Football: Blackburn rely on Ripley

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The Independent Online
Blackburn Rovers. . .3

Bournemouth . . . . .1

JACK WALKER'S millions may have brought Blackburn a measure of success but they carry with them a surcharge of expectation. Many decades have passed since Rovers were last considered giants worth killing. But here they were striding out in the third round of the FA Cup against Bournemouth of the Second Division with the unfamiliar burden of superiority upon their shoulders.

The minute's silence in memory of Ted Croker, the former FA secretary, at the start of the game did little to help the load sit more comfortably. Bournemouth it was who seized the initiative winning the first corners of the game and unsettling their hosts with a bruising aerial bombardment.

Although Blackburn did manage a few stuttering attacks there was an almost dreamlike inevitability about the opening goal. Certainly Rovers' defence seemed to be sleep-walking. In the 12th minute Efan Ekoku beat them all to Denny Mundee's knock-on out on the right; he took the ball past Nicky Marker and Colin Hendry before rolling it calmly wide off Bobby Mimms.

The 25-year-old Ekoku was making his comeback after being out with an ankle injury for seven months. The enforced absence had given an edge to his appetite while taking little away from his touch. He gave the eponymous Marker an exhausting afternoon.

Bournemouth's Cup fairy tale was preserved until half-time as Blackburn showed a desperate want of subtlety in attack. They were missing the totemic striker Alan Shearer, and Roy Wegerle, for all his skill, was proving an unsatisfactory target. Bournemouth, meanwhile, defended with what might be called New Year's resolution.

Kenny Dalglish, the Rovers manager and a grim-visaged presence on the touchline, obviously delivered a few well-chosen words at the interval. In the second-half the Cherries were unceremoniously plucked. Stuart Ripley equalised five minutes after the restart when Alex Watson failed to cut out full-back Alan Wright's throw-in down the line and Mike Newell stole in to provide him with a perfect cross.

And it was Ripley again who gave Blackburn the lead 11 minutes later, though in rather less decisive fashion. Wegerle failed to make contact with the winger's curling centre from the left and the ball floated past the wrong- footed goalkeeper Vince Bartram. Perhaps it was an inspired dummy, perhaps it was a stroke of luck. Indubitably it was the end of Bournemouth's real hopes.

They continued to defend with zeal and organisation against the Premier Leaguers and seemed hardly to deserve their tally of three bookings (Peter Shearer, Brian McGorry and Mundee). Nevertheless, they spent the last half-hour penned in their own half and were clearly fading even before Newell strode on to Wegerle's through ball to chip in the decisive third.

Blackburn Rovers: B Mimms; D May, A Wright, M Atkins (T Sherwood, 65 min), C Hendry, N Marker, S Ripley, G Cowans, R Wegerle, M Newell, J Wilcox. Sub not used: S Ireland. Manager: K Dalglish.

Bournemouth: V Bartram; A Pennock, N Masters, M Morris, A Watson, B McGorry, P Wood, P Shearer, S O'Driscoll, E Ekoku, D Mundee. Subs not used: P Scott, R Murray. Manager: T Pulis.

Referee: K Barratt (Coventry).

Goals: Ekoku (0-1, 12 min); Ripley (1-1, 50 min); Ripley (2-1, 61 min); Newell (3-1, 87 min).