Blackburn resolve steadied by Sutton

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The Independent Online
As Blackburn head for the home straight in the race for the Premiership title, Chris Sutton is not about to be spooked by talk of faltering in the final furlong.

Those who do foresee such an outcome - notably the Manchester United manager, Alex Ferguson - are wasting their breath, Sutton insists.

"Alex Ferguson is all psychology," said the £5m striker, whose goal against Queen's Park Rangers on Tuesday night increased Blackburn's lead over the holders by eight points. "But we won't let it affect us. He might as well keep quiet."

After Blackburn won at Everton and United dropped two home points against Leeds at the weekend, Ferguson had said: "Blackburn can only throw away the League now. We're hoping for a Devon Loch situation and that we win our last six games."

Ferguson's equine allusion - intended, Sutton believes to unsettle his side - was to the horse which faltered at an imaginary hurdle to lose the 1956 Grand National. Horses for courses, they say, and Kenny Dalglish's unloved Blackburn are showing all the pedigree of a thoroughbred. Ferguson's United, meanwhile, have been nothing short of lame lately; one point from six is well short of championship form.

"People are trying to make us feel under pressure. But we don't feel any more pressure now than we did on the first day of the season," Sutton said. "We're not going to blow it now."

The mutual antipathy that exists between the two Scottish managers is common knowledge, and Dalglish has impressed on his charges the need to exercise a degree of circumspection when it comes to Ferguson's predictions.

"The boss told us all about Alex Ferguson and what he was trying to do," Sutton said. "It didn't have any effect against Rangers, and it won't in the remainder of the season. It was nice to score again as I'd had a bit of a lean spell until Everton on Saturday. But Alan Shearer's been knocking in the goals anyway.

"It was more important to get the three points, though. I still don't think it's all over."

United themselves fell at the last hurdle to Leeds three seasons ago, and other clubs who have slipped up on the championship run-in include Ipswich and Liverpool.

Such is Blackburn's commanding lead that they could even afford to lose a couple of their last six games and still bring the League title to Ewood Park for the first time in 81 years. Four wins will crown Blackburn the first non-city champions since Dave Mackay's Derby 20 years ago.

Talk of Derby on the eve of Saturday's Grand National is an omen Sutton might savour.