Roberts lifts Rovers clear of drop zone
Fulham 1 Blackburn Rovers 2
Thursday 12 March 2009
Some Blackburn Rovers players are carrying a little too much weight, according to their manager Sam Allardyce, but on this showing, coming from behind to win, they at least have the backbone to support it.
Of course, dropping out of the Premier League is the ultimate slimming device for any club. The worrying prospect of a few pounds off the players' pay slips might lead to a few pounds off the waistline before May. To judge by this, their minds already look firmly concentrated.
The visitors deserved to win, something Allardyce's opposite number, Roy Hodgson, quickly conceded. Stephen Warnock alone could have had a hat-trick, but Rovers' goals ultimately came from more traditional sources, with El Hadji Diouf equalising from six yards, having come back from an offside position, and Jason Roberts grabbing the winner five minutes from time, turning Toni Kallio, the substitute centre-half, and beating Mark Schwarzer from close range.
This win took Rovers from the relegation zone to 15th, dropping Portsmouth into the bottom three in their place. Rovers, of course, have a long struggle ahead of them to ensure their safety, and Hodgson said Fulham were still looking over their shoulder.
But Allardyce admitted to huge relief in climbing the table, and claimed they are the form team of those in trouble. "We're out of the bottom three and that takes a little bit of pressure off us," he said. "This is my most important win since I've taken over here. We've secured a very important three points. It's our second away win on the trot and we're on good form. We've only lost two out of 11 league games since I've been here. We put in a very good performance in the second half and it's a huge mental relief to be out of the bottom three. But relegation is something we're not out of by a long way."
Not that it seemed Allardyce would have that post-match glow after fewer than two minutes: 97 seconds to be precise. A simple header through the middle of the Rovers defence by Danny Murphy split them asunder and Clint Dempsey took advantage, muscling past Ryan Nelsen before poking his shot past Paul Robinson.
The hosts, six points off the bottom three, should have doubled their lead soon after. In fact, they would have, but for Warnock, blocking Andy Johnson's shot eight yards out. Not that Warnock restricts himself to defensive duties and, having joined Roberts in attack, he curled a shot that hit the inside of the post. He was denied twice more by Schwarzer in the second half.
Their first goal came after 69 minutes when Tugay headed the ball in to Samba, who headed on to Diouf. The Senegal forward had been offside but retreating when Tugay headed it, but was onside when Samba touched it and Diouf's finish was easy from six yards.
Goals: Dempsey (2) 1-0; Diouf (69) 1-1; Roberts (85) 1-2.
Fulham (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Pantsil, Hughes (Kallio, 77), Hangeland, Konchesky; Gera (Kamara, 80), Murphy, Etuhu, Davies (Nevland, 90); Johnson, Dempsey. Substitutes not used: Zuberbühler (gk), Dacourt, Gray, Stoor.
Blackburn (4-1-4-1): Robinson; Ooijer, Samba, Nelsen, Givet; Tugay (Mokoena, 82); Diouf, Andrews (McCarthy, 56), Warnock, Pedersen (Dunn, 86); Roberts. Substitutes not used: Bunn (gk), Khizanishvili, Villanueva, Simpson.
Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).
Booked: Fulham Murphy; Blackburn Diouf.
Man of the match: Roberts.
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