Leeds United . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
LEEDS' notorious supporters are said to have mended their ways in recent years, but the old saying about leopards and spots came to mind at Ewood Park yesterday, when a large number of them chanted non-stop throughout the minute's 'silence' in memory of Sir Matt Busby.
Howard Wilkinson, the Leeds manager, was appalled, and said the fans' obnoxious behaviour had left his team so shocked that they played in a daze for the first 15 minutes.
'These people are totally out of touch with the rest of football,' he said. 'I just don't understand it. It's another world to me. We were numb. I couldn't believe it was so organised and orchestrated. When the players tried to stop it, they were told where to go. A manager has to take responsibility for many things but not for this.'
To the satisfaction of the outraged majority, the yobs were left with nothing else to shout about on an afternoon when a last-minute winner from the prolific Alan Shearer tugged Manchester United back over the horizon.
Blackburn are still a daunting 13 points behind the leaders, but they do have two games in hand, and United have to play at Ewood in April. With just one defeat in their last 11 matches, Rovers are rampant, and while everyone else may be conceding the championship, Kenny Dalglish is not about to throw in the towel.
The impression is not so much of accelerating pursuit, more like a desperate man dashing up the platform as the express steams away, but at least Uncle Jack's millions are making some sort of fight of it.
Shearer, the pounds 3m man, scored twice to take his total for the season to 26, but England's buccaneering centre-forward was shaded in the man of the match stakes by David Batty - a snip at pounds 2.75m.
Batty clearly relished the battle against his old club, his competitive instinct enabling him to rise to the occasion and dominate a midfield widely regarded as the best in the country. In company with Tim Sherwood he ran the game, looking every prickly inch an England player.
Something special was needed to clear the air fouled by the Leeds morons when they chorused Don Revie's name rather than show respect for the late Sir Matt. Shearer is Blackburn's something special at present, and he obliged after 12 minutes by burying a cross from Jason Wilcox with the most emphatic of right-foot finishes.
The predator's appetite well and truly whetted, he was back time and again, profiting from the welter of possession supplied by Batty and Sherwood to demand a couple of reflex saves from Mark Beeney and a goal-line clearance from Tony Dorigo before Leeds were able to get a toe-hold on the game.
Outplayed throughout the first half, we were five minutes into the second before they could come up with a shot worthy of the name, David White testing Tim Flowers from 30 yards.
To their credit, Leeds hung in there, then gradually stemmed the tide.
Wilcox might have removed Leeds from contention after 62 minutes, when he shot firmly against Beeney's right-hand post. Instead they were right back in it after 77, Gary Speed fastening on to a ricochet off Brian Deane to thrash in a screamer from 25 yards.
Gary McAllister threatened to pinch it with a deflected 20-yarder. 'Is there no justice?' screamed a frustrated punter, who had been more upset than most by the desecration of a great man's memory.
There was. With just seconds remaining one nod of Shearer's trusty forehead despatched another Wilcox cross and the spoils were Blackburn's. Victory? Dalglish had other things on his mind. 'What those people did,' he said, 'will be on their conscience for the rest of their lives.' If they have one, Kenny . . .
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Berg, May, Moran, Le Saux; Ripley (Marker, 18), Sherwood, Batty, Wilcox; Shearer, Gallacher (Pearce, 89). Substitute not used: Mimms (gk).
Leeds United (4-3-3): Beeney; Kelly, Fairclough, Newsome, Dorigo; McAllister, Speed, Strachan; White (Pemberton, 84), Forrester (Whelan, 67), Deane. Substitute not used: Lukic (gk).
Referee: V Callow (Solihull).
More football, pages 34 and 35