Rovers need more of the Dickov spirit

Manchester City 1 - Blackburn Rovers 1

Graeme Souness's legacy to Blackburn Rovers comprised several things. One was an insistence that every referee on the planet was pathologically against the club. Another was Paul Dickov. In a manner of speaking the two came together here to earn Blackburn the point that was the least they deserved.

Evidence of an official anti-Rovers bias, as Souness perceived it, came in an apparent refusal to award them a penalty kick. It was nonsense, of course, although the run of matches in which every Blackburn appeal was waved away did reach an extraordinary length. When Mark Clattenburg at last upheld one 12 minutes from the end on Saturday - so blatant he surely would have given it even had Souness still been snarling at him from the dug-out - he was the first referee to do so since Paul Durkin found in their favour at Leeds on 26 April 2003, some 53 Premiership games ago.

The man who both won and converted it was Dickov, whose arrival at Ewood Park for £150,000 from Leicester last summer was taken by some to indicate that Souness, having spent £16.5m on the likes of Brett Emerton, Barry Ferguson and Lorenzo Amoruso, had gone slightly loopy.

Mark Hughes, the recipient of the Souness legacy, would not subscribe to that view. Indeed, he sees the 32-year-old former Scottish international, all 5ft 6in of him, as encapsulating just the kind of infectious determination Blackburn will need if they are to haul themselves clear of the relegation places.

There was a saying, Hughes said, that summed up Dickov perfectly, although it took him a while to remember what it was. Finally, it came to him: "It is not the size of the dog but the size of the fight in the dog that counts." Ah yes, that is Dickov all right.

City fans need no reminding that he used to do his fighting for them, which made his intervention on Saturday, and the consequent red card for Danny Mills, all the more galling. Dickov had scored for Leicester against City last season, causing offence with an ill-judged celebration. This time he showed sensible self-restraint.

"I had six great years with City so I hope they cheer me rather than boo me this time," he had said beforehand. "Then again, I get booed everywhere I go. I quite like it, really."

Hughes, who did not mind who he upset either, as a player, would warm to those sentiments.

"Paul has an impact in every game," he said. "That point takes us off the bottom, which is significant, but we need to work very hard and Paul drags everybody along with his enthusiasm."

Kevin Keegan, the Manchester City manager, could only agree, seeming to forget that it was he who had let Dickov go, almost three years ago. None of his players had much of an impact on Saturday, even after Antoine Sibierski had put them ahead just before half-time.

"I don't know what it is," he said. "Maybe there is still a bit of nervousness about playing here, although you can't blame a stadium for the way you play.

"We said at half-time, 'look, we are a goal in front, now push on and win the game' but we never looked like getting that cushion of a second goal and in that situation you are always under threat."

Goals: Sibierski (45) 1-0; Dickov pen (78) 1-1.

Manchester City (4-4-2): James; Mills, Dunne, Distin, Jordan; Flood (Reyna, 65), Bosvelt, McManaman, Sibierski, S Wright-Phillips, Anelka. Substitutes not used: Fowler, Onuoha, Waterreus (gk), B Wright-Phillips.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel; Neill, Todd, Johansson, McEveley; Reid, Ferguson, Tugay (Thompson, 71), Emerton; Stead (Jansen, 45), Dickov. Substitutes not used: Enckelman (gk), Djorkaeff, Matteo.

Referee: M Clattenburg (Co Durham).

Bookings: Manchester City: Jordan. Blackburn: Todd, McEveley, Thompson. Sending-off: Manchester City: Mills.

Man of the match: Dickov.

Attendance: 45,504.

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