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
I think the Sas has only ever given out 1, maybe 2 10 out of 10 performances. With Robbo copping a fair a bit of criticsm throughout the season, he stood up when needed, making a string of spectacular saves
Andre Oijer 7
Was beaten for pace a few times, but did make a couple of timely interceptions
Steven Warnock 7.5
Was beaten early on by Valencia, but from then on, he was a man on a mission, linking up with Gamst on Several occasions
Ryan Nelsen 8
What a relief for the Admiral. 141 games, finally, the ball goes into the back of the net. Well deserved, solid in defence.
Gael Givet 8
Solid performance from the Frenchmen. Looked at home in central defence, shutting down the Wigan Strike Force
Sat in that central role and directed the play, switching the ball and controlling when needed. The Maestro worked hard in defence, and boy, what a receptio, the 38 year old still has it
Vince Grella 8
Finally. It took 34 games to get the best out of Vinnie G, but when fit and ready, he is a force to be reckoned with. Won every header in the midfield, got stuck in, and made some great interceptions. Passing game wasnt at his best but that will come
Morten Gamst Pedersen 8.5
Why cant he do this every week. WHY!!!!!!!!!! Delightful to watch, deliveries were outstanding, toiled hard, worked in defence, earned a barging over from Robinson for his efforts
El Hadji Diouf 7
Played well, but still looks a bit out of place. Most of the game was directed to Gamst, so didnt recieve many opportunites. Defended superbly though
Chris Samba 8
Who would of said at the start of the year, our main attacking threat would be the big Congolese central Defender. More then held his own up front, with 3-4 players on him at all times, kudos to the big man
Benni McCarthy 8
Chased, worked and scored. Could we ask more from Benni. Was given heaps of freedom with the defence focusing on Samba
David Dunn 7
30 minutes on the pitch for Dunny, nothing special, but good to see him back out there
Little time to impress
Little time to impress
What a TEAM effort
You could see it in the lads out there. The passion, the desire, the unity. After the superb triple save from Robbinson, and goal line clearance from Dunny, they celebrated as if they had won the FA Cup. After Ryan Nelsen’s goal, they celebrated like they had won the World Cup.
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….