Football: Wilcox supplies a lifeline

Coventry City 1 Aloisi 22 Blackburn Rovers 1 Wilcox 67 Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 19,701
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The Independent Online
BLACKBURN ENDED their losing streak when Jason Wilcox's second-half goal rewarded their industry on a stodgy Highfield Road pitch. But as the scramble for Premiership survival enters its critical phase they may find the point to hold greater value for their basement rivals.

Brian Kidd's team, facing a fourth defeat in a row after John Aloisi had given Coventry a first-half lead, found hard work to be the best antidote to the damaging effects of injuries and suspensions and clawed back an equaliser.

But the Blackburn chief acknowledged that it was not enough to justify celebrations. "I see this as two points lost rather than one gained," he said. "I thought we did enough to deserve all three." Whether the claim could be justified or not - and Gordon Strachan most certainly did not support it - there is no disputing the facts. With nine matches left, his side stay in the bottom three and the prospect of Kidd's first crack at management ending in tears remains a live one.

Blackburn's spending habits still engender envy - even Kidd has splashed out pounds 15m, in just two months - but their list of absentees is not one rivals would covet. Yesterday, the centre-backs Darren Peacock and Marlon Broomes were suspended and with Christian Dailly injured, Kidd considered playing Chris Sutton in the back four. In the event, preferring to field a three-man attack, he gave a Premiership debut to 19-year-old Martin Taylor.

Blackburn's appetite for the scrap ahead should not be doubted and neither of these sides look bad enough to be relegated. But there is a fair chance one of them will, and on recent evidence a betting man would be tempted towards Blackburn. Last Wednesday's home defeat against Everton signalled a crisis at Ewood Park even Kidd could not deny.

In the circumstances, his boldness in playing Sutton, Ashley Ward and Matt Jansen up front had to be admired, even if Coventry did draw first blood.

Strachan had left Darren Huckerby on the bench so that Aloisi could partner Noel Whelan in attack and the decision paid off when the Australian-born former Portsmouth forward struck after 22 minutes, showing fine control and lightning reactions at the near post, collecting George Boateng's cross from the right with his back to goal yet turning in an instant to crack the ball into the roof of the Blackburn net.

Kidd had been at pains before the match to play down any pressure he might be feeling as his first stint at management runs into trouble. But there seemed to be plenty betrayed in his part in a touchline altercation with Strachan's No 2, Garry Pendrey, shortly after the goal when Coventry's Mo Konjic complained he had been elbowed by Sutton. "Don't let anyone tell you they enjoy the challenge," Strachan said afterwards. "Being in this position is not fun."

A heavy, uneven surface, large areas of which had been liberally sanded, did not make for error-free football. Nor did it do much for those players used to moving at speed, yet Aloisi found the legs to out-run young Taylor early in the second half, creating an opportunity to put Coventry in control.

After waiting for reinforcements to arrive, Aloisi then picked out Whelan precisely. But his partner failed to complete his part of the bargain, hitting a weak shot that did not trouble the goalkeeper John Filan. That it was a potentially costly missed chance became clear when Blackburn, whose play acquired much greater purpose in the second half, drew level.

Sutton released the substitute Damien Johnson to attack Coventry's left flank and the young midfielder's cross was met firmly by Wilcox, stealing in behind a ball-watching home defence, with a shot that gave goalkeeper Magnus Hedman no chance.