Football: A triumph of unloved efficiency

Click to follow
Oldham Athletic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Blackburn Rovers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

THERE is much to admire about Blackburn Rovers. Well organised, loaded with skilled and hardworking players, they win games like this one with cool, unhurried efficiency.

And yet, when they do succeed, as almost certainly they will, in collecting one of the major trophies, it is likely to bring joy to a committed minority more than to a larger impartial public.

Maybe it is inevitable that they are not greatly loved. They are like pools winners, wealthy without sweating for a penny of it. With Jack Walker's chequebook, Kenny Dalglish has assembled an enviable collection; but there is scarcely more merit in what he has achieved than in a rich man buying a gallery full of Rembrandts.

It is so much easier to applaud what Joe Royle does on a shoestring with Oldham. Their home at Boundary Park can rarely have seemed more aptly named than now. Without the resources to prosper in the Premier League, they live constantly at the edge.

They lost this match not because they were markedly inferior but because Blackburn have Alan Shearer and because they have a defence which, from time to time, might as well not be there. Shearer punished them once in each half.

First, he controlled Graeme Le Saux's cross with his chest and pumped the ball into Gary Walsh's net in an instant after Tore Pedersen, Oldham's latest Norwegian import, had missed a clearance.

Rick Holden brought Royle's side deservedly back to level terms with a well-placed shot from 20 yards.

But then '10 seconds of madness' - as Royle put it, with a smile - let in Shearer again.

Oldham's back four failed miserably in an attempt to persuade the linesman to raise his flag and left Newell, with Shearer and Kevin Gallacher at his flanks, bearing down on Walsh who gallantly blocked Newell but could do nothing about Shearer, who raised his score so far to 16 goals in 15 starts since recovering from his knee injury, 13 of them in Blackburn's last 10 League matches.

Goals: Shearer (27) 0-1; Holden (40) 1-1; Shearer (49) 1-2.

Oldham Athletic (5-3-2): Walsh; Fleming, Jobson, Pedersen (Adams, 73), Redmond, Pointon (Ritchie, 63); Halle, Milligan, Bernard; Sharp, Holden. Substitute not used: Hallworth (gk).

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Berg, May, Hendry, Le Saux; Ripley, Sherwood, Batty, Gallacher; Newell, Shearer. Substitutes not used: Atkins, Wilcox, Mimms (gk).

Referee: J Worrall (Warrington).