Barnes banishes B-team jinx

Neil Ruddock became the second Liverpool player dismissed in four days as a first-half header from John Barnes earned the Anfield side a fifth round tie with Wimbledon.

Ruddock received his marching orders from referee Kelvin Morton eight minutes from time for a professional foul on Liam Robinson after a dreadful back-pass from Rob Jones.

Burnley's disappointment at not joining the ranks of Anfield's FA Cup "killer B's" against an unconvincing Liverpool side boiled over after the final whistle. Substitute Ted McMinn was red- carded for swearing at a linesman.

The Reds had not won a tie in the FA Cup, in open play, since lifting the trophy against Sunderland in 1992 and embarrassing exits to Bolton and Bristol City made it a nervous night before Ruddock joined Phil Babb at Nottingham Forest on the list of those dismissed.

And with chances going begging before and after Barnes grabbed his sixth goal of the campaign just before the interval, Anfield was left willing Mr Morton to blow the final whistle long before time was up.

Flu robbed Liverpool of Jamie Redknapp, Michael Thomas filling in, and it became clear that the home side were going to need his battling qualities when former Everton man Alan Harper was booked inside the first two minutes for upending Jones.

Harper fired at David James from 20 yards, then tyro John Mullin headed over from Gary Parkinson's free-kick.

After that, though, the gap between the Burnley strikers and midfield grew ever-wider, although Liverpool's profligacy and tendency to try to walk the ball in could have cost them.

Ian Rush's haste to equal Denis Law's FA Cup record of 41 goals betrayed him when he ran offside to meet a Robbie Fowler cross and then Steve McManaman raced onto Fowler's ball forward only to drag wide.

In the 27th minute McManaman's persistence on the left should have brought the opener, Rush escaping attention to get a free header from inside the six-yard box.

But as Anfield rose to acclaim the milestone the ball drifted across the face of goal and out for a goal-kick.

John Scales headed at Marlon Beresford as Liverpool pressed on, but just as Burnley looked to have reached the interval on terms, Barnes struck.

McManaman seemed to waste a shooting opportunity, but earned a corner, Stig Bjornebye swung the ball in and Burnley's woeful marking cost them dear as Barnes headed powerfully home from eight yards.

Mullin drove at James' legs after the interval and McManaman could have made Burnley pay in the 54th minute. Thomas' pass freed him on half-way and he danced past a back-pedalling Burnley rearguard and into the box, let fly and clipped the outside of the post.

Rush, released by Ruddock, found Fowler, who shot powerfully, but always well wide and the England Under-21 striker then should have converted McManaman's pass.

That inability to make the most of their opportunities might have proved costly when Robinson's cross-cum-shot nearly deceived James and McMinn was sent on to try and spark an equaliser.

Then came Ruddock's dismissal. Robinson, in the Bristol City side that forced Graeme Souness' departure 13 months ago, was hauled down by Ruddock as he advanced onto Jones' poor ball, the referee having no option but to send the defender off.

The incident served to incite passions further and while Anfield greeted Mr Morton's blast with relief, McMinn only reacted with abuse to earn himself the second red card of the night.

Anfield boss Roy Evans had no complaints about Ruddock's dismissal; "It's one of those things. It was unfortunate because it was an innocuous foul, but their player was going towards goal and the rules state he must go."

Evans was pleased with Barnes' goal, but less happy with Liverpool's stuttering overall display.

"It was a great goal, but it didn't fit the game to be honest. We had enough of the ball to win as many games as you like, but didn't do it," said Evans.

Burnley manager Jimmy Mullen was unhappy that Ruddock's foul had deprived Robinson of a chance to score.

"The rules say the player must be automatically sent off, but it denies you a goal. Robinson would've scored - I'd bet my house on that. We knew it was going to be an enormous task. But I thought we took the game to Liverpool, even if that meant leaving ourselves open, and I can't fault our endeavour."

Of McMinn's dismissal, Mullin said: "I gather he was sent off, but it wasn't until I was in the dressing room that I found out. Until I know what happened I don't want to make any comment."

Copyright - British Soccer Week

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