Joy for Johnson

Blackburn Rovers 0 Aston Villa 2 Johnson 64, Yorke 79 Attendanc e: 24,274
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Aston Villa were without an away goal in the Premiership during 1997, and missed chances before and after half-time suggested an extension of the sequence at Ewood Park. But a second-half substitution brought a change of luck that may have revitalised their European ambitions, as well as exposing Blackburn to a fresh bout of relegation nerves.

The home side, who lost the striker Chris Sutton with a head injury inside the first two minutes, were well below par, but Villa did not look sharp enough to take advantage until Tommy Johnson replaced Savo Milosevic after an hour. The big Serb, who had not trained for more than two weeks, had begun to tire and Johnson's arrival injected Villa's attack with a turn of pace that proved decisive.

Johnson, without a first-team goal since October, and unsettled enough to have considered a return to Derby County a week ago, almost scored with his first touch and did so four minutes later, collecting a long ball from Alan Wright without breaking stride and beating Tim Flowers with a low left-foot shot from just inside the penalty area.

The goal delighted Brian Little, the Villa manager, who confessed he was in no hurry to sell the red-haired striker, even though he could not offer him a regular starting spot. "We have a good relationship as player and manager, perhaps because we come from a similar background and laugh at the same things," Little said. "I've no problem with him staying but he is not a first choice so if an opportunity like Derby comes along I am obliged to discuss it with him."

Before half-time Dwight Yorke had squandered one inviting chance and Ian Taylor, denied a goal by a marginal offside verdict in the opening period, had seen another effort saved by Flowers early in the second.

Blackburn seldom tested Mark Bosnich and Yorke made victory certain 10 minutes from the end after an error by the normally reliable Colin Hendry created an easy opportunity to tuck away his 18th goal of the season.

Sutton went to hospital suffering from concussion after a collision with Ugo Ehiogu left him motionless for several minutes. Happily he was released later in the afternoon. He will need a clear head as Blackburn face a tough programme with matches against Manchester United and Arsenal among their remaining fixtures, beginning in a fortnight's time.