Football: Coca-Cola Cup: Blackburn overcome Shearer injury

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The Independent Online
Blackburn Rovers. .3

Cambridge United. .2

BLACKBURN ROVERS survived the shock of losing Alan Shearer after 30 minutes and a goal after 49 before confirming their first semi-final in the Coca- Cola Cup for 31 years. Cambridge's spirited and resourceful football suggested that they may yet be capable of preserving First Division status.

Rovers, who now play either Ipswich or Sheffield Wednesday, reached the last four in the then League Cup in 1961-62, a distinction rarely referred to around Ewood, for they lost to Rochdale.

John Vaughan had to defy much early pressure in which Ripley, Wilcox, Newell and finally Shearer found scoring positions without forcing the best from the Cambridge goalkeeper. Shearer's far-post header was positively tame, while Colin Hendry, up for Rovers' second corner, all but cleared the stand from 10 yards.

Two shots from Shearer, perhaps signalling Blackburn's frustration, were delivered from outside the box, although with Stuart Ripley and Jason Wilcox finding so much space on the flanks, all Rovers had to do, it seemed, was to be patient and take up position.

The first significant moment came on the half-hour. Shearer's right knee, the source of his recent two-match absence, needed treatment after a fairly harmless challenge on Danny O'Shea.

Blackburn, all too conscious of the value of their expensive striker, allowed him only a further two minutes before taking him off as a precaution and sending on Roy Wegerle.

As if a subtle balance in the match changed at that moment, Paul Raynor's long cross from the left was met exactly by Gary Rowett, the header forcing Bobby Mimms into a full stretch tip-over.

That change of mood was confirmed dramatically four minutes after the interval when White laid off the ball cleverly for Gary Clayton to hit home a low, 30-yard shot. Within a minute White had broken through again, and, six yards out, seemed certain to seal the tie, but the ball flew off Bobby Mimms's legs.

Rovers reacted like a team conscious that their best opportunity of a major honour this season might have been disappearing on this damp night. On the hour they were level, Wilcox's low cross being forced in at the far post by the incoming Mike Newell.

With Tim Sherwood asserting control in midfield, Rovers finished in something like their full pomp, the ball making several perilous passages through the Cambridge area. The crucial goal came in the 76th minute after the best move of the night, Alan Wright and Wilcox confounding the right flank before Wilcox, in space, delivered another low cross. Newell missed the ball, but Wegerle, racing in behind, ensured the score.

The last two goals were a bonus: Newell ran through a ragged defence to make it 3-1 before Mick Heathcote headed in a corner to preserve Cambridge pride.

Blackburn Rovers: Mimms; May, Wright, Sherwood, Hendry, Moran, Ripley, Cowans (Atkins, 89), Shearer (Wegerle, 32), Newell, Wilcox.

Cambridge United: Vaughan; Fensome, Kimble, Raynor, Heathcote, O'Shea, Francis, Rowett (Dennis, 81), White, Clayton, Leadbitter. Substitute not used: Fowler.

Referee: J Lloyd (Wrexham).

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