Football: Shearer the hottest shot

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The Independent Online
Blackburn Rovers. . .2

Oldham Athletic . . .0

ROVERS might resemble a team of aliens from the planet Zog rather than one which has grown organically out of the town, but there will be few complaints in Blackburn if their expensive imports continue to consolidate at the top of the Premier League.

Like some balloons released before kick-off, the match was slow to get off the ground. When it did, it was Blackburn who found all the thermals. Not surprisingly it was Alan Shearer, maintaining his goal-a-game average, who soared the highest and set Rovers on their way to a victory that moves them into second place.

Blackburn gave a series of warnings before Shearer struck on the half-hour, notably when a pull-back from the Premier League's top scorer just evaded Mike Newell, and when Stuart Ripley put a shot just past the far post.

All the same, the strike found Oldham shockingly unprepared. A free-kick in an innocuous midfield position was quickly taken by Ripley, but it seemed to ask too much of Shearer. The England striker, recipient of a Barclays Young Eagle award before the game, raced through, however, and beat Jon Hallworth with a firm, low drive.

Shearer continued to torment Oldham, twice going close before half-time and then, within the space of a minute, forcing a real meeting of minds on the subject of how to deal with him from the Oldham centre-backs, Ian Marshall and Richard Jobson. Both were booked for pulling him back as he embarrassed them again.

Shearer then hit Hallworth's legs and when the second Blackburn goal came it was astonishing to find that he was not involved, except as a lurking, threatening presence in the box. Oldham allowed Mark Atkins too much time to measure a long cross from the right and Ripley, whose languid audacity was another feature of Blackburn's play, stole in to glide home a header.

Oldham's best chance of getting back in the match fell to Marshall, who drove a 72nd-minute penalty at Mimms after Ian Olney had been brought down.

Blackburn Rovers: B Mimms; D May, A Wright, T Sherwood (N Marker, 83 min), C Hendry, K Moran, S Ripley, M Atkins, A Shearer, M Newell, G Cowans. Subs not used: R Wegerle, M Dickins (gk). Manager: K Dalglish.

Oldham Athletic: J Hallworth; S Redmond, N Pointon, G Halle, R Jobson, I Marshall, N Adams, I Olney, G Sharp, M Milligan, P Bernard. Subs not used: C Fleming, W Donachie, J Keeley (gk). Manager: J Royle.

Referee: V Callow (Solihull).

Goals: Shearer (1-0, 30 min); Ripley (2-0, 61 min).