Blackburn managed to hold off a fast finishing WBA, despite being reduced to 10 men after the dismissal of double goal scoring hero, Nikola Kalinic, taking all 3 points on the road with a well deserved 3-1 victory.
In what appeared to be an attack minded formation, Rovers resorted to a travelling 4-4-2 formation, with MB Diouf forced to work hard as the man up front with Kalinic, as well as dropping back into a wide midfield role in defence.
With Chris Samba joining Keith Andrews, Vince Grella, Steve Nzonzi and Jason Roberts on the injury list, Blackburn’s bench looked like a line up for the future.
Despite the injury problems, it was Blackburn who got of to an absolute flyer. After missing the Boxing Day encounter, EH Diouf was a man on a mission from the outset. Dioufy picked out Kalinic who sprung the offside trap, and managed to slot the ball past Scott Carson, rolling it into the far corner of the net, 1-0 Blackburn.
In what was shaping to be an even yet exciting counter, the first 10-15 minutes consisted of several opportunites for both teams. West Brom moved the ball quickly, preferring to spread it out wide and use the trickery and pace of Tchoyi and James Morrison, catching out Salgado and Olsson on the counter. Blackburn had a slightly more direct style, however both EH Diouf and Gamst Pedersen tried to drag the ball out wide.
Nikola Kalinic looked a reborn striker, and could of easily had a second within 15 minutes. Niko combined well with Dunn, cut past his first man, then struck his bending shot slightly too hard, clipping the top of the woodwork.
Rovers were left to rue this missed opportunity only minutes later. James Morrison released Tchoyi down the right flank, managing to get in behind Martin Olsson. His first time ball went straight across the Rovers goal, with Jerome Thomas left to strike into an empty net. 1-1.
West Brom picked up the tempo in the back end of the half, and were marginly unlucky not to go ahead. A Dorrans shot struck Nelsen in the hand, however referee Phil Dowd correctly ruled it was ball to hand, rather then hand to ball. Odemwingie was released late on in the half, forcing a superb save by Paul Robinson, diving at full stretch to his right to ensure the visitors went in on par at the break…1-1
Rovers were forced into a rare change at the break, Mark Bunn making his first appearance for the season after Paul Robinson picked up a knock. Junior Hoillet came on early in the half for Michel Salgado in an attacking move, with Brett Emerton dropping into the right fullback position.
Blackburn managed to reclaim the lead not too long after. Diouf earned Rovers a corner, which was duly delivered to the far post. Ryan Nelsen lept the highest, heading back across goal, and Kalinic pounced, heading in for the second of his night. 2-1 Blackburn.
Kalinic really could of and should of had his third only minutes later. A backpass from Tamas was miscontrolled by Scott Carson, the ball bouncing into Kalinic’s path. However the young Croat’s must of been just as surprised, with his first touch forcing the ball back into Carson’s arms. A missed opportunity.
Steve Kean didnt have to wait much longer for that important third goal. A Short corner by Pedersen was whipped on by EH Diouf, with on-loan striker, MB Diouf diving at full stretch, heading in from 3 yards and giving Blackburn the ever important 2 goal advantage. 3-1 Blackburn
The travelling supporters were in full voice, until a rash challenge by Nikola Kalinic on Paul Scharner was deemed a dangerous challenge by Phil Dowd, and he was rightly sent off. Replays did Kalinic no justice, with his tackle coming in late, and just above the trailing ankle of the Austrian.
West Brom attempted to pounce on the opportunity, bringing on an extra man up front, and at one stage, only had to break down 9 men with Olsson picking up a knock. However Mark Bunn was keen to prove to the manager that he was more then capable, pulling of a stunning reflex save from Cox from point blank range, and taking full control of any long ball coming into his path. Benjani came on late for El Hadji Diouf, with the Senegalese international ensuring he left the Hawthorns in the only fashion he knows how, giving a bit back to the home supporters who booed him all night, waving to all corners of the ground and taking some precious seconds of the clock.
Blackburn really should of pinched a fourth late on, as Mb Diouf completely made a fool of Tamas, who then reacted with a sickening challenge from behind, bringing down MB Diouf who was through on goal, and earning himself a red card.
A very, very important win for Blackburn, 3-1
Paul Robinson 8
Superb save from Robbo, and was playing well before he picked up a knock
Ryan Nelsen 8
One or two shaky moments, but apart from that, it was the Ryan of old, first to every ball and marshelled the defence well
Martin Olsson 7
Started off slowly, but as the game went on, managed to shut down the flank, as well as hit on the counter
Grant Hanley 7
Solid game from the young man, held his ground well, kept it safe and tidy
Michel Salgado 6
Slightly off the pace from the evergreen Spaniard, maybe should of been rested after playing a couple of days ago
David Dunn 2
Shocking performance from Dunn. Dont think he made a succession of passes, looked really sloppy, and at times dis interested. Fought back late on when we were desperate
Gamst Pedersen 6
Drifted in and out of the match, great deliveries on set pieces
El Hadji Diouf 8
Stellar performance from Diouf. Attacked down both flanks and looked dangerous at all times. Was booked for a dive, yes he went down easily, but at no stage did he claim for a foul….
Brett Emerton 7
Another solid game from the Australian. Worked well down the right flank, then shored it up in defence when moved back
MB Diouf 8
Very lively, hungry, worked his rear end off and deserved his goal. Really enjoys playing up front with someone, keep it up
Nikola Kalinic 9
Really shows what he is capable off when he has somebody with him up front. Takes away a lot of the pressure, 2 well taken goals
Mark Bunn 9
His performance has just sealed Jason Browns fate. What a delightful 45 minutes he had, 2 spectacular saves, and commanded the high balls well.
Junior Hoillet 6
The attacking intent is all there, but whether the ability can match it or not, thats yet to be determined
Lol. enough said
Steve Kean- 8
Despite all the bagging he has recieved, we need to say, he got it right. He noticed that we were getting done on the flanks, dropped Brett Emerton back in for Salgado who was cautioned. He noticed Diouf was starting to get fired up, and took him off, giving him a short yet sharp word as he came off. He played 2 upfront away from home, and reaped the rewards
The gaffer can count himself unlucky. He got his tactics right, attack the flanks, and get the ball in the box, via the floor. Just wasnt his day