Fenton makes a quick impression

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The Independent Online
GUY HODGSON

Blackburn Rovers 1 Leeds United 0

Just when you thought this match would be entirely forgettable, one player ensured that, for him at least, the occasion will be remembered with some warmth. Graham Fenton scored his first goal for Blackburn Rovers last night, achieving a personal milestone, and rekindled dwindling hopes of qualifying for Europe.

The victory, secured on a bitterly cold night, not only arrested a run of four games without success, it pushed Blackburn into eighth in the Premiership. It is a long shot, but a Uefa Cup place might be achieved - and would not that put an unexpected gloss on an otherwise less than happy season?

As for Leeds, they frequently attacked in numbers, which is not what you could always accuse them of when they bored the nation on Sunday, and they might have got a draw. But for an excellent save from Tim Flowers from Gary McAllister's 67th minute free-kick, they would have.

Anyone who witnessed Leeds throw adventure to the wind at home against Liverpool in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup could only fear the worst when they played away. That feeling was reinforced when the visitors' team was revealed: no Tony Yeboah (injured) or Tomas Brolin (substitute).

The fact that Leeds failed to bring a ball onto the pitch for the warm- up hardly suggested they were concentrating too much on being creative, either, so it was a surprise when they raced out of the blocks. First Paul Beesley's shot flew just over, then Rod Wallace had Flowers diving low to his right in the eighth minute.

Blackburn needed sparking into life and, as usual, it was Alan Shearer who found the matches. Not as a striker this time, but as a provider, swinging in passes from the right that Billy McKinlay and Paul Warhurst should have made more of.

This set the game on its expected course, with Blackburn pressing and Leeds trying to break, but it was not until Fenton's introduction for the injured Warhurst at half-time that the finish emulated the promise.

A beautifully executed goal it was, too, route one at its simplistic best. A lovely pass of 40 yards from Nicky Marker found the former Aston Villa player free on the right in the 48th minute and, with an assurance that had been lacking in his colleagues earlier, he controlled the ball as he outstripped the Leeds centre-backs and then slipped a low shot past John Lukic from just inside the area.

After 63 minutes it was almost 2-0 when Shearer headed against a post, but instead of Blackburn it was Leeds who were revived by this and they finished in the ascendant. At no time more than when McAllister curled in a delightful freekick from 30 yards that left Flowers in the back of his net. Unfortunately for the visitors, the ball refused to follow suit.

Blackburn Rovers: (4-4-2) Flowers; Berg, Hendry, Coleman, Kenna; Gallacher, Marker, McKinlay, Holmes; Shearer, Warhurst (Fenton, h-t). Substitutes not used: Gudmundsson, Mimms (gk).

Leeds United: (5-3-2) Lukic; Kelly, Radebe, Wetherall, Beesley (Brolin, 60), Worthington; Gray, Palmer, McAllister; Deane, Wallace. Substitutes not used: Masinga, Pemberton.

Referee: S Dunn (Bristol).

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