Football: Rovers drift into dangerous waters

Blackburn Rovers 0 Aston Villa 2
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The Independent Online
Suddenly, safety is not guaranteed for the champions of 1995. Perspectives can change quickly in the lower reaches of the Premiership and after two consecutive defeats - a new experience for their caretaker manager, Tony Parkes - Blackburn's mid-table footing is not quite so secure.

"We need to win a couple," Parkes said, quietly, as if not wishing to draw attention to the fact. But which couple?

Only one team below them lost on Saturday and Blackburn's four scheduled April fixtures are against Leeds, Manchester United, Arsenal and Sheffield Wednesday. They might also have to play Middlesbrough in the game from which Bryan Robson's team controversially cried off. Parkes could still be chasing his couple of wins in May, with only two matches left.

Parkes has done an admirable job in the circumstances, and if it all does go horribly wrong over the next seven weeks he would not be to blame. Others might be less easily absolved.

The period will be an anxious one, in particular, for the owner, Jack Walker, and his chairman, Robert Coar, who have been struggling to find favour with supporters ever since they sold Alan Shearer. They are perceived as having let the club drift, a view likely to be reinforced if Thursday's transfer deadline passes, as seems probable, without a major signing.

Rumours persist that Graeme Le Saux and even Colin Hendry, courted by Rangers, are ready to leave, concerned that Rovers lack direction, while they await Roy Hodgson's arrival. Hendry, who celebrated 10 years at Ewood Park last week, has not been his reliable self of late. He has been carrying a groin injury but Parkes denied that this was to blame.

Hendry's error allowed Dwight Yorke to poach his 18th goal of the season, sealing victory for Villa, who enhanced their prospects for a Uefa Cup place by moving into fifth place. It was not an impressive performance by Brian Little's side, who could also do with a fresh face or two.

Blackburn, who lost the striker Chris Sutton with concussion after a second-minute collision with Ugo Ehiogu, rarely looked like scoring. Villa made chances but wasted them until the unsettled Tommy Johnson came on as substitute after an hour.

Within four minutes his pace had undone the home defence and allowed him to score with an accurate low drive, after which Villa always looked likely winners.

Goals: Johnson (64) 0-1; Yorke (79) 0-2.

Blackburn Rovers (4-3-3): Flowers; Kenna, Berg, Hendry, Le Saux; Flitcroft (Bohinen, 70), McKinlay, Sherwood; Gallacher, Sutton (Pedersen, 5; Donis, 55), Wilcox. Substitutes not used: Marker, Given (gk).

Aston Villa (5-3-2): Bosnich; Nelson, Ehiogu, Staunton, Scimeca, Wright; Taylor, Draper, Townsend; Milosevic (Johnson, 60), Yorke. Substitutes not used: Joachim, Hendrie, Hughes, Rachel (gk).

Referee: A Wilkie (Chester-le-Street). Bookings: Blackburn: Hendry; Aston Villa: Townsend, Wright.

Man of the match: Wright. Attendance: 24,274.

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