Football: Resurgent Flowers keeps Rovers ticking over

Sunderland 0 Blackburn Rovers 0
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The Independent Online
While few eyebrows will be raised if Kenny Dalglish's first signing for Newcastle United is a goalkeeper, it will equally be no surprise if he looks no further than his old club when he does enter the market.

There cannot be a club in the country as well blessed with goalkeeping talent as Blackburn. While Tim Flowers showed at Roker Park on Saturday that he is back to his best, waiting in the wings is Shay Given, the 20- year-old Republic of Ireland goalkeeper who made such an impression when he played on loan for Sunderland last season.

Given, who received a rousing reception from Roker fans before this game, has attracted interest from several clubs, but Tony Parkes, Blackburn's caretaker manager, said on Saturday that he would not be allowed to leave before the end of the season, when his contract expires.

"The club is still trying to negotiate a contract with Shay," Parkes said. "We will be doing all we can to keep him, but the problem is that this is an excellent keeper and to have him sitting on the bench is a waste. He wants first-team football, which is understandable."

As Rovers recorded a sixth successive clean sheet, Flowers handled confidently, clearing a succession of back-passes under pressure and making two vital saves. He spread himself well to deny David Kelly in the first half and 17 minutes from time he showed superb reflexes to keep out a Richard Ord header. Flowers said afterwards that he hoped his form would earn him an England call-up for next month's World Cup qualifier against Italy.

Rovers did little to threaten Sunderland's goal, Kevin Gallacher wasting their only chance of note by shooting straight at the Sunderland goalkeeper, Lionel Perez. Sunderland generally had the better of things, but were unable to make an impact in the final quarter of the field.

Having taken Blackburn out of the relegation zone, Parkes now has his eye on moving further up the table. "If we keep the run going we could be looking to a European place," he said.

Colin Hendry, the Blackburn defender, paid tribute to Parkes' achievement in lifting Rovers. "Tony has done a really great job and I'd like to think we'll be OK now," Hendry said.

Sunderland: Perez; Hall, Kubicki, Melville, Ord, Kelly, Williams, Bracewell, Gray, Mullin, Smith (Russell, 80). Substitutes not used: Preece, Eriksson, Bridges, Aiston.

Blackburn Rovers: Flowers; Kenna, Sherwood, Hendry, Le Saux, Gallacher, Sutton, Bohinen, Wilcox, Flitcroft, Berg. Substitutes not used: Marker, Fenton, Donis, Warhurst, Given (gk).

Referee: P Alcock (Surrey). Bookings: Blackburn Kenna, Berg.

Man of the match: Flowers. Attendance: 20,850.