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Blackburn Rovers 1 - Crystal Palace 0


Ricky
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Rovers gained a valuable 3 points which put them 11 points off the drop zone and lifted them to 12th in the league (above Newcastle and Birmingham). The following match report was written by Scotty, a messageboard member.

After the hysterical media outbursts following our semi last Saturday it was always going to be interesting to see how the team reacted tonight - they'd either be fired up by the criticism or they'd be bogged down by it. But this is the new Rovers under Hughes and we really shouldn't have doubted them. Their character shone through and we thoroughly deserved the win.

Stead came in for Dickov as expected but Savage in for Flitty was a surprise, and not a nice one as it turned out. Other than that though we lined up the same as we did at Cardiff. The scare stories about Andy Johnson not being fit for Palace proved to be untrue.

We started the game well and created chances right from the off. We were quicker to every ball, passed the ball better than Palace, pressed them into mistakes all over the pitch and really should have scored. MGP swung in a series of dangerous looking corners, one of which Stead got his head to and brought a smart save out the pyjama-wearing Palace keeper. Nelsen was also left free from a free-kick but hit the outside of the post when he really should have done better.

Those were the two most gilt-edged chances but there were other half-chances in an opening 25 minutes that we totally dominated. However, slowly but surely Palace started to come back into it, we started to lose possession too often as Palace increased their work-rate, and the half was petering out towards a stalemate. Right on the stroke of half-time though we won a free-kick wide on our left, Savage swung a superb ball in towards the edge of the 6 yard box, and Pedersen just about got enough on it to send the ball in off the underside of the crossbar. A goal we deserved for our earlier efforts, but it hadn't looked like coming.

Savage was replaced by Tugay at half-time. Whether that was down to injury or the fact that Savage was one foul away from a red card is anyone's guess.

I thought we played really well in the second half. Palace had to come out and attack us and we took advantage of the extra space available, only poor finishing let us down. I lost count of the number of good chances we spurned - not half-chances but really good clear-cut opportunities to score - but in the end it didn't matter.

Of the one's I can remember, Matteo hit the side-netting when it looked easier to score, Reid missed a sitter of a header from a glorious Emerton cross, Emerton brought a good save out of their keeper with a low shot to the far post, Stead failed to control a great through ball that would have put him clean through, Reid ran clear through on goal for half the length of the field only to be let down by a heavy final touch, and Stead hit the keeper with a poor finish when one-on-one at the death. There were probably more and if we'd scored six Palace couldn't have complained.

At the other end Palace hardly offered a threat. Our defence coped easily with Johnson's pace and driving runs, and only Routledge looked capable of creating anything for the visitors. I think Friedel had to make two saves all match and they were both fairly comfortable ones.

All in all it was as convincing a 1-0 win as you're likely to see. We looked a decent team and Palace looked like a team going down.

Our defence was superb yet again. Friedel didn't have much to do but did what he had to well. Nelsen was as strong and composed as we've come to expect, Todd was excellent in everything he did and received a huge ovation from the crowd before, during and after the match. Matteo struggled at times with Routledge but did well in the main, and Neill had another good game. In fact, Neill's had a few good games recently (Cardiff excepted) and is starting to look more like it.

Savage was fairly awful today. He didn't look fully-fit to me and he mis-timed challenge after challenge. He deservedly got booked for one of the "tackles" and then could easily have been sent off minutes later. He also wasted possession on a number of occasions. In fact, about the only thing he did right was put in an excellent cross for the goal.

Reid carried on his recent good form but really should have scored a couple. Pedersen was dangerous on set-pieces but, yet again, didn't do too much in general play. But, yet again, he scored the winner so how can you be critical? I'd say he's got to be doubtful for Saturday though judging by the way he was limping around at the end.

I thought Emerton had a really good game and tore Palace's left back apart at times. His runs actually had an end product most of the time tonight. Mokoena did his job as well as ever, and Thompson got a run out towards the end but didn't have much chance to make an impact.

Up front I thought Stead was superb, my man of the match. He worked his socks off, his running off the ball was always intelligent and dangerous, his control and touch were excellent as he held the ball up when we needed him to, he won a lot in the air and showed a strength I wasn't sure he had, and his passing was spot on. The only thing lacking was a finish and you could tell he wasn't happy as he left the field at the end. If he keeps playing like that though the goals will come.

Blackburn: Friedel, Neill, Todd, Nelsen, Matteo, Mokoena, Emerton, Savage (Tugay 45), Reid, Pederson (Thompson 75), Stead.

Subs not used: Flitcroft, Enckelman, Gallagher

Palace: Kiraly, Butterfield (Popovic 76), Hall, Sorondo, Borrowdale, Routledge, Leigertwood, Hughes, Kolkka (Soares 45), Johnson, Freedman (Torghelle 60)

Subs not used: Speroni, Shipperley

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