Blackburn Rovers 2 Fulham 0: Rovers rewarded for faith in McCarthy and Nonda

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The Independent Online

As a master of the goalscoring craft, Mark Hughes will feel he ought to know a good striker when he sees one, which may in part explain why he is particularly keen to see Benni McCarthy and Shabani Nonda have an impact in the Premiership.

Hughes committed £2.5m of Blackburn's summer transfer budget on McCarthy, plunging in where other English clubs, for one reason or another, had backed away, and had strong enough feelings about Nonda to take up a season-long loan from Roma, with a deal in place to buy him at the end of it.

There is already reason to applaud his judgement of McCarthy's potential. The South African's goal on Saturday, as Blackburn ended a run of six League games without a win, was his eighth since moving to Lancashire, a highly commendable return for a first-season import and one that looks good, for example, alongside the three managed so far for Chelsea by the considerably costlier Andrei Shevchenko.

Nonda has been slower to prove his worth but after the Congolese front man had doubled his tally to date with the opener on Saturday, Hughes hopes that the goals will now flow from the 29-year-old in the way they did for FC Zurich, Rennes and Monaco, for whom collectively he scored 123 league goals - at one in every two games - despite a horrific knee injury.

"I was delighted he got on the score sheet," Hughes said. "He has scored goals throughout his career, and it preys on his mind when he is not scoring because he feels he is not contributing.

"I knew he was and told him that. I told him to keep working hard and he would get his reward. I see qualities on the training pitch that will enable him to come through and he will be better for this performance, and the goal. The work rate from both strikers was excellent and it helped that we were able to hit them a bit earlier than we have in recent weeks."

Certainly, the direct approach worked on this occasion, each goal stemming from a long ball. Zat Knight was culpable with the opener, allowing Nonda to invade the space between him and debutant goalkeeper Jan Lastuvka to be first to Stephane Henchoz's pass, scoring with little more than a flick of the boot.

A similar punt from Lucas Neill led to the second, in which McCarthy got the better of Ian Pearce, whose attempt to block the South African striker's shot merely helped it on its way via a loopy deflection.

It was not a happy start for a nervous Lastuvka, on loan from Shakhtar Donetsk, who may be required to cover for Antti Niemi for up to six weeks after the latter had surgery for a cartilage problem last week.

Chris Coleman, the Fulham manager, would not blame the 24-year-old Czech, however. "Maybe he was at fault for the first goal but he is a capable keeper who has played in the Champions' League and he will be OK," he said.

Of more concern to Coleman was his side's apparent inability to shake off a reputation for interspersing good performances with dreadful ones, this display coming only four days after their downing of Arsenal.

"We played with 10 men for 75 minutes against Reading and then put in so much effort against Arsenal and we looked tired," Coleman said. "But I don't like that tag we have acquired and we have to learn to come into games like this one and close ranks."

Goals: Nonda (6) 1-0, McCarthy (24) 2-0.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel; Neill, Ooijer, Henchoz, Gray; Emerton, Savage, Bentley (Mokoena, 85), Pedersen; Nonda (Peter, 81), McCarthy (Derbyshire, 89). Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Gallagher.

Fulham (4-1-2-1-2): Lastuvka; Volz, Knight, Pearce, Rosenior; Diop; Brown, Boa Morte (Radzinski, 64); Jensen; Helguson (McBride, 69), John (Routledge, 75). Substitutes not used: Batista (gk), Christanval.

Referee: S Bennett (Kent).

Booked: Blackburn Savage, Henchoz; Fulham Helguson, Diop.

Man of the match: McCarthy.

Attendance: 16,799.

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