Rovers finally picked up their first win of the season by finally learning to take their chances and rubber stamping their dominance with a result to match!
Big Sam had, for the first time, everybody available as the raft of injuries Rovers have had to endure has started to clear up. Only Benni McCarthy and Steven N’Zonzi were unavailable as Rovers for once had a strong bench to pick from. The suprise was that Sam only made one change from the side that stumbled to a dour draw against West Ham. El Hadji Diouf was back from injury and replaced the newly injured Steven N’Zonzi.
The reaction from the crowd when the team was read out was one of annoyance as David Dunn was again second striker in a rigid 4-4-1-1 formation – which proved so unpopular with the Rovers fans last time out.
But the groans and moans didnt last long. This was the same formation but with a different attitude, the attitude that was present against Man City on the opening day.
Rovers pressed from the off and hassled the Wolves side into mistakes and were worthy winners in the end.
The first chance of the game was for Wolves who floated a free kick into the Rovers box from the right foot of talented midfielder Milijas, Robinson spilled the ball and Berra fired wide when it would of been easier to hit the target. The Wolves defender was on reflection gifted an open goal but the chance was made difficult as he was on the turn but in the end it was close but no cigar as a relieved Robinson reflected on a mistake.
After that it was all Rovers for the next twenty mintues as the classy Gamst Pedersen (god it feels good to be able to say that again!) and the industrious Diouf supported Dunny and Roberts up front well with Grella anchoring as Andrews roamed about in almost a free role.
After a few half chances Rovers took the lead in the 19th minute as El-Hadji Diouf celebrated his return to the starting line-up by latching onto a mistimed tackle by on-loan defender Michael Mancienne and racing through on goal to drive past Wayne Hennessey.
It was just the lift the crowd and players needed as Dioufs’ goal had lifted a jinx of sorts. The crowd were roused and the Rovers players confidence shot up a notch.
It could have been more as the half drew to a close as Morten Gamst Pedersen rammed the post from a dangerous free kick and Keith Andrews forced a fine save from Hennessey on the stroke of the break.
That Berra chance for Wolves was in retrospect the best chance of a tough afternoon as Rovers were finally on song and the home side gradually took a grip on proceedings thanks to the excellent Dunns’ creativity and the energy of Roberts and Diouf up front.
Things briefly looked brighter for the visitors at the start of the second period as Mick McCarthy’s substitutions took effect and the absolutely massive Stefan Maierhofer struck wide when well placed from a threatening cross.
But Rovers removed any jitters that existed in the second period as Givet met a David Dunn corner with a powerful header which was borderline going in but Roberts rerased any doubt by getting a faint touch and claiming the goal. To be fair it was the least Roberts deserved as he had put in a great shift up front bringing other more cultured Rovers players into the play – as his role commands.
It was Roberts’ who also supplied the third Rovers goal as he barged through the defence to fire at Hennessy and leave Dunn with the easiest of strikes from close range.
The assault continued as Keith Andrews was looking to bag against his old (and first) club. He forced two good saves from the wolves stopper and was unlucky not to notch.
Wolves did strike at the death with a consolation two minutes from time when Maierhofer controlled a corner from Jarvis and poked home from the edge of the 6 yard box.
This was a minor blip however as the annoyance of losing the clean sheets that Allardyce loves will be cancelled out by the joy of the first win and finally Rovers can say they took the chances they created.
There was further good news as the return of Brett Emerton was realised. Even before he was stripping off to replace Morten the crowd were away and chanting his name. He has been sorely missed.
Also to compound the joy Spanish legend Michel Salgado made his debut as he replaced Lars Jacobsen with ten minutes left.
3 points against a good side, job done.
Robinson – 6
Could do very little about a good finish at the end. Will be annoyed not to pick up a clean sheet but was rarely tested.
Jacobsen – 7
Another very solid outing from the bosman bargain. Strong in the tackle and willing to get forward
Samba – 6
Picked up a knock and had to be replaced by Nelsen near the end. Other than that he was his usual self and kept things steady at the back, struggled with the even taller Meirhofer after the break though.
Givet – 8
Awesome signing. Unlucky not to score and solid as a rock at the back. never looks flustered and adds class to the backline. £4 million is a bargain.
Chimbonda – 6
Still looks a bit unfit but that is to be expected. Did his job on the left and never shirked a challenge.
Diouf – 7
Scored a welcome goal and was looking the business on the right. Linked with Roberts well and caused trouble in patches. Encouraging.
Andrews – 7
An improved showing on recent weeks. He did his usual running and looking for the late run into the box but he has added a steel over the international break it seems as his tackling was pretty good and he didnt waste many passes.
Grella – 8
Timely interceptions, great tackles and visionary passes kept the side ticking over. Its’ almost as if the Vince Grella that looked shaky and sloppy last season was his frail twin brother.
Joking aside – this is the Vince Grella that we want to see.
Morten Gamst Pedersen – 7
Another good show on the left. Two great free kicks and worked hard on the left hand side. Was the creative force that he was in 2004/05/06 and can take heart from another good showing.
David Dunn – 9
Jason Roberts – 8
He has taken a slating in recent weeks and maybe he has deserved it but this was just the answer he needed to give. Similar to Emile Heskey/Carlton Cole he is a forward who doesnt deal in goals, he brings more skillful players into the play and Dave Dunn, Pedersen and Diouf wouldnt have looked nearly as effective if Roberts wasnt on the pitch.
Well done Jason.
Nelsen – 6
Steady shift filling in for Samba.
Emerton – 7
Looked great when he came on, full of running and had Wolves on the back foot – its like he has never been away!
Cameo stuff but he looks class. A funny chant of are you Tugay in disguise broke out… quite so.
Sam Allardyce – 8. People may not like the formation and I will say I am not mad keen either but it worked today. And just as he deserves flak from time to time he deserves credit today.