Football: Lee's rally in vain

Blackburn Rovers 4 McGibbon og 20, Gallacher 37, 60, Sherwood 48 Wigan Athletic 2 Lee 62, Lowe 68 Attendance: 22,402
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The Independent Online
The ambitions of Dave Whelan, the tycoon owner of Wigan, are to match the footballing achievements of Blackburn's own sugar daddy Jack Walker. But until the tie was dead at 4-0, Whelan's side showed all the ambition of a turkey on Christmas Eve.

Manager John Deehan defended his defensive line-up as an attempt to stifle and frustrate the Premiership high-flyers. Wigan, though, showed in a rousing fightback that in David Lee they possessed enough threat of their own to scare Blackburn.

The wingers Stuart Ripley and Damien Duff were the keys that unlocked the 5-4-1 defensive fortress. Ripley's lofted pass down the right flank and the overlapping Jeff Kenna's instant volleyed cross created Blackburn's first and typified their adjustment of emphasis from more direct thrust. Chris Sutton and Pat McGibbon both attacked the cross, McGibbon providing the decisive touch.

Kenna found Kevin Gallacher dropping off the back-line for the second. The Scot created enough time to analyse his options before floating a delicious shot into the corner.

Shortly after the interval, Ripley's incisive edge put the tie out of reach when his low cross was partially cleared to Tim Sherwood. Again with time to spare, a cheeky chip caught the keeper Roy Carroll scrambling back to his line in vain.

Only then did Deehan opt for change, bringing on David Lowe and affording Lee the luxury of freedom to attack his favourite right flank. Blackburn, however, were in full flow and their fourth caught Wigan without time to test their new strategy. Duff's blasted cross was sent goal-bound by Colin Greenall before Gallacher applied the final touch.

Wigan hit straight back through the pacey Lee who measured his shot just wide of the approaching Tim Flowers but just inside the post. Another Lee break down the Wigan right found the unmarked Lowe who stabbed the precise cross home with conviction. A potential upset was thwarted when a Lee penalty claim was turned down.

Deehan defended his tactics saying: "We had to have a defensive formation to give us a platform to work on. When we elected to play attacking football we looked capable of scoring."