Harte adds to Rovers' woes

Football: Blackburn Rovers 0 Leeds United 1
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The Independent Online
What always threatened to be a most difficult season for Blackburn is living up to all its promise. Ian Harte's 40th-minute goal at Ewood Park last night left them with just one point from their first four games in the process of giving Leeds a well-deserved away win.

It was Rovers' due reward for a performance that lacked both punch and polish. The deciding goal was partly of Blackburn's own making, their substitute, Garry Flitcroft, marking his entry with a clumsy and obvious foul on Mark Ford on the edge of the box within seconds of coming on. Lee Sharpe curled his free-kick to the far post where Harte directed a firm header past Tim Flowers.

There was an irony in Leeds' 19-year-old left-back being the scorer, because he had been the player in danger of embarrassment by the one individual who was Blackburn's intermittent bright spot. Ewood badly needs a new hero and Yorgos Donis was auditioning for that role from the start last night. His pace was a recurring problem for Leeds, especially for Harte, but Blackburn's problem was the lack of a striker to take advantage of his incisive approach work. He twice prised opened the Leeds defence in the first half and Lars Bohinen should have reacted quickly enough to get a shot on target.

With Alan Shearer departed - and his return to the North-east fits all too neatly into the over-familiar tune of "Football's Going Home" - and Chris Sutton and Kevin Gallacher injured, Rovers fielded a makeshift partnership of Graham Fenton and, until he limped off to be replaced by Flitcroft, Paul Warhurst.

Neither players looked like capitalising upon Donis's incursions, although Flitcroft went agonisingly close in the second half, meeting the Greek's centre with a header that came back off the crossbar.

Despite that, Leeds were always the more dangerous and convincing side. Although Ian Rush was their only permanent presence up front, a young and injury-weakened line-up was commendably eager to pour forward in support, and Flowers had to make outstanding saves from Harte's free-kick and David Wetherall's header before the winning goal.

Blackburn did stage something of a cavalry charge at the end, but there was no cutting edge. Even the potential local hero was afflicted, Donis shooting lamely over the bar when put through by Tim Sherwood.

By then, Blackburn needed no further reminder that Shearer had indeed gone home.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Berg, Coleman, Hendry, Kenna; Donis, Sherwood, Bohinen, Ripley; Warhurst (Flitcroft, 38; Pearce, 81), Fenton. Substitutes not used: McKinlay, Croft, Given (gk).

Leeds United (4-5-1): Martyn; Kelly, Wetherall, Jobson, Harte; Wallace (Gray, 79), Ford (Couzens, 89), Bowyer (Radebe, 88), Palmer, Sharpe; Rush. Substitutes not used: Couzens, Hateley, Beeney (gk).

Referee: R Dilkes (Mossley).