A rather good Jimmy Bullard free-kick rescued a point for Fulham at Ewood Park as Rovers threw away 2 points in their quest for European football next year.
With it now looking like 5th being the only UEFA Cup spot and 6th looking like being the Intertoto spot Rovers may look back on Saturday as a crucial point if they fail to make it into Europe.
Fulham battled throughout but looked on their way to defeat after Morten Gamst Pedersen had headed Rovers ahead just before the hour mark, finally making their possession count.
Then in the final-minute Fulham were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box, as Chris Samba raised his foot to Eddie Johnson.
Bullard took charge and found the top corner with a masterful strike and earned Fulham a point which their performance, which provided plenty of fighting spirit but lacked any real quality, probably deserved as Rovers were in control for long periods but not at their fluent best in the fnal third.
Throughout a miserable first half both sides struggled to create meaningful chances but Blackburn at least looked industrious and asked some questions of the Fulham defence.
A clumsy challenge by Clint Dempsey allowed the hosts their first chance from a 30-yard free-kick but Danny Murphy blocked Steven Reid’s effort.
Gamst’s crossing was sub par on the day, this was evident in the first half as he found good space down the left but his cross was wasteful and Stephen Warnock also broke into the box only for his square ball to evade everyone.
David Bentley had an effort deflected wide and Roque Santa Cruz was denied by a good Paul Konchesky tackle but there were few moments of serious danger in the Fulham area as the first half was drab in the main.
Zurab Khizanishvili had the first proper attempt on goal after 35 minutes when he headed a Bentley corner at Keller.
The game livened up after the break as Rovers showed more urgency, upped the tempo and Fulham almost conceded a freak goal moments later.
Reid looked set to lose out to Konchesky as he chased Santa Cruz’s knockdown but the ball somehow deflected off the pair and looped onto the crossbar and behind. Gamst then tried his luck from distance but failed to test Keller even though the pace and swerve was there.
Fulham launched a rare attack and almost snatched the lead as Johnson broke into the area and fired in a shot that clipped the outside of Brad Friedel’s post.
However, Rovers came back and grabbed the opener just before the hour. The newly-introduced and game Jason Roberts created the chance, delivering a fine cross for the unmarked Gamst to head past Keller at the far post with a solid and technically sound bullet.
Fulham could have levelled within minutes but Murphy’s shot was blocked and Dempsey could not make decent contact in the ensuing goalmouth scramble.
Roberts had the chance to put the game out of Fulham’s reach but when through took one touch to many and Keller smothered.
Gamst went close to a second with a superb curling effort from a 30-yard free-kick and Roberts broke through again seven minutes from time, but Keller rushed out and blocked with his feet from point-blank range.
The miss proved costly as Fulham grabbed a shock equaliser three minutes from time. Samba was punished (dubiously) for a high foot in a challenge with Fulham striker Eddie Johnson on the edge of the area and Bullard stepped up to curl home the free-kick.
On the whole it was 2 points dropped as we should have won easily given the possession we had, the chances we made and the run we have been on.
Had very little to do, made a couple of routine saves and had no chance at all with Bullard’s late leveller.
Looked a little shaky at times but is assured on the ball and never shirks a tackle.
Kept things simple and can count himself unlucky to be penalised for the late free kick that cost us 2 points. Misses Ryan Nelsen.
Another one who didn’t try anything stupid and has a cool head which serves him well. Does stuggle with pacy attackers however but positioning often compensates.
Best defender on show in blue and white and made a couple of crucial blocks. Has helped Gamst re discover form.
Looks incredibly comfortable on the ball and always creates danger, unlucky that things he tried to inject quality into proceedings didn’t come off this week, but other weeks they will and we will reap the benefits.
Strong in midfield and kept the ball well when others were giving possession away cheaply. Had a bit more freedom to roam due to his midfield partner not having the legs of Dave Dunn. Showed class.
Certainly not one of his better days, Struggled at times and didn’t have the impact he normally does. Lasted an hour.
Crossing was pretty poor by his standards but he DID look dangerous and took his goal well. Shwoing signs of the Gamst we all know is there.
Did nothing of any real note. Lucky to last an hour and we need to see that desire back. A great player but needs that goal from open play to get the feeling back.
Santa Cruz 5
The effort was there and the guile was there but the confidence needs to come back. Struggled to make an impact in the final third even if his hold up play was as usual excellent.
Looked a million times more threatening than McCarthy when he replaced his mate. Showed usual strength and a great cross for Gamst’s header. Potential starter at West Ham.
Did a load of running as we expect. The chances didn’t come his way but he is a great talent. Always a threat coming off the bench.
Hughes – 7. His subs changed the game in Rovers favour and he should be commended for this. However he will be glad to get Dunn back on the pitch. He will see this as two points dropped however.