Unhappy ending for West Ham's cup hero

by Stuart Jones of "The Times"

With a mere four minutes to go Phil Parkes, who had played the leading role in keeping Liverpool at bay made his first and only mistake of last night's League (Milk) Cup tie at Anfield. Yet it cost West Ham United the chance of repeating their feat in October, when they became one of the three clubs to defeat the champions this season, and of reaching the semi-finals.

In that fateful moment, Parkes allowed a shot from Souness to slither under his body and Liverpool, the holders and unbeaten in cup ties at home since 1974, were spared an awkward visit to Upton Park next Tuesday. For West Ham it was a cruel award. Instead of spoiling a record, they became the 12th successive victims to fall at Anfield.

The stadium resembled the cover of an outdated Christmas card. A white lacy curtain of snow, ruffled by the blistery wind, veiled the first quarter of an hour but still could not hide the danger that confronted West ham, who were denied the services of three full-backs, Stewart, Lampard and Brush.

It was not surprising, therefore, that the holes in West Ham's defence should appear in the flanks, where young Cowie and Gallagher were stationed. It was not surprising either that, since most of the visitors preferred to stay within the confines of their own half, only Grobbelaar (from Vancouver Whitecaps and accustomed to such conditions) was not involved in Liverpool's attacks.

Yet in spite of Johnston's runs on the left and Lee's on the right, Liverpool were caught either by their own intricacies (twice Rush spoiled the intentions of Dalglish) or by the white mesh of West Ham's central defence. The pressure may have been consistently clear but the sight of an opening was less obvious.

When the snow was falling most heavily the vision of Parkes may have been impaired, for he saw Dalglish's driven free kick only at the last instant and dived to push it away. The referee, concerned perhaps by the clarity of his vision as well, promptly called for an orange ball.

Goddard seemed to have problems with the black and white spotted version, too. Twice in the early moments he was through on his own, put there by Bonds and with the assistance of a fortuitous deflection. He first allowed Lawrenson to recover on the edge of the area and then, having progressed even further, managed only to stumble over the opportunity.

Not so Kennedy, Rush, Neal, Dalglish and Johnston. After West Ham had enjoyed the lone peaceful period of their oppressive evening - in the dressing room - Parkes five times came to their rescue early in the second half. Dalglish again came the closest, almost finding a gap at the near post.

The distant efforts of Kennedy and Neal were coated in speculation but almost succeeded, while those of Rush and Johnston required more rapid movement on the part of West Ham's goalkeeper. When Neal for once found a way through the middle in the 70th minute, it seemed as though Parkes had saved his side again. Hodgson had other thoughts and prodded in the loose rebound.

But Allen had immediate thoughts of a similar nature. After being booked for bringing down Neal at the end of another promising run, he broke away himself at the other end. He accelerated away from Hansen, drifted right and sent a precise shot past Grobbelaar. It was West Ham's first goal at Anfield for seven years.

Rush has scored 23 so far this season but then he made an unusual contribution that may have been decisive. A header from Whelan, Johnston's replacement, looked to be on its way to the far corner of the net when he intervened too eagerly and merely nodded it onto the bar. He, for one, will be grateful for Parkes' lone error.

Copyright - The Times

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