Football: Gallacher's day

Blackburn Rovers 1 Gallacher 20 Derby County 0 Attendance: 23 ,557
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The Independent Online
Roy Hodgson celebrated his 50th birthday with a winning start to his career as Blackburn manager thanks to a first-half goal from one of the players he inherited from previous regimes.

On a day awash with exotic newcomers, here as in virtually all other Premiership games, it was a familiar face who did the business for Rovers, Kevin Gallacher finding the space after 20 minutes to meet Stuart Ripley's corner with a glancing header.

In this multi-national competition, Derby's goalkeeper Mart Poom holds the distinction of being the only Estonian. So averse were he and his central defenders to crosses, however, that they could all have been taken for natives of Transylvannia.

During a first half that saw them move the ball around intelligently, Blackburn should have capitalised on that weakness more ruthlessly than they did. As it was, their other good chance came before their goal and saw Chris Sutton shoot against the angle of bar and post.

Derby, with their Italian wing back, Stefano Eranio, looking a an interesting arrival, played some neat stuff themselves. Another summer signing, albeit only from as far away as Birmingham, also stood out. Jonathan Hunt had a goal-bound effort tipped over in the early stages.

Derby changed their strike force at half time, bringing on Ashley Ward and another fresh face, Deon Burton.

As Blackburn, and particularly the star of the first half, Ripley, gradually lost their momentum, it was Derby who had the better of it after the break, but Hunt wasted their best opportunity when he shot straight at John Filan, after Burton had squared the ball to him.

Not surprisingly, their manager, Jim Smith, believed that they had been well worth the points. "We started off very nervously for the first 25 minutes and they got the goal which you could see coming," he said.

"After the goal, it was our game in the main. We had a couple of good chances that you really can't afford to miss at this level."

Hodgson, who brought on a ring-rusty Martin Dahlin for a late taste of the action, was afterwards still able to reflect on what he called "a very solid performance."

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