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Wednesday, 11 April 2012

New heroes emerge from Liverpool FC’s supporting cast on manic night at Blackburn Rovers

CARLSBERG don’t have their name emblazoned across Liverpool FC shirts any more. They don’t do football scripts either. If they did, though, its likely Brad Jones and Andy Carroll would have starring roles to play. And this game would be definitely be nominated in the ‘Best British Drama’ category. Five goals, two penalties, a red card and more talking points than a Jeremy Kyle Newsnight special. Liverpool’s last visit to Ewood Park saw the end of one manager, this one will have given his replacement palpitations. The way Kenny Dalglish’s luck has been going lately, the Scot will scour his driveway for traces of black cats. As Alexander Doni made his way from the field, the second Reds goalkeeper to be red carded in three games, he could have been forgiven for heading for the nearest Ewood exit. But from adversity comes strength, and Liverpool found theirs in unlikely forms. Carroll’s winner, bulleted past Paul Robinson in stoppage time, gave Liverpool their first away league win since January, ending their worst run of form for 59 years in the process. If it was redemptive for the £35m striker, it was priceless to his club. But if the former Newcastle man’s contribution was unexpected – he had spent the majority of the second half defending manfully inside his own half, buying his shattered side time with nous and strength – Jones’ was miraculous. The Australian has spent the vast majority of his Anfield career backstage, waiting in the wings. Suddenly, as sheets of rain swept across central Lancashire, came the Australian’s time to shine. It has been a long time coming. Signed from Middlesbrough for £2.5m in the summer of 2010, Jones in many ways was a symbol of Roy Hodgson’s counter-productive six-month reign at Anfield. Pepe Reina’s understudies rarely clean up in terms of appearance bonuses, but Jones’ rare first-team outings were indicative of a failing Hodgson regime. One was a nondescript Europa League snoozefest against FC Utrecht, the other a Carling Cup humiliation at home to Northampton Town. And since then, nothing. A seven-game loan spell with Championship side Derby County aside, that is. Now, the 30-year-old has Liverpool’s season in his hands. With Doni, incredibly, now joining Reina on the suspended list, it will be Jones who is charged with keeping out Everton in Saturday’s FA Cup semi final at Wembley. No pressure, Brad.

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