Football: Dismissals colour Blackburn's grey day

Blackburn Rovers 0 Coventry City 0
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The Independent Online
After 22 goals in the previous three matches, Ewood Park was due a bad one and regrettably it arrived yesterday. An untidy game with little to commend it, the negative overwhelmed the positive to the extent that the only memorable moments were two sendings-off.

Dion Dublin and Jason Wilcox were the dismissed men, the first in controversial circumstances that set a bad tempered tone for the rest of the afternoon and culminated in Wilcox kicking Michael O'Neill to earn his red card. As for entertainment, forget it.

The mood of the game plummeted with Dublin's sending-off after 41 minutes for seemingly elbowing Colin Hendry in the face. The Coventry striker furiously contested the decision, which the referee made after consulting with a linesman, and television, from one angle, appeared to back his assertion that he had not made contact with the Rovers centre-back. Dublin was reported to be in tears in the dressing-room and claiming the decision was "a joke".

If you lead with an arm you leave yourself open to misinterpretation, however, and that might count against Coventry if they use video evidence in an attempt to clear Dublin's name -as Manchester United did on Gary Pallister's behalf last week.

"I have studied the incident from both angles," Gordon Strachan, the Coventry manager, said, "and it clearly shows he missed Colin by about a foot. It was an honest mistake because I have seen the view the linesman got and it must have looked questionable. We will apply to the FA and see if Coventry get as much respect as Manchester United.

"Dion is crestfallen. He's been playing the best football of his career and we don't want him dragged down by this. We will be supportive."

While Dublin's dismissal was open to debate, Wilcox gave the referee little option after 68 minutes when he barged into and then kicked O'Neill. "He blocked me from 15 yards and it was just a moment of frustration," Wilcox said. "I know I lashed out but I would like to view the video to see exactly what I did."

The videos are going to be whirling in Blackburn, Coventry and London and it can safely be said that very little time will be spent studying the match. Blackburn had 22 attempts at goal, but they rarely looked like piercing a Coventry team whose defensive attitude was reinforced when they were reduced to 10 men.

Rovers should have gone ahead after five minutes but Garry Flitcroft miscued from Tim Sherwood's knock-down. Steve Ogrizovic did not have to save that, but he got down sharply to his left to save a header from Chris Sutton 12 minutes later and also thwarted Flitcroft with a flying save after 49 minutes.

Coventry managed barely an attempt on goal, although, paradoxically, they came closest to breaking the deadlock when Gary McAllister floated a free-kick against the bar from 20 yards. That apart, their attack was limited to an optimistic attempt by Kyle Lightbourne late in the game.

"It was an opportunity missed," Roy Hodgson, the Rovers manager, said. "We could have gone second, but although we had enough shots to take the points we couldn't create a proper chance. I can't fault the players for their commitment, only the result."

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Valery (Duff, 56), Henchoz, Hendry, Kenna; Gallacher, Flitcroft, Sherwood, Wilcox; Sutton, Dahlin (Bohinen, 75). Substitutes not used: T Pedersen, McKinlay, Fettis (gk).

Coventry City (4-4-2): Ogrizovic; Nilsson, Shaw, Breen, Burrows; Telfer (O'Neill, h-t), McAllister, Boland, Hall; Huckerby (Lightbourne, 63), Dublin. Substitutes not used: Soltvedt, Willis, Hedman (gk).

Referee: P Jones (Loughborough).

Sendings-off: Blackburn: Wilcox. Coventry: Dublin. Bookings: Blackburn: Sherwood.

Man of the match: Ogrizovic.

Attendance: 19,086.