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Rovers 3 Southampton 0


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Maybe it was the withdrawal symptoms of seeing very few goals scored by Rovers of late, well in fact all season, but I came away from Ewood Park on a high Saturday afternoon.

Whilst Rovers gained valuable points in their fight to avoid relegation, it was the manner of their 3-0 win over Southampton was the more rewarding factor.

From the moment that Morten Gamst Pedersen put Rovers ahead in the 11th minute, it didn't look as if Rovers would loose. Something that I have now become accustomed to believing since Hughes rejuvenated the defence, with the re-introduction of Todd and the acquisition of the Admiral Nelsen.

Pederson had the freedom of the park for most of the game and is becoming the darling of the Blackburn End. His goal was a peach, after collecting a long cross field pass from the Axe, Aaron Mokoena, on the left he cut in to slot the ball home from a narrow angle into the back of the Southampton net. However if Pederson is becoming the darling for his goal scoring exploits, the Admiral is become a folk hero in the short period that he's been at Rovers, there is nothing flash about him, he's just solid and dependable, a player that loves to defend. When many a modern day player would have been off to the local A & E with a broken fingernail, I'm told that last week Nelsen came off Old Trafford at the end of the game with a badly smashed finger, informing the medical team that he'd broken his finger. Even though I may be bias, The Admiral, has to be the best transfer buy of the season, some United supporters that I spoke to during the week couldn't believe that he was a free transfer from Washington DC. And that this was his first season in English football, let alone the Premiership.

Rovers made sure of the points early in the second half thanks to an own goal from Andreas Jakobsson who deflected Steven Reid's cross into his own net, and then Reid, who had been exceptional all afternoon was deservedly rewarded for his efforts when he scored the third goal.

Tugay appeared to be enjoyed himself when he came on for the injured Flitcroft, it was more of towing space around than creating it as his expressed his whole range of passes and flicks against a Southampton midfield that appeared to have lost it's cutting edge when Le Saux went off in the second half. Poor old Harry Redknapp and Jim Smith must have been frustrated to see their team unable to gather the ball in the second half as Rovers played the possession passing for long periods of the game with Tugay at the heart of most moves. Even the enigmatic and frustrating Emerton made a valid claim for inclusion in next Saturday's starting eleven with some fine attacking runs into the heart of the Southampton defence, as did Stead who made more impact in my opinion in his 15 minute appearance than Dickov did all game.

Whilst I have singled out a number of players for their performance of Saturday, credit should be given to the whole of the team, as they battled for one another, with no one shirking their duties, when they could have easily had their minds on next Saturday's semi final. A matter that Mark Hughes commented on in his post match report, stating.

"I thought the players were magnificent, each of them put in a committed performance. It was important we got the three points and there were no signs they were thinking ahead to next week."

With safety virtually assured we can now concentrate on the cup, so lets just hope that they have kept something in reserve for Saturday.

Rovers: Friedel, Neill, Todd, Nelsen, Matteo, Mokoena, Thompson (Emerton 45), Reid (Stead 74), Flitcroft (Tugay 49), Pedersen, Dickov.

Subs Not Used: Amoruso, Enckelman.

Booked: Emerton, Reid.

Goals: Pedersen 11, Jakobsson 48 og, Reid 55.

Southampton: Smith, Delap, Lundekvam, Jakobsson, Bernard (Higginbotham 83), Telfer, Redknapp, Quashie, Le Saux (Phillips 45), Crouch, Camara (Anders Svensson 75).

Subs Not Used: Poke, Davenport.

Booked: Camara.

Att: 20,726

Referee: N Barry

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Scotty's Match Report

Terrific performance, great win, bring on the cup.

We lined up in our now customary 4-1-4-1 formation, the only change from the last game saw Dickov replacing Stead up front. Not sure Stead deserved to be dropped but maybe his back injury played a part in the decision. I'm also not sure that Thompson deserved to keep his place ahead of Emerton after his last couple of performances. Southampton started with a 4-4-2 formation and were tactically inept throughout.

We started well, our extra man in midfield meant we won a lot of possession and snuffed out any threat they had, and it was no surprise when we took the lead early on. A fantastic 50 yard cross-field ball from Mokoena was controlled superbly on the run by Pedersen who then finished with aplomb from the tightest of angles. Great goal.

We didn't really push on from there though and, although Pedersen had a couple more chances to score (he missed his kick both times), it was Southampton who slowly came more into it. As the half wore on they started to get more of the ball and created some half chances, with Crouch's heading ability a growing threat. It didn't help that Thompson picked up a head injury towards the end of the half, had to leave the field for treatment for a few minutes, and then played like he didn't know where he was when he returned.

Still, we made it to half-time with our lead intact and Southampton had it all to do.

In my opinion Redknapp panicked at half-time. He threw on Phillips, sacrificed a midfielder (Le Saux), and changed to 4-3-3 in an attempt to get back in the game. But it just meant that our midfield, already on top thanks to the extra man, had even more time and space to play. Emerton replaced Thompson at half-time and revelled in the extra space now available down the right.

Within three minutes of the restart we capitalised on that space and scored the second. Neill, Emerton and Reid all combined down the right to send Reid clear. His low cross wasn't going anywhere until a Southampton defender got a touch and steered the ball past their keeper into the net.

We were full of confidence now and a third goal came quickly - Reid finishing a low cross from around the penalty spot. It could have been any score after that. Southampton were clearly demoralised and we were bouncing. Tugay replaced the injured Flitcroft and treated the crowd to an exhibition. He had all the time and space in the world to play and boy did he use it - all flicks and tricks and great passes - a joy to watch. Why we didn't score more is a mystery really as a combination of bad final balls and poor finishing let us down, but the game was over and we cruised to the finish.

Friedel didn't have much to do but did everything he had to well. Our defence was solid again and coped with Crouch well for the most part. Neill in particular had a good game, bombing on into attack in the second half and linking up dangerously with Emerton.

Our midfield controlled the game throughout. Mokoena was excellent in his holding roll. He did all the ugly things well, snuffing out attacks and making challenges like we know he can, but he also passed the ball superbly well. He normally uses the ball well by making simple passes to the nearest shirt, but yesterday he added some great long balls to his game as well. My man of the match and if he can keep this form going we've got a great player.

Reid attacked well and looked a threat every time he went forward - he fully deserved his goal. Flitcroft battled well, Thompson started the game well but then looked lost after his injury, and Pedersen took his goal superbly but was fairly quiet after that. Tugay came on in the second half and took the pi55 and Emerton looked like a world beater, some of his runs were breathtaking.

Dickov did ok, looked sharper than he did in his last game, but his passing let him down. Too often he gave the ball away when it looked simpler to find a colleague. Stead got a run out in the last 15 minutes but didn't really get any service.

We battled well in the first half and then took advantage of the space available in the second half to win the game easily in the end. I'd be absolutely livid if I was a Southampton fan though. Imagine travelling all that way to see your manager throw the game away in the manner he did. It was bad enough that they started 4-4-2 but changing to a 4-3-3 formation at half-time was just suicidal. They were already getting overrun in midfield anyway, so taking a midfielder off for an extra man up front was a bizarre decision. It's the sort of change you make if you're still behind with 15-20 minutes to go, not at half-time.

Credit to us though. We exploited the time and space fantastically well in the second half and looked a really good team. I think we're safe now, I've said all along that 36 points would be enough, but we'll pick up many more points if we keep playing like that.

A perfect warm-up for Cardiff next week - I'm really looking forward to it now.

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