Passionate Blackburn send Shearer on his way

Football: Blackburn Rovers 1 Newcastle United 0
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The Independent Online
They came to bury Shearer, not to praise him, and Blackburn fans who once worshipped at the great man's feet revelled in his misery.

Three points that did not even lift Rovers from the relegation zone were greeted with great fervour at Ewood Park as Alan Shearer and friends were sent home with their title hopes dented and a pounds 15m price tag never looking more inflated.

Shearer was met with initial warmth, but after kick-off the chants became personal and unprintable. The collective feeling of hurt among supporters and players charged Tony Parkes' side into one of their most passionate displays of the season.

As for England's No. 1 striker, he had one of the quietest games these parts have witnessed. His contribution amounted to a booking, for a foul on Jeff Kenna, and an elbow in Colin Hendry's face as his frustration was hard to contain. Given the captain's armband, he failed to lead by example and Kevin Keegan's face at the post-match interview spoke volumes for the size of disappointment suffered by his star player and his colleagues, who once more appear to be fading from the Championship race.

Keegan grunted: "I'm disappointed that we did not get anything out of it. We did not deserve to win but we still had two or three very good chances. We are not playing well, we can't kid anyone about that."

Shearer apart, Newcastle were short of the type of cold-eyed finisher needed for such fixtures. The pleasing service of Keith Gillespie only found Hendry and his able Rovers sidekick, Henning Berg, at their best.

Newcastle's shooting came from long range, with David Batty, whose edge was sharpened against his old club, and Robbie Elliott, spurned by Rovers last summer, troubling Tim Flowers with strong drives. But Blackburn were always the more likely winners, though Chris Sutton has yet to find the monotonous regularity of scoring that was Shearer's trademark. On the day, the new Blackburn No. 9 was far more prominent but suffered twice in front of goal.

First Sutton strode between the two centre-halves to collect a Jason Wilcox pass only to blaze over, and then a Lars Bohinen through ball found him alone only for Pavel Srnicek to make a saving tackle outside his area.

It fell to Kevin Gallacher, reduced by injury to a Shearer spectator during some frustrating years, to deliver the telling blow at the end of the game's most fluid attack. Kenna's cross was flapped out by Srnicek to Bohinen, whose low shot was knocked off the line by Elliott. Sutton pounced to put the ball into the danger zone and Gallacher obliged with a hooked shot in the 76th minute.

The only scare to that advantage came from a back heel by Les Ferdinand with two minutes left but justice was ensured as the ball trickled past the post.

Blackburn Rovers (4-3-3): Flowers; Kenna, Berg, Hendry, Le Saux; Sherwood, McKinlay, Bohinen; Gallacher, Sutton, Wilcox. Substitutes not used: Marker, Fenton, Gudmunsson, Donis, Given (gk).

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Srnicek; Watson, Peacock, Albert, Elliott; Gilllespie, Lee, Batty, Beardsley; Shearer, Ferdinand. Substitutes not used: Crawford, Clark, Brayson, Kitson, Hislop (gk).

Referee: M Reed (Birmingham).