Monday 16th April.
Just two days after facing the league leaders we had to make the
short visit over the big hill to Ewood Park to tackle the other
team likely to feature in the top flight next season. Despite having
a £5 offer for seats I elected to give this one a miss having witnessed
the abject performance last year which cost me around 5 times as
much to suffer. I had the opportunity to enjoy their hospitality
with a couple of friends having been offered seats in their executive
section with priority car parking and a full carvery lunch included.
I must say that the lunch was absolutely superb but it was strange
watching the game from behind glass, the match being devoid of atmosphere.
Being surrounded by Blackburn fans made the 2-0 scoreline to the
hosts even less bearable.
Andy Booth was still absent as a result of his ankle injury and
Delroy Facey was left to plough his lone furrow up front, and the
only change from Saturday was Adie Moses replacing the injured Jon
Dyson. This was disappointing because Dyson and Lucketti seem to
have formed a reasonable partnership and we could rest assured that
our defence would be severely tested against opposition of Blackburn’s
The game was a 12 o’clock kick-off for the benefit of the Sky
TV cameras who doubtless expected a hatful of goals for the team
in blue and white; unfortunately we were in our away strip of red
and red. With the obvious gulf in ability between the two sides
Town made it clear from the start that they were intent on preserving
a clean sheet and that any attacking ambitions were a secondary
consideration. Despite the inclusion of Moses who doesn’t have the
physical presence or genuine ability to be a truly effective defender,
Town defended well with Lucketti and Jenkins tackling effectively,
well supported by Holland and Armstrong covering from midfield.
The only chance created by Town in the early stages was an overhead
kick by Dean Gorré from a Simon Baldry cross but the ball passed
harmlessly wide of the target.
Resolute defending restricted Rovers to the odd half chance and
the opening passage of the game was a complete non-event with a
couple of potentially dangerous crosses easily saved by Nico Vaesen
before David Dunn finally created a chance in the 21st minute that
was thankfully dragged wide of the target. Having fired this warning
shot across Town’s bows Blackburn began to be more enterprising
and Town began to struggle to contain the hosts and there was almost
a feeling of inevitability when they took the lead on the half hour.
Having cleared one attack the ball was played into the Town penalty
area to be met by Marcus Bent who was given far too much time by
the daydreaming Moses, and his header across goal was easily met
by Gary Flitcroft and past the helpless Vaesen from 10 yards out.
The goal was perhaps unkind on Town, but if you set your stall out
to defend then defend you must, and you cannot afford lapses of
concentration especially against a side of the quality of Blackburn.
The expected onslaught on the visitor’s goal failed to materialise
though, and Town continue to defend doggedly and even managed to
create a couple of chances of their own.
Soon after the goal Facey met a Steve Jenkins cross but his header
looped over the bar, and then in the 41st minute the young striker
tried to latch onto a weak back pass but keeper Brad Friedel was
first to the ball and booted it away to safety. There was always
a sense that the ever-willing Facey was never really going to have
much of a sniff against Henning Berg and Craig Short and a recovery
never really looked on the cards. The remainder of the half passed
without much incident, but clearly a change of tactics would be
needed if we were to rescue the situation.
Dean Gorré had been a virtual spectator for long periods of the
first half, and when he did manage to win possession was guilty
of needing too much time on the ball and was easily robbed. For
once these events did not elude the Town coaching staff and Kenny
Irons was introduced at half-time to try to hold the ball up in
midfield, give some respite to the overworked defenders and hopefully
provide some service to the isolated Facey. Unfortunately these
more positive aspirations bit the dust 5 minutes into the second
half when Nico Vaesen was sent off for handling the ball outside
The Belgian has not enjoyed a good Easter after gifting Fulham
the winner on Saturday, and his miserable holiday weekend continued
when Matt Jansen raced towards the Town goal and Nico Vaesen rushed
from his line to try to clear the danger instinctively raised his
arm to block Jansen’s attempted lob, unfortunately just outside
the 18 yard box. After a consultation between referee and linesman
it was decided that it was a goalscoring chance, and Peter Walton
fished the red card out of his pocket to bring a premature end to
After almost two years of bench warming Martyn Margetson was able
to make his debut for the first team with Ben Thornley being sacrificed
as Town were reduced to 10 men. The free kick ensuing from the dismissal
was rifled over the bar and soon afterwards Margetson wasn’t troubled
by a David Dunn effort that ended up in the crowd. Despite the possession
enjoyed by Rovers Town stuck to their task of ensuring that the
expected rout didn’t materialise, and the home crowd began to get
a little frustrated at their teams lack of penetration. When they
did manage to breach the defence they found Margetson in no mood
to capitulate with the Welshman smothering an effort at the feet
of Marcus Bent on 65 minutes and pulling off a double stop a few
minutes later from Jansen and Mahon.
Numerically challenged Town began to set about the hosts in more
determined fashion, and created a glorious chance in the 69th minute
when Kenny Irons received a return ball from Simon Baldry, and his
floated ball into the Blackburn area was exquisitely controlled
by Craig Armstrong who then rifled in a superb shot that evaded
Friedel only to see it hit the inside of the post and bounce to
safety. Blackburn almost seemed content with the 1-0 scoreline and
wasted time by passing the ball amongst themselves, and although
this might have been very pretty it was hardly the tactic expected
of a top two side playing against a relegation threatened team.
Sensing that an equaliser might be possible, Macari sent Kevin
Gallen on in the 85th minute to replace the unconvincing Adie Moses,
although the striker didn’t really have time to settle into a game
where the home defence was on top and failed to make any tangible
contribution. Unfortunately, the thinned down defensive line-up
probably contributed to Blackburn doubling their lead in the last
minute. A through ball was played to Mark Hughes, and despite the
attentions of three defenders he used his experience to hold them
off and back heel the ball to the unmarked Matt Jansen who buried
the ball into the back of the net with Margetson helpless. It was
just a question of playing out time as Town didn’t have it in them
to recover from 2-0 down in the few minutes of injury time that
were added even though they did manage it in a home televised thriller
a couple of years ago.
The score perhaps flattered Blackburn a little who had struggled
to penetrate a well organised and very determined Town defence and
midfield, but at the end of the day it was another zero points return
at a time when we desperately need to drag ourselves away from the
bottom 3. There are only 4 games left, 2 of which are against play-off
chasing teams and although Crystal Palace lost again along with
Stockport, Portsmouth drew and Grimsby won edging them nearer to
the probable safety mark of 50 points. I seem to say this every
time we lose, but we simply cannot rely on other teams cocking things
up, we must go out and get the results for ourselves starting with
the game at home to QPR next Saturday.
Blackburn Rovers 2 (Flitcroft 30, Jansen
Position in table – 21st
Town – Vaesen; Jenkins;
Lucketti; Moses (Gallen 85); Heary; Thornley (Margetson 52);
Armstrong; Holland; Facey; Gorré (Irons 46); Baldry. Subs
not used – Gray; Brennan.
Blackburn Rovers – Friedel; Curtis; Short;
Berg; Bjornebye (Berkovic 59); Gillespie (Hignett 46); Flitcroft;
Dunn; Mahon; Jansen; Bent (Hughes 71). Subs not used – Johnson;
Referee – Peter Walton (Northampton). Attendance