Football: Defeat that meant departure

Blackburn Rovers 0 Southampton 2
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THE CONCLUSION was cold and clinical. Two men walked into the press room at Ewood Park and announced the end of Roy Hodgson's management of Blackburn Rovers without stopping for questions or comment. It was hard to remember that, only a few weeks previously, the condemned had been talked of as a potential coach of either England or Germany.

"Following the run of recent poor results," John Williams, the club's chief executive, said, "Jack Walker and Roy Hodgson have agreed that Roy will be leaving the club. The club are disappointed with this outcome but feel the decision is inevitable and in the best interests of Blackburn Rovers."

Williams, who was flanked by Rovers' director Tom Finn, then announced "that's it" and it was. The 17-month reign of Hodgson was over with Blackburn bottom of the Premiership after gaining one point from a potential last 18. The sense of gloom circulating round Ewood Park was complete.

So was the astonishment. As the players had left the pitch there were boos and tongue in cheek chants of "Hodgson for England" but the rancour that often accompanies such situations was absent. The mood was more of disappointment than anger and you suspect that even those who jeered were surprised by the announcement.

Certainly the players had no inkling at what was about to come. "It came completely out of the blue," Tim Sherwood, the Blackburn captain, said. "It was a shock because Blackburn haven't sacked many managers in the past have they?."

Sherwood said Hodgson spent half an hour with the players explaining the decision. "He wasn't talking all that time," he said. "He's always been the same. You know what an intellect he is, he likes to take stock of things rather than say something he might regret. He didn't say a great deal.

"It's Jack Walker's decision. It's his money, his football club and the players have to respect what he thinks. We now have to get some results quick to get out of trouble."

The agenda was set by Southampton's fourth minute goal. Carlton Palmer had a match that reminded you his call-up into the England team was not the folly it seems in retrospect and his run from left to right lost his marker completely. A long pass found his surge and a neat back-heel from those elastic legs allowed Matthew Oakley the freedom to beat John Filan with a low shot into a corner.

That, understandably given their circumstances, threw Blackburn into confusion and it was the second half before they could properly attempt to retrieve the situation and the last 45 minutes were spent almost exclusively in the visiting half. If you were putting money on the next goal only a fool would have backed Southampton.

However, with the proceedings at the liqueur stage, Dailly's attempt at a clearing header hit Steve Basham, who, with a lovely piece of skill cut inside Stephane Henchoz to score.

The immediate consequence, Blackburn chants of "what a load of rubbish", was predictable, the events that unfolded were not. .

Goals: Oakley (3) 0-1; Basham (89) 0-2.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Filan; Kenna, Henchoz, Peacock (Davies, 72), Croft (Marcolin, 53); Johnson, Sherwood, Dailly, Duff; Gallacher, Blake. Substitutes not used: Wilcox, Broomes, Fettis (gk).

Southampton (4-4-2): Jones; Hiley, Dodd, Dryden, Benali; Ripley, Oakley (Bridge, 62), Hughes, Palmer; Beattie (Kachloul, 89), Ostenstad (Basham, 72). Substitutes not used: Monk, Moss (gk).

Referee: S Dunn (Bristol).

Bookings: Blackburn: Marcolin; Southampton: Dryden, Hiley.

Man of the match: Palmer.

Attendance: 22,812.

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