Pyjama man gives Rovers nightmares

Crystal Palace 0 - Blackburn Rovers 0

A draw did few favours to either side, although for Blackburn Rovers there was a triple whammy. Not only did they miss a host of chances and slip back into the bottom three, but they also had substitute David Thompson dismissed. He received two yellow cards after coming on with just 19 minutes to go - for a reckless tackle and a silly bout of shoving with Fitz Hall at a mêlée as the match degenerated into chaotic frustration in the dying moments.

The touchline annoyance of his manager, Mark Hughes, was palpable even if he bottled it well afterwards in talking down the red card - "nothing in it" - and talking up the clean sheet. Indeed, between them, neither Blackburn nor Palace have been involved in a goalless draw for almost 100 matches. "That tells its own story," Hughes said. The last time these sides met he was on the pitch, and Blackburn won. Hughes in his pomp surely would not have spurned the opportunities lost yesterday.

For Palace there was little comfort. This was collectively their most listless performance for some time and but for the excellence of goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly - who made four vital first-half saves - they would have lost at home for the third successive Premiership match. At least the man in the pyjamas - or so the Hungarian's "lucky" baggy grey attire appears - was not asleep. "He played very well," acknowledged his manager, Iain Dowie. And the rest of his team? "We did not get anywhere near the level we are capable of." They were "edgy and nervous" and simply "not good enough". It's now almost five hours since they scored a goal. "It will be another five hours if we play like that," lamented Dowie.

More work will be done on the training ground, but it may be the transfer window which will test Dowie the most. It will be interesting to see what funds he can prise from his chairman, Simon Jordan, to bolster the remarkable work he has done - especially as Dowie professed himself "flattered" to be linked to the managerial vacancy at Portsmouth. Good coaches, or so they say, "squeeze the lemons". For Dowie the pips are squeaking right now. He needs reinforcements and not least for the redoubtable Andy Johnson on whose shoulders his team's hopes rest.

He actually came closest to scoring with a low drive in the second half, which Brad Friedel turned onto a post, and also provided the cross from which substitute Vassilis Lakis contrived to mistime a free header. But, as Dowie readily admitted, the momentum remained with the visitors. Indeed, there was an impressive balance to Hughes' side who have now lost just one in their last seven. Unfortunately that also includes just one win. For all their defensive rigour and midfield guile they lack an edge.

The chances flowed. Dickov - abrasive as ever - cleverly won a free-kick which Jay Bothroyd drove and Kiraly held well. The goalkeeper did even better on 30 minutes when Dickov collected Bothroyd's header down. As he hesitated, Kiraly spread himself and blocked with his legs. Dickov then clipped a pass for Lucas Neill, but Kiraly was alert to cover. Nevertheless, the ball broke to Bothroyd but, once more, the goalkeeper blocked. He then produced his finest stop on half-time when turning away Craig Short's volley from Brett Emerton's corner.

Palace changed formation, introduced another striker, and edged back. But Blackburn still created. Barry Ferguson shot into the side-netting, Dickov guided a free header over and Kiraly denied Emerton before the game descended into a flurry of cards. "In the cold light of day we need to convert draws into wins," said Hughes. Dowie will also be shivering this morning.

Comments