It was a tale of two goalkeepers as Stoke denied Blackburn a fifth straight home win at Ewood Park yesterday.
With Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce absent following minor heart surgery, the players that are under his command failed to deliver the three points that would have made him a little happier. Stoke actually had two good chances in the first half but Rovers were dominant in the second – the closest anyone came was Steven N’Zonzi who hit the woodwork.
Australian midfielder Brett Emerton and the two Frenchmen Gael Givet and Nzonzi returned to the Blackburn starting line-up after missing the 3-0 midweek defeat at Fulham.
Blackburn started the brighter with David Dunn again pulling the strings, on-loan Chelsea striker Franco Di Santo nearly scored early on but was unlucky as Thomas Sorensen denied him with a cracking stop.
But Stoke should have claimed the lead midway through the opening period after Ricardo Fuller sent Dean Whitehead clear, but this time it was the Rovers number one to the rescue as Paul Robinson was able to turn it away.
Blackburn suffered a blow in the 32nd minute when David Dunn, who had once again looked Rovers best outlet, came off clucthing a calf. This prompted a tactical reshuffle which saw Jason Roberts come on alongside Di Santo as Rovers went 4-4-2.
Stoke were happy to play on the counter-attack and that approach generated a great chance to take the lead six minutes before the break, when Robinson pulled off a fine save to deny Lawrence at close range as the midfielder swept in a shot from a tantalising cross.
But as with the last home game against Pompey, the half time team talk seemed to inspire Blackburn as they came out fighting and looked the only side capable of taking home the maximum in the second half.
First off, an overhead kick from Rovers captain Ryan Nelsen (yes you are not mad you did just read that) was saved before Nzonzi beat the goalkeeper with a drive that came back off the post.
The pressure came on thick and fast as several half chances feel by the way side before a glorious chance n injury time was headed wide by Chris Samba.
So all in all, it was two points dropped. Irrespective of how Tomas Sorenson played, Rovers had the chances to win the game but it wasn’t to be.
At least it was a clean sheet though as we would have lost that game last season in the same circumstances.
Robinson – 8
Man of the match, clean sheet. Job done for him.
Would of perhaps liked a little more help from those in front of him in the first half.
Chimbonda – 6
Pretty steady, could have done more going forward though.
On the plus side presented plenty of guile in the defensive part of his game which he doesn’t always show.
Nelsen – 7
Steady as rock and led by example, much more commanding in the second half as well as Stoke didn’t get a sniff.
Did get shown up for pace for first Stoke chance though.
Samba – 7
Decent chance late to win it but his defensive work was largely good.
Rovers do have some problems to tend to but it is not with their centre halves.
Givet – 5
A little shaky at times yesterday. Didn’t do himself any favous by drifting in field a lot.
Put in some solid tackles though but has played much better.
Emerton – 7
Did very little in the first half as the opportunity was not there to bring him into play much.
In the second half though became much more of an influence and was Rovers main attacking outlet once Dunn went off.
N’Zonzi – 7
Yes another good game from the man destined to be a star. Unlucky to hit the post and some more cracking passes when given the chance to shine.
In a 4-4-2 though he needs someone who kicks on a bit more alongside him – someone like Steven Reid would be ideal.
Andrews – 6
Not bad. A marked improvement on Fulham for one and a couple of intelligent forward passes created some industrious play .
His defensive work though consists of little more than running about closing down space as he seems scared to tackle too strongly. Still though, much better on the whole.
Diouf – 6
Showed a bit of threat on the left as he looked to cause a bit more hassle for the full backs. He did also take on a bulk of the responsibility when Dunn went off.
The same little niggles and things that hinder his game were still evident though!
Dunny – 5
Only played half an hour. Looked like causing trouble all afternoon when he was on and he stood out like a sore thumb as the player that would win the game for Rovers but it wasn’t to be.
Get your prayer mats out that he isn’t out for too long.
Di Santo – 6
Now I know he will cop it for missing another one on one but this one was more to do with the fact that their keeper had a blinder rather than Di Santo actually not putting in a good effort. Unlucky not to score.
Apart from that his all round game was again effective. Will need to score soon though to justify his inclusion before the more cynical fans round on him.
Grella – 6
Solid. Was there simply to stop Stoke and on the evidence of the second half he did just that.
Still doesn’t look 100% where I am sat but the Grella/N’Zonzi partnership worked ok, the wingers were he main threat in the second half as the middle two provided the axis.
Roberts – 5
Standard Jason Roberts. Ran a lot, harried a lot, held it up well a lot. Didn’t really look like scoring a lot!
Crossing seemed to be a lot better than the last few games. Maybe dropping him has done Morten a favour.
Did add a threat when on the pitch but didn’t do enough for me to start the next game.