Rovers Fight to Live another Day (or Season)
With many tipping Carlos Villanueva to recieve a starting premiership cap against his name up front with Benni McCarthy, Sam Allardyce sprung his first selection surprise, deploying the Congolese Giant Chris Samba with the South African. Vince Grella made a rare starting appearance for the Rovers, anchoring the midfield with Tugay. Warnock was restored to left back, whilst Givet took up his preferred position in central defence.
The Rovers fans turned up with their voices, chanting from the very outset, in an attempt to fire up the lads, when only a win will do. However, it was their rivals in the North West Derby, Wigan, who got of to the better of starts. A surging run down the right flank by Valencia set up the opening chance, jinxing past Warnock, blasting an effort into the crossbar. Blackburn recovered well, with Samba holding the ball well up front, being fed continuossly by Tugay and Gamst.
Rovers, charged up by the vocal support, began to press on. Gamst's Long throw ins were a threat, with up to 4 defenders deployed to mark Samba. Rovers could of been up after 15 minutes. Gamst whipped in a delivery from the left flank, with Samba's outstretched leg unable to hit the target. The following corner found McCarthy on the far post, who's header was parried away by Kirkland. With Rovers looking dangerous, only a falling Lee Cattermole prevented Diouf getting on the score sheet. Gamst's long throw in went over everybodies heads, with Diouf heading the ball goalwards. Fortunately for Wigan, Cattermole was able to clear of the line.
The half began to fizzle away, with Rovers pressing, however unable to create the vital chance. However, when it came, Rovers took advantage. Gamst Pedersen whipped in an inswinging corner to the near post. Kirkland rose for the ball, however Benni got their first, the ball flying into the back of the net, Rovers 1 Wigan 0. Half time
The crowd roared as one, the chants continued, you could feel the atmosphere through the TV screen.
Wigan came out in the second half with all guns blazing.Valencia took on the defence, laying the ball on for Watson, who's low drive across goal was saved by Robinson. Minutes later, the action was on the other side of the paddock. A long ball was directed to Samba, who was fouled by Scharner. Benni McCarthy stepped up, delivering the ultimate free kick, far enough from the keeper, but close enough to keep him interested. Ryan Nelsen rose, connected his header, screaming into the far corner of the net. After 141 games, 4800 shots at goal, 326 post and crossbar strikes, the Admiral had done it. Captain Nelsen on the score sheet. Rovers 2 Wigan 0.
Tugay made way for David Dunn, with Tugay recieving a standing ovation from the Rovers Faithful.
With Grella and Dunn dominating the midfield, Gamst and Diouf continued to press in search of a third, however, Wigan had ideas of their own. Nzogbia had a clear opportunity to equalise for the Latics, however his near post header was cleared for a corner. Ben Watson took the resulting corner, finding Boyce on the 6 yard box. His effort was denied through a reflex save by Robinson. The clearance found Valencia, whose spectacular drive was once again denied by the former England Number 1. The ball bounced out wide and was sent back in by the Latics, with 3 Rovers flying head over heels to ensure the ball did not go in the net.
Grella soon made way for Keith Andrews, with the Sas breathing a sigh of relief that his man was finally living up to the expectations. Villanueva also came on for goal scorer Benni McCarthy, who also recieved a standing ovation.
Rovers fans roared, cheered and danced, this was their day, the day the players stood up, kept a clean sheet, put away two goals, and moved them selves 6 points away from the drop zone, with only 4 games to go.
Blackburn 2 Wigan 0
Paul Robinson 10
Andre Oijer 7
Steven Warnock 7.5
Ryan Nelsen 8
Gael Givet 8
Vince Grella 8
Morten Gamst Pedersen 8.5
El Hadji Diouf 7
Chris Samba 8
Benni McCarthy 8
David Dunn 7
What a TEAM effort
The crowd went up as 1, the team united, and brought out some of their best football, instead of the boring route 1 tactics used in recent weeks.
Why does it take a relegation battle to bring the best out of our lads, thats for another day. But today we celebrate, 1 win away from safety....