Football: Webb's day ruined by Newell

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The Independent Online
Blackburn Rovers. . . . . 2

Chelsea. . . . . . . . . .0

TWELVE games without a win and then reduced to 10 men after the interval, Chelsea gave David Webb a nervous start to his management yesterday in a match they should have lost more heavily. Rovers were as inept around their goal as Chelsea were in defending it.

Webb admitted on radio in the morning that his first-team selection would be experimental, having seen the team play only a couple of times and knowing few of the players. He kept his word: Tony Cascarino made his first start of the season, Tony Barness played in his second match. With Robert Fleck and Mick Harford also in the team, Webb committed Chelsea to attack.

Ewood attracted a full house despite the cold wind. They were cheered by Rovers' first League victory for five weeks, having resigned themselves to being without Alan Shearer for the rest of the season. After eight minutes Mike Newell shrugged off two indeterminate tackles on the right and swung across what was probably intended as a high centre but proved to be a remarkable goal, the ball sailing over Kevin Hitchcock's leap into the extreme top corner of the net.

Chelsea moved freely in midfield but written evidence of their defensive insecurity came with Gareth Hall's booking. Bobby Mimms had to tip over from Harford but, just prior to the interval, Newell and Roy Wegerle were advantageously placed but failed to score.

The second half was seconds old when Frank Sinclair's attempted header back was intercepted by Wegerle; Hitchcock saved, Newell fired in the rebound for the frantic Sinclair to punch out. Off went Sinclair and over went the penalty, Newell's height over the bar matching Brian McClair's in Moscow.

Both sides adjusted; Chelsea sent on Mal Donaghy and Webb should take encouragement from the spirit his new charges showed to mask their numerical inferiority, until the 63rd minute. Colin Hendry's long pass was headed on by David Lee for Newell to intercept, round Hitchcock and confirm the victory.

Lee played the major part in the last quarter, heading a cross from Newell against his own bar and then producing Chelsea's best direct shot, from the edge of the box, to disturb Mimms.

Blackburn Rovers: Mimms; May, Dobson, Sherwood, Hendry, Moran (Atkins, 67), Ripley, Andersson, Wegerle, Newell, Wilcox. Substitutes not used: Livingstone, Collier (gk).

Chelsea: Hitchcock; Hall, Sinclair, Townsend, Lee, Barness, Fleck, Cascarino, Harford, Newton (Stuart, 80), Le Saux (Donaghy, 48). Substitute not used: Beasant (gk).

Referee: D Allison (Lancaster).