Stop The Press!!!! Goals from Blackburn Rovers Center Halves, Chris Samba and Ryan Nelsen ensured Blackburn creep away from the relegation zone, ending a drought extending to the victory against Portsmouth in November.
With the fans starting to call for Allardyce`s neck, the big man was definitely under pressure, however, returned to his seat up in the stands. With the Carling Cup Semi in the back of his mind, Sam sent out a 4-4-2 formation, pleasing the faithful. Martin Olsson was handed a rare start, whilst Steven Reid and Benni McCarthy also featured.
Paul Robinson, Gael Givet, Chris Samba, Ryan Nelsen, Pascal Chimbonda, Martin Olsson, Steven Reid, Steven Nzonzi, Brett Emerton, Nikola Kalinic, Benedict McCarthy.
The fixture was off to a slow start. Both teams taking the wide passage towards goal, trying to incorporate the pace of Duff and Olsson, hitting the byline as much as possible. In this fashion, it was Fulham who almost drew first blood. Stephen Kelly found plenty of space down the right flank, clipping in a cross for the Fulham front men. Dempsey out positioned Samba, however his header went straight into the arms of Paul Robinson. Rovers countered with a Martin Olsson cross, Kalinic tangled with Hangeland, and despite shouts for a penalty, referee Mike Jones blew the whistle in favour of the defence.
Fulham looked the more dangerous, however it was the home side opening the scoring. After collecting the ball on the volley, Benni McCarthy turned his man, striking a vicious half volley at Schwarzers goal. The veteran goal keeper was up to the task, parrying the shot for a corner. Benni took the corner, slightly mis-timed, however, with the swerve and pace of the cross, it caused havoc for the Fulham defence. Duff could only poke it away from the goal, with a reflex flick by Samba burying the ball into the roof of the net. 1-0 Blackburn
After the goal, Fulham started to press further up the pitch. An acrobatic effort from Clint Dempsey left Robinson stranded, the ball fortunately striking the wood work and bouncing back into play. Dempsey should of scored minutes later. A superb through ball found the American back to goal. Dempsey turned Givet inside out, and with all the time in the world, his tame curled shot went straight to Robinson. Steven Reid decided to make a few really rash challenges, earning a few warnings then a yellow card from Mr Jones.
Half Time- Blackburn 1-0.
The second half started as slow as the first. Olsson decided to change the tempo, with a darting run down the left flank halted by a rash challenge in the 54th minute. Benni McCarthy put his hand up for the free kick, whipping a delightful cross into the 6 yard box. Ryan Nelsen escaped his marker, flicking the ball over Mark Schwarzer and into the back of the net. 2-0 Rovers, a dream start to the half.
After the second goal, the game really fizzed out. Fulham pushed men forward, but injuries to key players meant the creative ability was missing. Zolton Gera came closest to pulling a goal back, though once again, Paul Robinson had an easy save to make. Rovers made 3 changes within 20 minutes, Hoillet on for Givet, Salgado on for Emerton and Andrews on for Reid, who received a nice ovation from the Ewood Faithful. The game continued to fizz, with some trickery from Benni McCarthy and good link up play with his strike partner, Kalinic, being the highlight. After setting up 2 goals, Benni almost came close to scoring one, his long range free kick flying just over the goal.
2-0 it Ended, the drought ending as well. Blackburn climb up to 12th spot, but have played an extra game over surrounding teams.
Paul Robinson 7
Safe game. Simple saves to make, though others might say good positioning. A Clean Sheet says it all
Gael Givet 6
Not the Givet of old, but not a bad performance. Looking off the pace, but a few good tackles made up for it
Chris Samba 6
Sloppy marking in the first half almost cost Rovers early on, improved in the second half, scored a goal, might say 6 is harsh, but im sure Samba knows he can defend much better
Ryan Nelsen 7
Centre Back gone striker! ANother neat finish from the Kiwi, who probably is now our second highest scorer…..Similar to Samba, defence can be much better
Pascal CHimbonda 5.5
Very quiet game from Pascal. Too many wayward long balls, no surging runs that we have become accustomed to
Martin Olsson 8
Well in son. A great performance down the left flank, terrorising the Fulham defence with pace, creativity and most importantly, confidence to his play!
Steven Nzonzi 6
A quiet game from the Nzonz! Did what he had to do, but nothing going forward
Steven Reid 5.5
Some really sloppy challenges from Reid, maybe a sign of his frustration, though good to see him back on the pitch
Brett Emerton 5
Poor Game from Emerton, and im sure he will be dissapointed with his personal performance. He and Chimbonda just didnt link up, lost the ball too many times. Look for a big game against Villa as retribution!
Benni McCarthy 7.5
Love him, hate him, rate him or not, Benni is our X-Factor. He makes runs nobody else contemplates, does thing with the ball which amazes you. Sure, 1 in 3 times it doesnt work, but the time they do you just watch in awe. Set up both goals, a great free kick in for Nelsen. Surely Sam cant take him out of the team now
Nikola Kalinic 6.5
Im warming to the kid, and to be honest, as long as Benni is playing alongside Nikola, this partnership can be a hit. Sure, they didnt score (which is normal for a Blackburn Rovers Striker), but they terrorised the defence, and worked hard all game.
Sam Allardyce- Look, I have called for his head for the last 6 weeks, 1 win does not change that. Il keep it at a positive, if we play 4-4-2, with Benni up front, mix it up with long ball and some neat play, regardless of the result, il stay quiet.
However, if we return to a 4-5-1, I will come hunting for Sam again……Touche?