Dunn delivers as Blackburn draw comfort

Blackburn Rovers 1 Aston Villa 1: Kean's substitutions make difference for Rovers as Villa fail to capitalise on N'Zogbia opener

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The Independent Football

Blackburn supporters had planned their biggest protest yet against the Venky's, but there was little discontent around when a late David Dunn header secured a point after Charles N'Zogbia had given Aston Villa a first-half lead.

Rovers were slow to start, as poor defending allowed N'Zogbia to find Marc Albrighton but he ballooned the chance over the bar. Villa, whose perceived negative play has been chastised by large sections of their own support all season, continued to look the brighter. The manager, Alex McLeish, allowed his full-backs, Alan Hutton and Stephen Warnock, to venture forward, which hinted that this was perhaps a changed side. That notion bore true when, in the 24th minute, defender Carlos Cuellar found himself deep in home territory, waltzed round Morten Gamst Pedersen and found N'Zogbia alone in the box to fire in the opener.

Pedersen went close, but Blackburn's inability to hold possession built anxiety and N'Zogbia was denied a second by a full-stretch Paul Robinson. Something had to happen for Rovers. Steve Kean made a double change at half-time to bring on Marcus Olsson – joining twin brotherMartin down the left – and Dunn. The former provided an injection of much-needed pace, while the latter an unlikely heading hero.

Foregoing their new-found acceleration, a long punt into the box was knocked on by Steven Nzonzi but Scott Dann steered his header over. Shay Given beat away a fierce Junior Hoilett drive, before pulling off an even better save from Pedersen's stunning volley moments later.

For a spell in the second half, Villa were still a threat on the break. Stephen Ireland's low drive was saved after Hutton galloped on, but they began to look ropey at the back, rushing clearances and, much like their counterparts in the first half, failing to keep the ball for more than a few passes. They were lucky to still be leading, although Gabby Agbonlahor's header looked as if it would nestle home but for Robinson's intervention.

They couldn't hang on, though. Bradley Orr was fed the ball down the right before flighting a perfect cross for substitute Dunn to head home and set up a tense finale that ebbed and flowed: Grant Hanley went close from a corner while the defender blocked Agbonlahor's late effort.

Dunn, a boyhood Rovers fan, took McLeish's plaudits, who isn't ruling his side out of the relegation scrap just yet. "Dunn made a difference to them. He's a clever player and still has a very intelligent head," he said. "We lacked the ruthlessness that has blighted us this season. We can't be complacent, we have got to believe that we can climb higher up the table."

Although a smattering of supporters vented their spleen on Kean, he was pleased that the substitutions worked and his side are in touching distance of Wolves. "Marcus [Olsson] gave us more penetration and put Hutton on the back foot. That got us further up the pitch," he said. "The point is an important one – nobody has made any ground on us. I thought we were getting them on the back foot and could have won the game."

Blackburn (4-4-1-1): Robinson; Orr, Hanley, Dann, Martin Olsson; Petrovic (Marcus Olsson, 46), Nzonzi, Pedersen, Hoilett; Formica (Dunn, 46); Yakubu.

Aston Villa (4-4-1-1): Given; Hutton, Collins, Cuellar, Warnock; Albrighton (Weimann, 90), Petrov, Herd (Gardner, 75), N'Zogbia (Bannan, 75); Ireland; Agbonlahor.

Referee Howard Webb.

Man of the match Robinson (Blackburn).

Match rating 5/10.