FOOTBALL Time-out for Liverpool

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Wimbledon 0

Liverpool 0

It was asking too much even for resurgent Liverpool: apart from a late flurry the invitation to claim a fourth victory of the season at Selhurst Park never looked likely to be accepted last night. The rival parties gained a point; the supporters had to go home empty-handed.

Long assured of Premiership safety and refusing to be turned on to the dubious charms of the Intertoto Cup, Wimbledon are striving only to finish as high as they can to bag extra prize-money. Each step up earns an additional £40,800, and a draw which lifts them to eighth promises a little more pocket money.

Wimbledon's problem is that they have forgotten how to score. This was their fourth unproductive outing in succession, but it should not have been. They had chances to take first-half retribution for their FA Cup defeat here, but in keeping with the relaxed feel to the proceedings they could not make anything count.

It was ominous from the second minute, when Jon Goodman passed up a straightforward heading opportunity. It was Goodman and Efan Ekoku who produced most of the early excitement which threatened to make it a longer journey home for the Merseysiders.

The two strikers had been recruited with the proceeds of John Scales' move north and while his return was a reminder that Wimbledon will always be seduced by a large cheque, nobody executes a sell-and-survive policy better than them.

From Vinnie Jones' long throw Goodman missed with a shot on the turn and Ekoku from close in after David James had denied Gary Elkins. After that a lot of Wimbledon's enthusiasm died.

It was not until the contest was beginning to show its age that Liverpool, their place in Europe guaranteed, began to involve the Wimbledon goalkeeper. Steve McManaman made it easy for him after a swift exchange with Robbie Fowler who, in the dying stages, could not steer home his header.

By then Neil Ruddock had departed, his season seemingly at a close. A hamstring injury is likely to hasten an operation on a damaged groin, thereby ruling him out of England's summer preparation for Euro '96.

Wimbledon (4-4-2): Sullivan; Cunningham, Perry, Reeves, Kimble; Barton, Jones, Elkins, Gayle (Fear, 81); Perry, Goodman (Ekoku, 74). Substitute not used: Segers (gk).

Liverpool (4-4-2): James; Thomas, Scales, Ruddock (Matteo, 64), Harkness; McManaman, Redknapp, Barnes, Walters; Rush, Fowler. Substitutes not used: Warner (gk), Clough.

Referee: T Holbrook (Walsall).