Football: Perez class provides optimism

Blackburn Rovers 0 Derby County 0
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The Independent Online
BLACKBURN SUPPORTERS looking hopefully among their summer signings for a new Alan Shearer or Colin Hendry might have seen instead an improved, younger version of Tim Sherwood.

The arrival of the new striker Kevin Davies - a pounds 7.25m record signing from Southampton, at that - was bound to stir some echoes; likewise the Hendryesque spectacle of Darren Peacock battling through despite injury.

But the buzz around Ewood was over the performance of the third debutant, Sebastien Perez, signed from Bastia for a more modest pounds 3m.

Nominally playing wide on the right, Perez, until he tired in the last quarter, was everywhere on the pitch, prompting, probing and assuming responsibility that has traditionally resided with Rovers' captain.

The clear implication was that central midfield might be his ultimate destination. Sherwood, a sometimes underrated influence during the Shearer- Hendry years, will only be 30 at the end of this season, but Perez gives Rovers another driving force.

"There were a lot of tired players in the last 15 minutes, but he showed enough to suggest that he is going to be a very good asset for the club," said Roy Hodgson of the Premiership's latest long-haired Frenchman.

The same was true, with reservations, of Davies. He showed his capacity for hard work and his excellent first touch, but, having missed so much of the latter part of last season with ankle and knee injuries, was well short of match sharpness. Comparisons with Shearer will have to wait.

As for Peacock, his recovery to play after struggling with a knee injury all week signalled his determination to revive his career at Ewood. But the combination of the injury and settling into a new side made him an unstable element in the middle of the back four and Derby's best chances stemmed, directly or indirectly, from his rough edges.

Not that it was a match that particularly deserved a goal. Both attacks began in lively enough mode, but ran out of impetus as the game went on. Then enabled Stephane Henchoz and Derby's new Argentinan, Horacio Carbonari, to get a grip in the two penalty areas.

But Derby had done enough to suggest that they are going to be dogged in defence and dangerous on the break this season.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Filan; Kenna, Henchoz, Peacock, Davidson; Perez (Gallacher, 69), Flitcroft, Sherwood, Wilcox (Duff, 65); Sutton, Davies (Dahlin, 75). Substitutes not used: McKinlay, Fettis (g/k).

Derby County (3-4-1-2): Hoult; Dailly, Carbonari, Laursen (Elliott, 62); Delap, Carsley, Powell, Schnoor; Baiano (Bohinen, 70); Wanchope (Burton, 89), Sturridge. Substitutes not used: Bridge-Wilkinson, Poom (gk).

Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley).

Booked: Derby: Carsley.

Attendance: 24,007.

Man of the match: Perez.