Duff strike sets Rovers on the way to Anfield

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The Independent Football

Blackburn Rovers' new regime under Tony Parkes will have more than an improbable tilt at promotion to look forward to in the New Year after they squeezed past West Bromwich Albion in their FA Cup replay at Ewood Park last night with a goal from Damien Duff and a Lee Carsley penalty. Liverpool at Anfield await in the fourth round.

Blackburn Rovers' new regime under Tony Parkes will have more than an improbable tilt at promotion to look forward to in the New Year after they squeezed past West Bromwich Albion in their FA Cup replay at Ewood Park last night with a goal from Damien Duff and a Lee Carsley penalty. Liverpool at Anfield await in the fourth round.

Blackburn would be kicking themselves most for failing to kill off their opponents in normal time because they had a near monopoly of the chances but at least they had achieved their object of getting a crowd of five figures. In a week of disappointing Cup gates, 11,766 was highly satisfactory even if it was 7,000 below average.

Things have been bleak at Ewood Park in recent times but Blackburn appeared as a sea of tranquillity compared to their opponents who had lost their chairman, Tony Hale, and an influential player, Kevin Kilbane, in the previous week. Their manager, Brian Little, was hardly the personification of contentment either, his most pertinent comment being: "I just want someone to be honest with me after what has happened in the last few months".

A look at the resources available to him was unlikely to soothe Little either as he had three players suspended and several others suffering from flu. It looked like a patched-up set of Baggies who took the field and the opening minutes did little to dispel that impression. Within four minutes Nathan Blake had looped a header just over and fired narrowly wide and he was just at the front of a line of one-way traffic that included shots from Per Frandsen, Ashley Ward and Damien Duff.

West Bromwich had barely crossed the halfway line before Fabian De Freitas interrupted the flow after 16 minutes with a shot that had Alan Kelly scampering across his line to save.

This was just a temporary blip in the general trend of Blackburn possession but it nevertheless had a sobering effect on the home side, who became less cavalier as a consequence and there was a noticeable improvement by the visitors.

Even so, Blackburn had a gilt-edged opportunity seconds before the interval. Matt Carbon, subscribing too deeply to the season of giving, made a hash of a header and Blake was in the clear. The former Bolton Wanderers striker raced through but the opportunity fell to his weaker right foot and it was blocked by Alan Miller's dive.

Half-time brought no change to the shape of the game, but it did herald an outstanding save from Miller after 49 minutes. McAteer crossed from the right and Duff arrived at the far post to put the ball back to where the West Bromwich goalkeeper had come from. Somehow he changed direction and palmed the header away.

Callum Davidson reinforced the home attack three minutes later to crash a volley narrowly wide from Blake's knock-down, while at the other end Adam Oliver was similarly close with a shot from the edge of the area that beat Kelly but also the post.

The ability to squander chances even spread to Albion's normally reliable striker, Lee Hughes, who was presented with a ripe chance after a rebound. True to what was going on around him, he swung his foot and missed the ball completely.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Kelly; Kenna, Taylor, Dailly, Davidson; McAteer (Johnson, 117), Frandsen, Carsley, Duff; Ward, Blake (Ostenstad, 117). Substitutes not used: Broomes, Harkness, Fettis (gk).

West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Miller; Gabbidon, Raven, Carbon, Van Blerk; De Freitas (McDermott, 90), Sneekes, Oliver, Angel; Evans (Richards, 117), Hughes. Substitutes not used: J Chambers, A Chambers, Morris (gk).

Referee: R Styles (Waterlooville)

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