Liverpool made a late change as Payne was unfit through a heavy cold. His place at outside right was taken by Anderson who cracked a bone in his leg against Plymouth Argyle on 1st October and was making his first senior appearance since that date. The crowd was very thin at the start, being barely 20,000. Melia making his senior debut, was early in the picture with three good quality passes the second of which finally produced a shooting chance for Liddell, whose effort cannoned outside for a unproductive corner. Good work by Anderson provided a half chance for Evans, who just failed to make proper contact, so that Nicholson was not tested. Liddell went to ground, when Thomas bundled into him, and for a minute or so looked rather dazed. It was while the centre was recovering himself that Melia fastened onto a loose ball and slipped it through the middle, for Evans to lob it into the roof of the net to give Liverpool the lead at the 6th minute. Forest, who were attacking the kop goal in the first half, almost got on level terms when Underwood could do no more than palm across from the right down to the feet of Alexander, whose first time shot from 10yds missed the unattended net and ended up amongst the crowd.
clash of heads
Twice Forest were pulled up for offside and then Evans fell into a similar trap when A'Court tried to send him through. A sliced clearance by Molyneux saw Barrett and Higham dart away, and the position looked ominous until Hughes nipped in with a smart interception. Moran conceded a corner rather than take any chances. The game was stopped for a minute, while Liddell and McKinlay received attention following a bumping of heads after the pair of them had gone up in the centre circle to meet a goal kick by Underwood. Visions of the Fulham game all over again, twice the opposition had tried to put Liddell out of the game by so called accidental clashes of heads. For Goodness sake referee, get a grip, these are no accidents, they are deliberate head butts in an attempt to take Liverpool's best player out. Play was resumed with a free kick to Liverpool, following with a lovely pass by Liddell provided a heading chance for Evans. The latter tried to steer the ball out of Nicholson's reach but the Forest keeper got to it, though the ball squirmed out of his hands, he did manage to recover it before it a few inches before it crossed the goal line.
Imlach was putting in some good approach work for the Forest, but when he had a chance of testing Underwood he shot yards wide. Forest were on top for a few minutes, and the Liverpool defence did not get the ball away with conviction. At last however Twentyman brought the ball out of a ruck of players and set the reds attack going in a move which eventually produced a corner on the left, following which Melia shot strongly a yard wide. An indirect free kick in the penalty area for obstruction produced a few seconds of hectic pressure by Forest.
The pressure ended when a powerful drive by Imlach struck Morar, to rob the Forest winger of what would probably of been a goal. Almost immediately after this escape Liverpool broke away and A'Court and Liddell in turn tested Nicholson. Two more offside decisions against Forest prevented Underwood being called upon, and then came a free kick to Liverpool for a foul by Thomas on Liddell. Once again opposition seemed to be taking turn to kick the big man. When will referee's begin to realise what is going on and this tactic is being used against Liddell? The kick had to be taken twice and the second time, Forest were lucky to escape when Whare stuck out a foot to save almost on the line and Liddell followed by heading just wide.
On the next attack, Liddell not only won a corner, but swung across an out swinger that Evans got his head to, while being brought down. No penalty was the decision, he was hurt but resumed without attention by which time Liddell had taken another corner, which Melia headed wide. Melia got a round of applause for a beautiful body swerve which had Birkett going the wrong way and he then put across a long dropping shot which was only inches above the bar. Liverpool on the next attack received another corner which Liddell headed, but the danger was cleared by the Forest defence up field. When the ball ran through to Small his ferocious shot took a deflection off Higham which brought a tremendous save from Underwood. The best concerted move for some time was orchestrated between Anderson, Melia, Liddell and A'Court saw the ball travel the full length of the pitch, beautiful pass and move strategy, regrettably it ended with a tame shot that didn't trouble Nicholson. And so the first half was over, Liverpool leading Forest 1-0.
Spurred on by the famous KOP ROAR, which was at it's full-throated best, Liverpool hammered at the Forest defence and eventually the pressure paid off. The scorer of the second goal was Melia, the build up play was done by Twentyman and A'Court, A'Court's cross was headed on by Evans and was netted by the debutant Melia from 12yds out. The coolness and confidence shown by Melia in taking his opportunity belied his youthfulness. Then only minutes later the floodgates opened. Anderson won the ball from Thomas on the right, slipped it through to Liddell who from 35 yds gave the keeper little chance. I'm convinced the keeper took off as it left the boot of Liddell, but he still could not get close before it hit the back of the net. Six minutes had gone in the second half and the game had undergone a complete change and Forest could consider themselves hard done to after their first half performance, they didn't deserve to be three goals down. Liverpool had taken their chances and that was the deciding factor.
A collision between Higham and Underwood meant that the Liverpool keeper needed attention before continuing and he looked groggy for some time after. He was not so dazed however that he couldn't come to Liverpool's rescue, with a fine save from Imlach, a thunderous drive that he managed to put over the bar.
Two minutes later the crowd howled it's disapproval at an offside decision against Liverpool, which saw Liddell crossing the half way line, but still got flagged by the linesman. From the free kick the ball was pumped into the Liverpool area in amongst a melee of players and it was difficult to see who booted the ball in the net, but Barrett had stuck out a boot and in it flew. But the referee's whistle disallowed the goal. I don't know what the referee had seen but it clearly upset Barrett and the other Forest players. So much so for the next few minutes Forest began to hammer at the Liverpool defence. Barrett in particular was showing a steely determination and was rewarded in the next two minutes with two goals. The first was a penalty when Moran had been adjudged to handle the ball, incorrectly in my opinion and the second was a deft lob after good work from Small down the left. This Forest team were no quitters, they had come from Three down to 3-2 and were still pushing for a equaliser. Forest were now taking the game to Liverpool and the defence needed assistance from their forwards, both Liddell and Evans were playing deeper to try and assist. But the pressure seemed relentless until Melia took the ball away from Higham and ran the length of the pitch only to be fouled on the edge of the box. Thomas clearly knew where he was on the pitch before bringing down Melia and tackles of a premeditated nature like this should be stamped out of the game. Without the tackle Melia would have scored, one more yard and it would have been a penalty. No justice was had when the free kick taken by Melia sailed over the bar.
As the light faded both sides fought grimly to win the game, Forest showing a determination that had to be praised. Ten minutes from the end Evans broke for Liverpool, down the centre of the pitch, his shot was only parried by Nicholson and Liddell "Chipped" in from an acute angle. Not known for his deftness, it was a delight to see Billy get his second goal, the crowd looked amused as they were used to thunderbolts from the big Scot. But his dogged determination in the second half inspired Liverpool. Two minutes from time the crowd seen the nasty side of Forest and the tackles became x-rated. A tackle on A'Court is the worst I've seen this season. From the free kick Liddell hit the keeper with a pile driver and it went over the bar off the keepers outstretched arm, little did we know at the time but it had fractured Nicholson's right arm. From the resulting A'Court corner Liddell headed home his third and Liverpool's FIFTH, with only a minute left the game was over. Liddell had inspired Liverpool to victory in a spell in the game when Forest turned nasty and it was good to see sportsmanship triumph over what can only be described as "Filth". The highlights of the game were the display of the debutant Melia and Liddell's brilliant second half hat-trick.
Man of the Match: Melia
Copyright - Liverpool Echo (Thanks to Wooltonian for the article)
"He was a one club man whose loyalty was tremendous. He was our best player for many years and literally carried the team through those Second Division years. The roar that went up at Anfield when he scored was incredible. When we're talking about truly great players like Liddell, for me, he is up there with the likes of Kenny Dalglish. If Steven Gerrard continues to score 20 goals a season for a few more years I will put him in that category, too."
Eric Doig - Liverpool FC historian and author of Essential Liverpool