Emerton fires Rovers into clear air

Blackburn Rovers 1 - Charlton Athletic 0
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The Independent Football

Prominent among the things learned by Mark Hughes since he took charge at Blackburn is how difficult it is to win in the Premiership. Since shipping four goals to Middlesbrough and Chelsea on consecutive Saturdays in October, Rovers have been beaten only twice in 12 games. Yet this was only their third victory in that time.

In all, Hughes has supervised four wins, three of them by the same scoreline as yesterday. The gap between Blackburn and the bottom three is six points, but the road ahead still threatens to be uncomfortable, even though Hughes believes his side are better than their league position.

"We feel we are a better side than to be looking over our shoulder," Hughes said. "There is a gap now between ourselves and the bottom three but we think we are good enough to be concentrating on the sides above us. We want to be going on from this and have a better second half of the season."

Hughes will attempt to do so, he hopes, with the benefit of a strengthened squad. The signing, subject to a work permit, of the South Africa captain, Aaron Mokoena, was confirmed yesterday, giving him an extra option for defence or midfield, and the attempt to sign Robbie Savage from Birmingham is to be stepped up, with Blackburn increasing their offer from £2.2m to £2.7m.

Yesterday, against opponents who have become mean defensively of late, a feast of goals was never likely and given that Charlton arrived at Ewood Park having not conceded in 310 minutes of Premiership football away from home, a stalemate would have come as no surprise.

The header with which Brett Emerton put his side in front four minutes before half-time, on the end of a cross by David Thompson made possible by Barry Ferguson's excellent shielding play, thus assumed huge value, gaining even more when linked to Norwich's defeat at home to Liverpool.

Blackburn deserved their advantage. It had not been an enthralling first half by any means, both teams showing signs of weariness after four games in nine days, but such moments of excitement as there were had been generated by Hughes's side.

The ever-willing Paul Dickov had forced Dean Kiely into an early save and was foiled in another attempt by Danny Murphy on the line. After Blackburn had gone ahead, their striker Jon Stead, without a goal in 21 games, brought another save from Kiely. Stead tested Kiely again from a difficult angle in the second half, and earned an ovation when he was replaced.

"We never looked like getting anything from the game," the Charlton manager, Alan Curbishley, said afterwards, before adding his voice to criticisms of the holiday fixture programme. "We are better than that but I felt this was one game too many for us. Four games in eight or nine days is ludicrous."

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel; Neill, Todd, N-E Johansson, Matteo; Thompson (Reid, 87), Ferguson, Flitcroft, Emerton; Dickov, Stead (Gallagher, 80). Substitutes not used: Enckelman (gk), Pedersen, McEveley.

Charlton Athletic (4-5-1): Kiely; Young, El Karkouri, Fortune, Henderson (Hughes, 71); Rommedahl, Murphy, Kishishev (Euell, 60), Holland, Thomas (Konchesky, 60); J Johansson. Substitutes not used: Andersen (gk), Stuart.

Referee: A Wiley (Burntwood, Staffs).