turn things around quickly it may all be too late.

Liverpool: D James; R Jones, D Burrows, S Nicol, M Wright, R Whelan, S McManaman (R Rosenthal, 62 min), D Hutchison, I Rush, J Barnes, M Walters. Subs not used: T Piechnik, M Hooper (gk). Manager: G Souness.

Oldham Athletic: P Gerrard; G Halle, N Pointon, A Barlow, R Jobson, C Fleming, N Adams, D Beckford, I Olney (O Keizersweerd, h/t), M Milligan (N McDonald, 40 min), P Bernard. Sub not used: J Keeley (gk). Manager: J Royle.

Referee: J Worrall (Warrington).

Goal: Rush (60 min, 1-0).