Gallacher gives Blackburn the necessary balance

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The Independent Online
Blackburn Rovers 3 Sheffield Wednesday 0

If Alan Shearer was the inevitable centre of attention at Ewood Park, that awkward stretch of country out to the left was the most intriguing area.

Shearer received his accolades as the first man to score 100 goals in the Premiership and then proceeded to make up for a failure to score in the FA Cup defeat by Ipswich in midweek that, for him, almost amounts to a breach of contract.

But perhaps more significant for Blackburn's hopes of reasserting themselves as contenders for honours were the various comings and goings in what has become their exposed flank.

The presence there of Kevin Gallacher gave Rovers a far better balance than they have had with players like David Batty and Tim Sherwood shoehorned into ill-fitting roles.

Batty was omitted in favour of Sherwood on Saturday, amid rumours of an impending return to Leeds. The official explanation was a heel injury, although Ray Harford excused himself from the post-match press conference that might have clarified the position.

Whatever the background, the return to the line-up of a naturally left- sided player like Gallacher is welcome - and not just for sentimental reasons connected with his twice-broken leg. Even in a less than fluent display, his presence gave the side more width and versatility.

By way of an extra reminder of what has been missing, Jason Wilcox, who has not played in the first team this season, was on the pitch before kick-off, doling out cheques to local junior sides.

Wilcox, an underrated contributor to Rovers' success, is now back in reserve team football and on the road to regaining match fitness. His return could mean a change of role for Gallacher, but the Scot also had the opportunity to show that he still has much to offer as a striking partner for Shearer.

The goal that finished off Wednesday may, as David Pleat reflected, have contained an element of luck in the way that Shearer's shot deflected into his path. "But it was expertly taken," said the Wednesday manager of Gallacher's deft chip.

However he is used, Gallacher's return to health makes Blackburn's medium- term future look brighter. They sneaked into fifth place in the Premiership on the strength of this 10th home win of the season so, for the first time in this disappointing campaign, that future looks as though it might just include another stab at Europe.

Goals: Shearer (28) 1-0; Bohinen (31) 2-0; Gallacher (85) 3-0.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Berg, Coleman, Hendry, Kenna; Ripley (Gudmundsson, 78), Sherwood, Bohinen, Gallacher; Shearer, Newell (McKinlay, 66). Substitute not used: Mimms (gk).

Sheffield Wednesday (3-5-1-1): Woods; Atherton, Nicol, Walker; Nolan, Degryse, Hyde, Whittingham, Stefanovic (Briscoe, 57); Waddle (Kovacevic h-t; Bright, 79); Hirst.

Referee: G Willard (Worthing).

Man of the match: Gallacher. Attendance: 24,732.