Football: Kidd's able Rovers the fortune hunters

Blackburn Rovers 1 Sunderland 0
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The Independent Online
BRIAN KIDD has one thing going for him as he makes his first steps in management: he may or may not be a tactical genius but there is no doubt fortune is smiling on him.

Like his predecessors at Blackburn, Ray Harford and Roy Hodgson, his luck does not extend to injuries but, unlike the managerial ghosts of the past, the results are going in his favour. Who needs most of your first team if you can get away with acts of FA Cup travesty like this?

Throughout this game there was a Premiership-class team performing but it was not the team in blue and white halves. Sunderland, the runaway leaders of the First Division, were by far the better side, yet somehow they managed to bow out at the fourth round stage.

Partly that was their own fault because their reluctance to push men forward undermined their master class in passing, but most of all they fell victim to the flow that is going with Kidd.

That seemed to have run out when Blackburn had Jeff Kenna sent off after 62 minutes for two bookable offences and their goalkeeper John Filan carried off after a heavy fall. Even Kidd was wondering whether the 1999 Cup run was coming to an end. "I was hoping my mum had lit plenty of candles for me," he said. "Big ones, too."

Somebody had lit something because four minutes later Blackburn grabbed the goal they scarcely deserved. Keith Gillespie headed goalwards and then picked himself off the floor to crash the the ball into the roof of the net after Nathan Blake's point-blank shot had been saved by Thomas Sorensen.

To put it mildly, the goal had been against the run of play. After 19 minutes Quinn's angle was out by fractions as he reached Phillips' cross just ahead of Filan and in the second half Phillips put the ball into the net only to have his celebrations curtailed by a mysterious offside decision.

Once Rovers' goal had gone in Sunderland moved forward with the persistence of the teeming rain but the closest they came to scoring came when Quinn's shot at the far post shaved the goal.

"Sometimes you do not get what you deserve," Peter Reid, the Sunderland manager, said. "I know it's a cliche but if your name isn't on the Cup there's not much you can do about it.

"Cup football is all about getting to the next round and we didn't do it," he continued, dispelling the theory that another run might have been a wish too far when promotion to the Premiership is first priority. "If you go down to the dressing-room you'll see the players are very disappointed."

Reid's demeanour seemed to suggest the performance had been a considerable antidote to gloom because it suggested Sunderland will have enough resources to survive this time when they come up. Anyway, there is a wider open gap to Wembley via the Worthington Cup semi-finals this week.

As for Blackburn, anything seems possible with Kidd on this winning streak and if they can get anything like their first team together they have every chance of getting to the final for the first time since 1960.

In the meantime they and the local police might address the chronic traffic problems that bedevil Ewood Park. On Saturday there were still jams getting out of one of the main car parks two hours after the match had finished which, when the crowd is only 30,000, is a long way short of adequate.

Blackburn want big crowds to watch them, but hours of traffic tedium is just about the easiest way to deter them.

Goal: Gillespie (66) 1-0.

Blackburn Rovers (3-4-3): Filan (Flowers, 45); Peacock (Blake, h-t), Henchoz, Broomes; Kenna, Dunn, Wilcox, Davidson; Gillespie, Ward, Duff (Croft, 63). Substitutes not used: Thomas, Taylor.

Sunderland (4-4-2): Sorensen; Makin, Melville, Butler (Smith, 79), Gray; Rae (Summerbee, 70), Clark, McCann, Johnston; Quinn (Dichio, 88), Phillips. Substitutes not used: Ball, Marriott (gk).

Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley).

Bookings: Blackburn: Henchoz; Sunderland: McCann. Sending off: Blackburn: Kenna.

Man of the match: Clark.

Attendance: 30,125.