Football: A Parkes side full of fight

Anatomy of a troubled club: Blackburn make big changes on the pitch, but badly need stability off it: Blackburn Rovers 2 Carsley 1, 67 Ipswich Town 2 Holland 75, Mowbray 90 Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 18,512
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The Independent Online
TONY PARKES says he doesn't want the vacant manager's position at Ewood Park and perhaps, after this Jekyll and Hyde performance, it is clear why. He instilled a verve and determination into his charges which made them, for the first half at least, appear a different side to that which capitulated so limply last week to QPR.

It was, of course, nearly a completely different team. His mid-week suggestions that he might tinker with Brian Kidd's final eleven converted by Saturday to consigning seven of those starters to either the bench or the stand.

For much of the game fortune appeared to favour his bravery. But the final quarter of the game proved Blackburn's undoing as they reverted to the frightened cat in the headlights routine which had become their stock-in-trade under Kidd.

With just 15 minutes remaining, Blackburn were two goals to the good and odds-on for a first league victory in eight outings, despite Ipswich's dominant possession. But once Matt Holland volleyed Ipswich back into it, the underlying fragility of the home side was cruelly exposed.

Within minutes of that blow, Mark Venus had a chance to equalise from the spot, but blasted high, wide and far from handsome over the bar. It was but a temporary reprieve. First Nathan Blake was dismissed for a second yellow card offence, then Tony Mowbray curled an injury-time shot beyond Alan Kelly to secure a deserved point.

The opening period had belonged to Blackburn, though, and they were ahead within 20 seconds, newly appointed captain Lee Carsley heading past Richard Wright after Blake had flicked on a Simon Grayson throw-in.

Parkes, taking care of business for the fifth time in his 29- year stint at the club said: "Had we been playing a lesser team than Ipswich, we would have won the game." His side moved speedily and with determination when in possession and, in defence, as Ipswich recovered from the early shell-shock, they were resolute. Blake exemplifying a rediscovered desire heading clear a goal-bound Jamie Clapham strike.

The Ipswich contribution, meanwhile, was confined to limiting the damage. Burley has turned the Portman Road outfit into the most watchable side in the division, employing a free-flowing 3-5-2 system and insisting on the passing principles. But so powerful was the will of each Blackburn player to impress that long-range efforts were the best Burley's men could muster.

After the break, Ipswich made the running and chances fell to Mick Stockwell, Tony Mowbray, Jonas Axeldal and Richard Naylor, but they were caught on the counter by a sucker punch when Venus dragged Ashley Ward down for the afternoon's first spot-kick. Carsley despatched it with precision and power.

Undoubtedly, Ipswich earned their point against a Blackburn side who ultimately looked ragged, a result, perhaps, of fatigue following earlier endeavours, or else the strains of a convulsive week.

The chances of Parkes turning his knack of inspiring Blackburn into a full-time occupation are, however, non-existent. He has firmly closed the door on the opportunity, and that should come as no surprise. The affable Parkes is nothing if not consistent. He enjoys his role in the background, while relishing each occasional burst in the spotlight. But he loves the club and knows, were he to fail in the task of returning Blackburn to the top flight, that his lengthy association might well be ended.

This attitude doesn't exactly match the dominant philosophy of the higher echelons of the footballing profession, where chasing the cash has become as much a part of the game as chasing the loose ball. That is perhaps why, when the dust has settled, and the new man - or men - are in position, that the role of Parkes at the club will not be threatened.

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