Writer: Mikey Delap
Date:Thursday October 27 2011
Let it never be said ever again that we do things the easy way.
2-0 up and cruising through to the last 8 with nearly 89 minutes on the clock most, teams that are full of confidence would have strutted around and closed the game out.
Not Rovers, oh boy not Rovers.
In normal time both teams looked likely to help themselves to some goals with Rovers dominating the first half before Newcastle came back at the home side in the second.
It was an open game where both defences can say they had turned in better performances, but as bad as the defending was it made for one of the best games of the season so far - even if just over 10,000 turned up to see it.
With Steve Kean's position looking as solid as ever despite his terrible record a large portion of Rovers fans decided not to go to the game as the next form of protest meaning that Newcastle had about 40% of the attendance to themselves.
But those that did make it witnessed a cracking game and it started well enough for Rovers with Ruben Rochina becoming the competitions top goal scorer as Martin Olsson burned down the left and cut the ball back for the Spaniard to sweep the ball home with effortless aplomb.
One up against the form book, Rovers saw out the first half reasonably well. Only a Demba Ba mistime kept the socres level but is no stretch to say Rovers could have added further goals with Yak in particular missing two decent chances.
The second half started evenly enough but Newcastle came back into the game and had a shout for a penalty when Chris Samba and Demba Ba had a tangle in the Blackburn penalty box. Ba turned Samba, Samba put his arm on Ba's shoulder with minimal contact... the Geordie man hit the deck like he'd been hit by a passing group of paintballers from the halfway line. No penalty despite the protests from the fans behind the goal.
To make matters a little bit worse for the Barcodes, 20 seconds later Rovers had a penalty of their own with Rochina felled by Tim Krul in the Newcastle goal. The referee gave the spot kick despite the keeper getting a foot on the ball which Rovers can consider a stroke of luck.
No element of fortune about the dispatch of the penalty kick however with Yakubu showing Hoilett and Formica how to do it by expertly sending Krul the wrong way.
2-0 up, an hour gone, job don you'd have thought.
Cue a few substitutions with Grant Hanley coming on for Junior Hoilett and goal hero's Yakubu and Ruben Rochina being replaced by Simon Vukcevic and Mauro 'John Bishop' Formica.
Sadly for the Kean, the pressure that looked to have temporarily lifted was to come back to haunt him as the substitutions almost cost Rovers dear.
Lapses in concentration from the players ensued, shape was lost and Newcastle came right back into it first through Danny Guthrie who angled a beauty of a strike past Mark Bunn just before the 90 minute mark to give the away side hope and then after Chris Samba had rather needlessly given a way a free kick in shooting range Yohan Cabaye struck home with only seconds left on the clock.
It was a proper head in hands moment and spoke volumes of the troubles facing our boys at the present time.
But to the credit of the players and dare I say the manager... we were galvanised in extra time and struck back to take the lead through a powerful free kick from Morten Gamst Pedersen.
The free kick from 35 yards out got a nick of the Newcastle wall, but it flew over and nestled into the goal.
Morten then used his goal celebration to remind the fans about the badge and the pride of the club - it was a passionate moment and one that some fans took the wrong way but despite his anger Morten was merely showing that the players DO care.
But that was not to be the end of it as Rovers were pegged back once more with Newcastle getting a penalty of their own in first half of extra time stoppage time (yes injury time again). Grant Hanley was the man adjudged to have fouled Peter Lovenkrands after a rather needless and silly tug at his shirt and the same player stepped up to fire past Bunn who guessed the right way but was powerless to keep a well placed spot kick out.
So the prospect of penalties loomed and with Hoilett, Yakubu and Rochina all of the pitch it became apparent we needed to find some inspiration as with our three premier penalty takers off the pitch we'd have been a tad screwed during the shootout.
Step forward an unlikely hero in the form of Gael Givet who with 120 minutes on the scoreboard latched onto a Chris Samba header in the box to divert the ball home from practically 1 yard.
Relief, excitement and joy all felt in one burst of emotion and judging by the players reaction it meant just as much to them too.
And for the manager a reprieve who would have been thrown to the wolves had a comfortable evening turned into a shambles.
Date:Thursday October 27 2011
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