When you are down, fate, it seems, cannot wait to take a kick. Blackburn's dreadful start to the season continued last night when they succumbed to their third successive home defeat. On a day when a championship-winning manager lost his job, Ray Harford's position is looking less secure by the match.
Harford was assistant to Kenny Dalglish when Blackburn took the title two years ago, and little has gone right since. Last night they were unlucky, but then Howard Wilkinson probably felt the same when he was dismissed by Leeds United yester- day morning. Dalglish has gone and luck appears to have shot out of Ewood Park, too.
Led by Chris Sutton, Blackburn were the better team last night but lost thanks to a goal from Shaun Flynn five minutes from time. Blackburn have one point from five matches, and Harford is aware that time is running out. "If you are not winning games then there is bound to be some emphasis on doing something about it," he said. "That's up to Jack Walker and the directors. It's a man's game, and if you don't get results there will be repercussions. I am not going to resign. If the board feel I have to go, then so be it."
Harford pleaded for patience for the match, though the paucity of that virtue became immediately apparent. Derby attacked, the home defence disintegrated and within a minute the visitors were ahead. The root of Blackburn's disarray was Darryl Powell's pass which gave Chris Powell the edge to chip over Tim Flowers. Jeff Kenna cleared the ball from the line but Ron Willems stabbed the ball back again, and this time Chris Coleman's intervention was too late.
Blackburn might have collapsed at this point, instead they clawed back and, not withstanding a free-kick from Aljosa Asanovic that hit the bar, had the better of the first half. Their sole reward was an equaliser after 11 minutes. Sherwood crossed, the Derby keeper, Russell Hoult, reached for and dropped the ball and, when Graham Fenton drove the ball across the goal, Sutton stuck out a leg to force it in from three yards.
Power, not lightness of touch, had given Blackburn a marginal advantage, and for most of the second half they continued their tour de force, pressing Derby deep into their own half.
Sutton, making his first start since December, has the awkward task of replacing the irreplaceable - Alan Shearer - and though this appears to be mission impossible, his form last night suggests he will give it a good try.
A goal seemed destined to come for Blackburn, but it arrived for Derby after 84 minutes. Flynn supplied Marco Gabbiadini on the right and then took the return pass, shooting past Flowers from 10 yards. It will not get any easier for Blackburn. Their next match is away to Newcastle. The prospect of Shearer twisting the knife is almost too awful to contemplate.
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Berg, Hendry, Coleman (Pearce, 87), Kenna; Donis, Sherwood, Bohinen, Ripley (Gudmundsson, 87); Fenton, Sutton. Substitutes not used: McKinlay, Flitcroft, Given (gk).
Derby County (3-4-1-2): Hoult; Rowett, Stimac, Carbon; Laursen, Dailly (Flynn, 70), D Powell, C Powell; Asanovic; Sturridge, Willems (Gabbiadini, h-t). Substitutes not used: Van der Laan, Simpson, Taylor (gk).
Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley).Reuse content