Blackburn on target as Redknapp's hopes wane

Blackburn Rovers 3 - Southampton 0
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The Independent Football

This was comfortable for Blackburn, surprisingly so given Harry Redknapp's belief that Southampton can escape relegation. Showing little of the resilience that saw them unbeaten in five matches before Chelsea's win at St Mary's eight days ago, and almost no attacking threat, they capitulated easily, goals from Morten Gamst Pedersen and Steven Reid, sandwiching an own goal by Andreas Jakobsson, enabling Mark Hughes's side to triumph with something in hand.

This was comfortable for Blackburn, surprisingly so given Harry Redknapp's belief that Southampton can escape relegation. Showing little of the resilience that saw them unbeaten in five matches before Chelsea's win at St Mary's eight days ago, and almost no attacking threat, they capitulated easily, goals from Morten Gamst Pedersen and Steven Reid, sandwiching an own goal by Andreas Jakobsson, enabling Mark Hughes's side to triumph with something in hand.

As preparation for their FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal next weekend, the afternoon could scarcely have gone better for Blackburn, who can probably count on their own survival as pretty well in the bag now. For Southampton, who will be back in the bottom three this afternoon should West Bromwich Albion or Crystal Palace win today, difficult days lie ahead.

With four of their last seven games away from home, Southampton arrived here uncomfortably aware that the poorest away record in the top flight did not augur well for their chances of survival. At least, they might have reasoned, they were up against the Premiership's least effective attack, a label Blackburn retain despite their improvement under Hughes.

The most popular prediction of a dour, goalless stalemate fell after 11 minutes when Blackburn scored their first League goal in a month. It was one to remember, too, the Norwegian international Pedersen taking one touch to control Aaron Mokoena's diagonal pass to the left and go past Rory Delap, and another to slot the ball past goalkeeper Paul Smith from what looked a prohibitive angle.

Given that Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United, Blackburn's previous three opponents, had managed only one goal between them, Hughes's men might have been confident they could sit back on their advantage. But what followed from them was full of attacking intent. But for good save by Smith from Paul Dickov's back-header, an airshot by Pedersen when David Thompson's low cross looked to have teed up a straightforward goal, and referee Neale Barry's failure to penalise a handball in the box by Jacobsson, they would have been comfortably ahead by half-time.

Redknapp's response was to send on Kevin Phillips to help out Peter Crouch and Henri Camara in attack, but before he could contribute Blackburn took a firm grip on the contest with a second goal, immediately exposing a gap created on the left flank by Graeme Le Saux's withdrawal. Lucas Neill's pass outside found Steven Reid as a spare man, and his low drive was deflected in by Jakobsson.

After seven more minutes, with 35 still to play, the result was sealed and Southampton's frowns fixed. A corner from the right by Brett Emerton was not properly cleared and Dominic Matteo, almost on the byline, squeezed a pass across the box for Reid to sidefoot home an easy third.

Only two other Premiership sides have conceded three to Blackburn this season, but Southampton were given such a runaround, offering almost no threat of their own, that a heavier margin would not have flattered the home side.

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