Rovers 2.v.1 Sheff Utd
3rd February 2007. 15:00 k/o
David Dunn, the local hero, returned for Rovers to set up a dramatic late winner that earned his team all three points.
The game looked destined to be a draw as the mist descended and the seconds ticked away. However, a trademark surging run from Dunn through the middle of the park earned Rovers a free-kick just outside the area; a free-kick that Morten Gamst Pedersen dispatched with deadly accuracy.
Sheffield United had started as the better side, fashioning a number of presentable opportunities in the first 15 minutes. First Jonathon Stead, another old boy, stabbed wide from close range with just Friedel to beat and then Rob Hulse was unlucky to strike a post after latching onto Stead`s ball.
However, Nick Montgomery was the culprit for wasting the easiest chance. Smart work from United saw a ball pulled back across the area but Montgomery, who had timed his run to perfection, lashed at the ball and missed the target horribly.
Rovers looked nervy and Christopher Samba, making his full debut, wasn`t linking up with Ryan Nelsen. The home side were dealt a further blow in the 17th minute when Matt Derbyshire pulled up and was immediately replaced by the returning Jason Roberts.
Despite an edgy opening quarter of the game Rovers duly punished United for their profligacy by taking the lead in the 22nd minute.
Brett Emerton did well down the right but he was afforded too much time to pick out a target in the centre. He opted for Gamst and the Norwegian didn`t let him down towering over Rob Kozluk at the back post to nod home the opener.
In true United style though, Rovers weren`t allowed to settle and an equaliser was forthcoming. United pulled themselves level just three minutes after the opening goal when Stead stole in ahead of Samba to slot the ball beyond Friedel.
The frantic pace of the first half continued and Rovers should have re-gained the lead when Gamst was sent clear through on goal. A ball over the top by Nelsen sent Gamst on his way but he lacked the composure to claim his and Rovers` second.
A number of lunging tackles and fouls ensured United ended the half with four players booked to Rovers` one.
The second half began amidst a dense fog that was blanketing the ground yet both sides seemed comfortable playing football amongst the clouds. When the ball came down in sporadic intervals little was created in the way of quality. United were pressing high and condensing play.
A moment of genius by David Bentley, who was impressing in a dynamic and mature way, turned United`s defence inside out creating space for a stinging drive that was diverted wide by Paddy Kenny.
Both teams continued to scrap around for openings but little was being generated. However, the home fans were on their feet and chanting on the hour mark when Dunn made his appearance. Like a returning hero who is about to save the world, Dunn looked confident and ready to reward the rapturous reception that he received with a winning display.
He looked nervy and edgy on the pitch though, but all the trademark jinks, turns and reverse passes were there.
Rovers were hampered further in their pursuit of a winner when Stephen Warnock was sent off for his second yellow of the afternoon following a miss-timed tackle on the advancing Geary in the 88th minute.
As the fog consumed the pitch United looked to have suffocated Rovers sufficiently to claim a point. Then came Dunn`s moment of class.
He picked the ball up in the middle of the park and charged towards United`s area. After averting the attentions of three opposition players he played a smart one-two with Roberts, who had looked strong but clumsy on his return, but was pulled aside when he expected to receive the ball.
Mr Marriner awarded a free-kick and a final chance for Rovers to claim three points.
Gamst had stung the fingers of Kenny moments earlier with a free-kick from the right. This time it was on the left but in a more favourable position.
On the sounding of the whistle, Gamst wrapped his wand of a left foot around the ball to whip a viciously curling effort over the wall and into the top corner. Ewood erupted and Gamst was mobbed by his elated team-mates.
In truth it was a scrappy game and if it was going to be won then it was going to be via a set-piece as there was little in the way of quality football on a torn up pitch.
A gritty display but the type of game that proved very stiffling to Rovers' style of play.
Dunn looks like he hasn't forgotten a trick, even managed to mess up in a similar vein to THAT incident when with Birmingham. However, he does look short on match fitness.
Roberts looked to have an excellent understanding at the start of the season and there were glimpses of that again today.
Mokoena unfortunatley cannot compensate for Savage.
He put in a mature and exciting display. His jinks, quick feet and intelligent play worried United all afternoon.