Football: Blackburn accelerate into gap

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The Independent Online
Blackburn Rovers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Newcastle United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

EVEN with temporary dressing-rooms a bus ride away from the partially and palatially rebuilt Ewood Park, there is no place like home for Blackburn Rovers, FA Cup apart.

Most of the talk after nine successive home Premiership wins was whether Rovers can catch Manchester United. That may well be in the 'can elephants fly?' category, but as Kevin Keegan conceded, Rovers are the one team with any chance of tempting the bookies to reopen their books.

Anyway, it is already a successful season for Rovers with a Uefa Cup place almost certainly booked and until the recent hiccups Newcastle United have had every reason to be happy, too.

Unfortunately neither team performed up to scratch. It was gritty, rather than glamorous, with Rovers showing only glimpses of their quality and United, after their recent slump, happy with the graft factor if hurt by a rather cruel result.

The duel between Ruel Fox and Graeme Le Saux was an outstanding sideshow. Le Saux won the contest with crisp tackling and a zest that must have impressed the England coach, Terry Venables. Never out-foxed, in fact.

Only a brilliant save by Pavel Srnicek prevented Le Saux nicking the points, too, long before David May came to Rovers' rescue.

Apart from Alan Shearer missing one chance he would normally bury and Peter Beardsley failing by inches to lob Tim Flowers, defenders dominated the day.

Not surprisingly a 'sneak' goal did the trick when May burst through to shrink the gap to seven points, claiming his first of the season with a Shearer-like flourish after 76 minutes.

Keegan, perturbed by the fans' treatment of Mike Hooper to the extent that he is 'still considering' his future, saw Srnicek make another spectacular save from Kevin Moran, solid and sharp as ever at 37.

There was, too, one touch of the Grobbelaars about Srnicek. But without Andy Cole, it was scoring goals not stopping them that most concerned Keegan.

Goal: May (76) 1-0.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Berg, May, Moran, Le Saux; Ripley, Batty, Atkins, Wilcox (Wright, 72); Shearer, Gallacher. Substitutes not used: Marker, Mimms (gk).

Newcastle United (4-2-4): Srnicek; Watson, Venison, Howey, Beresford; Fox, Clark, Elliott, Sellars; Lee, Beardsley. Substitutes not used: Neilson, Matthie, Hooper (gk).

Referee: K Burge (Tonypandy).