A tricky home tie against a Fulham outfit sitting comfortably in the top half of the table was the task for our Rovers outfit today. With David Dunn ruled out for 4 months, Grella out for 2 weeks, Paul Ince decided to give Keith Treacy a start on the left flank, with Gamst Pedersen shifted over to the right flank and Emerton playing in the centre of the park.
It was Fulham who got of to the brighter start, with a darting attack down the right flank seeing the ball being cut back to the feet of Andy Johnson, his blasted effort forced over the bar by Paul Robinson. Rovers then countered, with a Jason Roberts centering a header to Keith Andrews, striking it on the volley, however it went wide of Schwarzers net.
The game fizzed out in the opening 20 minutes, with foul after foul being commited by both outfits. Everton looked dangerous with the ball at the feet of Jimmy Bullard, who copped a couple of rash challenges from Keith Andrews and Brett Emerton.
The BLackburn defence must have copped an earbashing during the week, as Chris Samba and Ryan Nelsen finally showed us what they were capable, shutting down Andy Johnson and Bobby Zamora throughout the half. The same could not be said about the Fulham defence, as a misjudged offside trap put Roque Santa Cruz through, who could only blast his shot straight at Schwarzer, easily parrying the ball away. A Morten Gamst Pedersen free kick caused mayhem in the box, with Schwarzer getting the slightest of touches, preventing Chris Samba notching his first goal of the campaign.
Rovers best chance of the half fell at the feet of Mr Versatile, Brett Emerton. After collecting the ball past half-way, Brett dazzled his way past 2 defenders, cutting back at the corner of the penalty box. Two touches then a curling effort rattled the post, leaving his compatriot Schwarzer breathing a sigh of relief. Rovers were almost made to rue their luck, however a piece of great defending from Ryan Nelsen prevented Andy Johnson’s shot hitting the target. 0-0 Half time.
The Second half started with no changes by either side. More space became availble for both teams, with Keith Treacy skinning the Fulham Right back, Pantsil on a few occasions. Pantsil became the crowds favourite boo boy after a clumsy challenge on Treacy, which the referee failed to spot. Warnock returned the favour, with a ball in all tackle moments later that left Pantsil on the ground.
With chances few and far inbetween, Paul Ince made the first change, with Morten Gamst Pedersen making way for Tugay. Gamst was not happy with the substitution, heading for the tunnels. Andy Johnson, was presented with Fulhams best chance of the game, placed one on one with Paul Robinson, who stood up to the task, parrying the blasted shot. Ryan Nelsen was on hand to clear it away before the oncoming Fulham traffic had any chance of cleaning it up.
Blackburn made a further change, with Chilean sensation Carlos Villanueva making his Premier League Debut, replacing a disgrunteled Jason Roberts who followed Gamst into the sheds. However both could be seen watching from the stands within minutes. THe changes didnt stop there, with Matt Derbyshrie coming on for Keith Treacy.
And it was the three substitutes who played a major hand in the goal 10 minutes from time. Tugay took control in the centre of the park, playing a pass onto the feet of VIllanueva who took a touch and played the most delicate inch perfect chip onto the head of Roque Santa Cruz. His centered header was met by Matt Derbyshire, who clinically slotted the half volley into the back of the net. 1-0 Rovers.
WIth moments to go, a Rovers throw-in found the feet of Villanueva, who jinxed past a Fulham defender and blasted a shot, almost bending into the bottom left corner.
Rovers 1 Fulham 0
Paul Robinsin 8.5
Called into action 3 times, made 3 saves, well done Robbo.
Chris Samba 8.5
Fantastic performance from the big man, met every header, no silly errors, cant ask for any more can we.
Ryan Nelson 8.5
Led the boys fantastically, made a crucial intervention, shutting down AJ as soon as he was about to finish and also pounced to recover Robinsons parried save from another AJ shot
Danny Simpson 8
This lad has loads of potential. I no Sir Alex really rates him, maybe we would be able to sign him up, looks solid and confident at RB.
Steven Warnock 7.5
Much better performance then last week, really showed Pantsil what he was in for with that ball and all tackle.
Keith Andrews 7.5
Played well, solid passing game, good strike on the volley, and made some crucial tackles
Brett Emerton 8.5
Sparkling run in the first half, unlucky with the shot. Went back to his preferred right mid position in the second half, bit of trickery was enjoyed by the fans.
Keith Treacy 8
Real solid performance from the lad, took on his marker, got some decent crosses in. Would like to see him cut into the box and have a shot every now and then
Morten Gamst Pedersen 7
Playing out of position, had to feel sorry for the lad. Always cut back in of the right flank, whipped in a fantastic free kick
Jason Roberts 8
Worked hard, chased everything down, once again, didnt deserve to be taken of, but hey, we won
Roque Santa Cruz 7
Stepped up when JR went of as he became the target man. However the first 70 minutes he was really quiet
Came on with 30 to go, pulled the strings, knocked the ball around and started of the goal scoring play
We saw 20 minutes of him, and we loved it. Hope he will feature more. Fantastic chip for the goal, and almost got one of his own
Sasmans Award for Most Improved
He really knows where the goal is. Clinical finishing from the lad, well done
The Dilemma Part 1
Jason Roberts and Roque Santa Cruz
2 top quality strikers, however, 2 real target man. I feel when these two are on the pitch together, Roque tends to dissapear. JR becomes the main target man, something Roque really is not use to. JR has been performing fantastically, but what would you prefer, JR on fire, or Santa Cruz on fire. We did look much more dangerous with Villanueva and Derbyshire running of Roque rather then the two big man up front
The Dilemma Part 2
Keith Treacy or Morten Gamst Pedersen
2 quality left wingers. Keith Treacy has the feel of fresh air and is really similar to Damien Duff. Likes to hit the byline, gets stuck into the tackles whilst Morten Gamst is the more technical of the two, also with the ability to take on the man, cut in or whip in a fantastic cross.
At the moment, i would rather have Gamst on the left flank, he was wasted on the right flank today.
Sasmans Award for Most Improved
Defence and Robinson.
Well done lads. That was our first clean sheet of the season, well defended, and a fine few saves from Robinson.