Gresko transforms an off-day for his manager

Blackburn Rovers 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0
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For much of yesterday Graeme Souness appeared to be having one of those afternoons he would prefer to forget. His Blackburn team were stuttering, he had been dismissed from the bench after an argument with referee Graham Poll and the home win he needed to ease his relegation concerns seemed a distant prospect. Then fate stepped in to improve his mood rapidly.

There seemed little chance of Blackburn scoring this side of Christmas 2004 when Vratislav Gresko, who had not previously scored for the club, swung an optimistic left foot from a range of 25 yards. The shot probably would have been saved but the ball cannoned off Stephen Carr's backside and looped past the despairing dive of Kasey Keller. As a result Blackburn put further daylight between themselves and the bottom three and, to make Souness even more mellow, his side achieved their first clean sheet of the season. Then again, they had not met managerless and clueless Tottenham before.

"We're fast approaching December and we've had absolutely no luck this season whatsoever," Souness said, "so it's nice to get a wee bit at last. In the first half we were nervous and tentative but in the second half we gathered momentum, caused them problems, and deserved the win." Souness had appealed to the Ewood Park crowd to pump up the volume in his programme notes, although the first half gave little for anyone much to shout about.

The wind and rain that had battered the spectators en route to the ground had mercifully relented but the quality of the play would have had you believe that the protagonists were performing in a tempest. The passing was poor and you needed a vivid imagination to believe the players had any imagination at all.

The result was a war of defensive attrition as each side waited for the other to make the first significant mistake. As a consequence, the number of incidents of note could have been counted on a single hand, Dwight Yorke at least forcing a save from Keller with a header after 14 minutes. Andy Todd should have done the same with a free header from Brett Emerton's corner two minutes later but made such a hash of his jump that his effort flew parallel to the goal and finished as a throw-in.

Souness, whose side had lost eight of the previous 10 matches, needed to chase the game and he introduced Steven Reid at half-time, which had rapid implications. Souness was angry when no foul was awarded after a challenge by Carr on Reid and, after an exchange with the referee, he was ordered into the stand. "I said 'I didn't know you were a Tottenham supporter'," Souness explained. "He didn't hear me the first time so I repeated it and for some reason he took exception."

At least he got a better view as Blackburn enjoyed a period of ascendancy that lasted until the conclusion. First, Emerton headed into the side netting from Paul Gallagher's cross after 57 minutes. Then, five minutes later, the Australian's low cross from the left was almost forced in at the near post by Yorke. Surprisingly, it was a striker, Helder Postiga, who dived in to block Yorke's effort.

Yorke also had a header saved by Keller after 73 minutes but Blackburn appeared to be running out of ideas until Gresko and Carr's behind came to the rescue. The Spurs players looked thoroughly dismayed at this turn of fortune but lacked the wit to regain the point they felt they deserved. "For the first time this season we can say we are missing Fredi Kanouté," David Pleat, their caretaker manager said. On this evidence, they need him urgently.

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