Football: No credit to expensive forwards

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The Independent Online
Chelsea. . . . . . 0

Blackburn Rovers. .0

COMPOSURE is a commodity that even the millions spent by these two clubs cannot buy. An ounce of it last night and the 20,000 who went to Stamford Bridge would not have had such a frustrating time. There was pounds 9m worth of forwards on view but the only coolness shown in the penalty areas belonged to the two goalkeepers, Bobby Mimms in particular having to keep his head as his defenders fell shy of the new back- pass rule.

Kenny Dalglish, the Blackburn Rovers manager, attributed the lack of a spark to ignite a smouldering game to the regularity with which matches have come round this season. Four played already and August not yet over; that is what a 22-club elite does for football.

Then again Dalglish was happy with the point that kept his multi- million pound brigade in touch with the leaders, Queen's Park Rangers and Coventry City, two clubs who might have missed the cut on a more manageable 18- team version.

Dalglish's counterpart, Ian Porterfield, whose side have now drawn three times and not yet won this season, had to fall back on the commitment displayed and his side's clean sheet for sources of satisfaction. Early on it seemed Chelsea would do well to keep Blackburn out for 90 minutes.

Stuart Ripley, who has been lively for Rovers in every match so far this season, inspired an early assault on the Chelsea goal but Alan Shearer miskicked from his pass before he himself shot wide from Shearer's feed in the first 15 minutes.

The drive and determination of that pounds 5m pair set the tone for Blackburn, who with Gordon Cowans and Roy Wegerle confined to the bench seemed not to be interested in decorative skills. Unfortunately their failure with those opening chances also set a standard for the rest, which poor Mick Harford excelled with the miss of the match just before half- time. He lobbed the ball gently over the bar from six yards following an Andy Townsend free-kick with Mimms an interested bystander.

Robert Fleck, his Chelsea striking partner, has yet to find the net since his pounds 2.1m summer move from Norwich City. It is not for the want of trying. Three times in six minutes midway through the first half he went close, a 20-yard snapshot skidding wide before first Kevin Moran and then Mimms blocked him.

The near misses raised the temperature but after Blackburn's Mark Atkins has seen Dave Beasant in the home goal flick away his shot when put through by Shearer's deft pass the lack of finish began to pall. With Harford's miss the realisation began to dawn that a goalless night was in prospect.

A brilliant saving tackle by Chelsea's new defender, Mal Donaghy, ended David May's inspired charge from the full-back position when Rovers countered after a Chelsea corner on the hour and that was the nearest Blackburn came to a second-half goal.

Chelsea's misfortune was that their best chance again fell to Harford. Perhaps remembering his embarrassment 25 minutes earlier, he shunned the shot when set up by Denis Wise and Blackburn cleared his lay-off.

Fleck battled to the end but, as Porterfield acknowledged, Chelsea lacked the patience to slow the game down in the last 15 minutes. If someone could have done that in the first quarter of an hour the evening might have been better for one and all.

Chelsea: Beasant; Clarke, Hall, James, Elliott, Donaghy, Stuart, Fleck, Harford, Townsend, Wise. Substitutes not used: Allon, Newton, Colgan (gk).

Blackburn Rovers: Mimms; May, Dobson, Sherwood, Hendry, Moran, Ripley, Atkins, Shearer, Newell, Wilcox. Substitutes not used: Cowans, Wegerle, Dickins. (gk)

Referee: R Bigger (Croydon).

(Photograph omitted)