After the impact it has had on a Blackburn side freefalling towards the foot of the table, the Gleneagles Hotel may soon be advertising "Footballers' Breaks". Graeme Souness' decision to take his squad to Scotland to recuperate from five straight defeats with golf, glasses of wine and enforced togetherness was rewarded with a win which took them out of a relegation zone now occupied by Everton.
Nevertheless, the nerves which have haunted Blackburn throughout the campaign were still there. They clung on to their first win at Ewood Park since the opening day of the season, buffeted by an Everton side that, once David Moyes had radically overhauled their tactics, recovered to push them very close. Had Tobias Linderoth and David Unsworth not squandered close-range chances towards the end, Everton would have earned a point their manager felt their first-half display did not deserve.
They had been undermined by a flu virus which deprived them of among others the services of Wayne Rooney, although the loss of Alan Stubbs and David Weir was felt far more keenly. Moyes remarked that he feared that every time Blackburn crossed the ball they looked as if they might score.
Between them the two sides had not managed a goal in more than 10 hours of Premiership football, which made it strangely predictable one should arrive in the opening five minutes. Markus Babbel was not the likeliest candidate to break through, although his last Premiership goal in April 2001 had been against Everton, whose defence dissolved into panic as a free-kick from Barry Ferguson became a game of ping-pong in the area. Babbel's was the final, decisive touch and moments later he should have had a second when a Brett Emerton cross found him unmarked on the six-yard line.
There was to be no further reprieve. In the 13th minute, Emerton delivered an almost identical cross but this time it met the head of a striker, Dwight Yorke, promptly buried it. Had he, rather than Andy Todd, been on the end of another deep ball from the Australian just before half-time, Blackburn might not have needed to expend so much nervous energy.
Yorke did not reappear for the second period but it was the changes which Moyes made during the break that altered the complexion of the fixture.
Thomas Gravesen had spent the first period labouring in an unfamiliar position on the right wing and once the Everton manager chose to employ James McFadden on that flank, they looked immediately more dangerous. The young Scot, whose form has drifted since he humbled Leeds at Goodison more than a month ago, wriggled into the area and sent over a cross which Tomasz Radzinski headed home from point- blank range. It was Everton's first goal in almost seven and a half hours of Premiership football. Even with Rooney fit, they have struggled.
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel 5; Neill 6, Todd 5, Babbel 7, Gresko 6; Reid 6, Flitcroft 6, Ferguson 7, Emerton 7; Jansen 5 (Baggio, 79), Yorke 7 (Gallagher 7, h-t). Substitutes not used: Taylor, Tugay, Enckelman (gk).
Everton (4-4-2): Martyn 7; Hibbert 5, Yobo 4, Clarke 4, Naysmith 4 (Jeffers, 82); Gravesen 6, Nyarko 4 (Unsworth 6, h-t), Linderoth 4, Kilbane 4 (McFadden 7, ht); Radzinski 6, Campbell 5. Substitutes not used: Chadwick, Simonsen (gk).
Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire) 7.Reuse content