Rovers All But Safe After Victory
Blackburn all but secured there status in the Premier League after a hard fought victory over a nearly safe Pompeys side at a blustery Ewood Park.
The game wasn't exactly Brazil v Spain but what it lacked in technique it made up for with sheer determination and the Blackburn performance in particular was a walking image of their manager.
Rovers were direct, tough in the tackle and difficult to break down - the stuff we used to be made of under Hughes. Yes Rovers will need some more flair next season, but all we need now is to stay in the league - and it is oh so nearly job done.
Blackburn are on the magic 40 points mark and with Newcastle and Middlesboro only able to muster 40 points if either win all their last 3 games and Hull able to reach 40 at best too... it would take a frankly extraordinary set of results to relegate Rovers.
The first half got off to a shabby start with both sides looking to use their tall, power forward to take the most direct route to goal, Crouch up front for Portsmouth looked very handy but lacked support where as Samba cut a clumsy figure but his nuisance value was off the charts!
Its fair to say that the game was even but as the half wore on, Rovers became more of a presence in the opposing half with Diouf and Grella adding strength to the midfield that has been the key missing ingredient from this season.
The goal came just after the half hour mark and was as a direct result of the Samba factor up front. Diouf arrowed a cross across the park, Samba jumped highest and chested the ball down and collided with James. The ball ran free as James and Samba hit the floor and would you believe it - Morten Gamst Pedersen was on hand to notch his FIRST goal of the season. The delight on his face was clear for all to see and for sheer effort alone in the last few games, if not his overall performances this season, he deserved it.
Rovers as a result looked more confident after getting the first goal and set about trying to add a second but it was Pompey who came closest. A long free kick knocked to edge of the area was headed on by Crouch and it skidded off the turf just wide to the relief of Robinson.
In the first 20 minutes of the second half it was all Rovers with Diouf and Tugay being the main outlets from midfield but the suprise factor was the neat touches and WORKRATE of one Bennedict Saul McCarthy up front. Some absolutely delightful flicks were wowing the Darwen end as he inter-linked with Diouf excellently.
It was as a result of the McCarthy flicks that a penalty was awarded near the hour mark for a senseless and needless handball from the otherwise decent Herman Hereideson. McCarthy stepped up and went against his usual side to wrong foot David James as Rovers went 2-0 up and the crowd went ballistic.
It was all a case of not do anything stupid to keep things safe but obviously as we all know, things are never that easy when you are a Blackburn Rovers fan. Jermaine Pennant was bought on and caused troubled down the Rovers left and his cross/shot was nearly converted by the on-rushing penalty offender Herman as he just missed a touch to reduce the defecit.
Then just for fun, referee Mike riley though he would level the penalty count up with 5 minutes to spare. Andrews was penalised for blocking a cross with his arm - in truth the ball did hit his arm but his arm was square behind his back and hadn't moved. A very harsh call.
Luckily for Blackburn and Keith Andrews Pompey forward John Utaka thought that the penalty call was a harsh one too and decided to find the car park with the resulting spot kick much to the glee of the home fans.
That was Pompey's chance to make it a tense finale but due to that scare going unpunished it was a fairly tame finish to a very competitive clash.
Rovers will be delighted that the job is more or less done, Pompey, who should also still be safe, looked very clever with the ball in the first two thirds of the pitch, but in truth lacked any major support to Crouch up top and rovers emerged relatively comfortable winners.
Nearly job done... the pain is nearly NEARLY over.
NOTE TO SAM - By the man permanently, you are an idiot if you don't.
Robinson - 6
Andrews - 6
Nelsen - 8
Givet - 9
Warnock - 7
Diouf - 7
Grella - 6
Tugay - 8
Pedersen - 7
Samba - Striker 3/Creating Havoc 11
McCarthy - 8
Note to Benni - This is the side of you we want to see
Mokoena - 5