Phillips regains fire but Cole still burns brightly

Blackburn Rovers 1 Southampton 1
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The Independent Football

Blackburn's dismal failure even to match last season's European qualification - let alone build on it - remains one of the mysteries of the current campaign, and it cannot all be blamed on the loss of Damien Duff.

At least a second-half equaliser from Andy Cole spared them an eighth home defeat yesterday after Southampton had taken an early advantage. But Blackburn have now gone three months without winning at home. Southampton coach Steve Wigley, meanwhile, looks likely to hand over to a new manager next week with an unbeaten record from his two games in temporary change.

Souness says poor defending has been the principal reason for his toughest season so far at Ewood Park, where Rovers need to win most of their remaining matches if the Scot's fourth campaign in charge is not to become a relegation struggle. But he remains convinced also that referees are somehow in league against his side.

Wirral official Mike Dean's failure to award "a stonewall penalty" after a quarter of an hour, when Souness believed Graeme Le Saux clipped the heels of Brett Emerton, prompted the Scot to air his cynical view that Blackburn are given a raw deal by referees. "We are not a big club so we don't get penalties," Souness said. "Referees are under no pressure when they come here because decisions in our games don't come under scrutiny. They are not highlighted on the television the way they are when the big clubs are involved.

"We have had 27 games now and I believe we are the only team in the Premiership who haven't been awarded a single penalty. I wouldn't be surprised if we went through the whole season without one."

Rant over, Souness did at least concede he had only his defence to blame - again - when Southampton went ahead. Jason Dodd's deep cross was headed down by James Beattie but the home defence somehow failed to notice Kevin Phillips lurking in just the area a striker might expect to be found, allowing the former Sunderland forward all the time he could hope for to pick his spot. It was a fifth goal in six matches for Phillips as the rehabilitation of his form continues.

Souness tinkered with his personnel and system at half-time, replacing Paul Gallacher with Matt Jansen as Cole's partner, new boy Jonathan Stead is injured, and sending on Dwight Yorke while switching from 4-4-2 to 4-3-1-2. In that it took only seven minutes for Blackburn to draw level, he could count the changes as successful.

It was Southampton's turn to rue some slack defending as Jansen's ball in eventually found Cole unmarked, the former Manchester United front man gleefully burying his 10th goal of the season. Goalkeeper Antti Niemi denied Cole a second with the save of the day and the long wait for a home win for the Ewood Park crowd will go on a little longer.

Blackburn Rovers 1
Cole 52

Southampton 1
Phillips 5

Half-time: 0-1 Attendance: 21,970