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[Archived] News Article -> 2011/12 Match Report: Rovers 0 Everton 1

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Blackburn Rovers (0) 0 – 1 (0) Everton
Arteta (pen) 90 + 2
Referee: L. Mason Attendance: 22,826

It would be easy to come away from this match cursing our luck or, indeed, the referee. There is no doubt that the Rovers could have won, indeed should have won, but the harsh reality is that we didn't win. Every club that's relegated can point to a string of hard luck stories over the course of a season. Unfortunately, after just three matches, the signs are that this campaign is beginning to follow the same path taken by West Ham United and Portsmouth in recent seasons.

For all of Steve Kean's post-match bluster about the excellence of the football served up by the Rovers, the fact remains that his team has endured the poorest start to a season since 1951–52. However, if the manager stands accused of overseeing the worst start to a season in 60 years he should not be in the dock alone — if one can forgive the analogy. The Rao family must stand alongside their manager when blame is apportioned for the shambles that a once well-run club has now become.

Since the services of Sam Allardyce were dispensed with, the Rovers have played 24 Premier League matches, of which only five have been won. Over the course of a season, that sort of record would produce only one outcome — relegation.

The most worrying aspect about this latest setback is that Everton — like Villa and Wolves before them — are hardly likely to be one of the more successful sides come the end of the season. In fact this was probably the poorest Everton side to visit Ewood Park in many a long year.

The first half was a fairly innocuous affair. Apart from a David Dunn effort, which struck a post before rebounding to safety, neither goalkeeper was called into serious action. Indeed, it was referee Lee Mason who took centre stage with a series of bewildering decisions which ensured that the game lacked any flow or sense of urgency.

Steve Kean surprised many with his team selection which relegated David Goodwillie, Ruben Rochina, Mauro Formica and Radosav Petrovic to the bench. Chris Samba made a welcome return to partner Gael Givet in the centre of defence. Brett Emerton, made captain for the day on his final appearance for the club, took his place on the right wing with Morten Gamst Pedersen on the left. Steven Nzonzi and David Dunn were in the centre of midfield with Jason Roberts again taking the role of lone front runner. Junior Hoilett was switched from the wing to play in and around Roberts in the hole.

Dunn's tenth-minute strike was the closest the Rovers came to scoring in what was a fairly disappointing first half. Matters were not helped when both Dunn and Pedersen had to leave the field injured after just 34 minutes. The introduction of Formica and Petrovic did little to change the pattern of the game with the Rovers enjoying plenty of possession but not making much headway against an Everton defence that was well marshalled by the likes of Phil Neville and Sylvain Distin. Indeed, Roberts struggled to make much impact as Distin kept him tightly marked. Hoilett looked dangerous at times but, once again, his decision-making was disappointing and all too often he opted to run with the ball instead of playing in better placed colleagues. His lack of awareness at times may yet prove to be his Achilles' heel although there is no doubting his talent on the ball. However, it is a talent very much at the embryonic stage and needs to be nurtured — something which is difficult to do in a team struggling for results.

The second half began in explosive fashion with the Rovers being awarded a penalty within a minute of the restart. Formica pounced on a misplaced pass from Ross Barkley and raced into the area with the young Evertonian in hot pursuit. When the youngster tried to challenge for the ball Formica fell to the floor and the referee immediately pointed to the spot. With Dunn off the field, Junior Hoilett stepped up to take the kick, but his effort was saved by Tim Howard, who dived to his left to keep the ball out before it was finally scrambled clear.

Undeterred, the Rovers increased the tempo and Formica began to have a greater influence on proceedings. The Rovers began to swarm over the Everton defence without ever really threatening to create the clear-cut chance that was so desperately needed. The visitors attacked only spasmodically; however, from one such attack they really ought to have taken the lead. A well-worked move ended with Victor Anichebe cutting into the area before pulling the ball back for the oncoming Marouane Fellaini, who blazed his shot over the bar.

Kean finally introduced Goodwillie into the action on 76 minutes and the former Dundee United man almost made an immediate impact. A super move between Hoilett and Formica ended when the latter laid the ball off to Goodwillie and the young Scot hammered his shot goalwards only to see it clip the top of the crossbar.

The Rovers were awarded a second penalty after Petrovic played in Formica and Phil Jagielka brought him down in the area. Once again, Lee Mason had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. The Argentine international elected to take the kick himself, but, sadly, only fired the ball against the post. Earlier, Formica had had the chance to test Howard when he got on the end of good work from Goodwillie but saw his effort saved by the legs of the American goalkeeper.

As the game moved into injury time it was the visitors who were given the opportunity to win the game from the penalty spot. A long throw from Neville was met by the head of Samba but the referee judged that in winning the ball he had climbed all over Fellaini and pointed to the spot. It was a highly debatable decision to say the least. Nonetheless, Mikel Arteta made no mistake from the spot and sent Paul Robinson the wrong way as he demonstrated the art of how to take a penalty. Sadly it proved to be a very costly lesson for the Rovers.

The final whistle brought emotional scenes as the Ewood faithful said farewell to Brett Emerton — a loyal servant and consummate professional who has given eight years of excellent service to the club and who was given a standing ovation as he left the field for the last time.

The Rovers now enter the international break pointless and at the foot of the table. With a daunting programme to come, these are dark days at Ewood Park. The transfer window will close in four days' time and the need for seasoned Premier League performers is there for all to see. The loss of another versatile and experienced performer in Emerton is going to be keenly felt and simply reduces the options available to the increasingly beleaguered Kean. Of the new faces on show today, Goodwillie again demonstrated that he needs to play off a target man, while Petrovic looked rather overwhelmed by it all and clearly needs time to adjust to English football. Sadly, time is the one commodity that the Rovers simply don't have. The "fortress Ewood" mentality that Allardyce fostered would appear to be in ruins as wins have become as rare as hen's teeth.

During my time supporting the Rovers I have endured four relegation campaigns — the first being in 1965–66 — and they all had similar starts to the present campaign. All had elements of misfortune about them, just like today, and they all had a feeling of impending doom rather like the present campaign. There are still 35 games in which to get to that magical forty-point mark and surely survival is already what this season is about. To achieve that target is going to require some decisive action on the part of the owners and the manager and at the moment there is little to suggest that the will or capability is there to turn things around.


Blackburn Rovers

Paul Robinson; Michel Salgado, Chris Samba, Gael Givet, Martin Olsson; Brett Emerton, David Dunn (Mauro Formica 34), Steven Nzonzi, Morten Gamst Pedersen (Radosav Petrovic 34); David "Junior" Hoilett; Jason Roberts (David Goodwillie 76)
Subs not used: Mark Bunn (gk), Grant Hanley, Jason Lowe, Ruben Rochina
Manager: Steve Kean


Tim Howard; Phil Neville, Sylvain Distin, Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines; Leon Osman (Diniyar Bilyaletdinov 62), Johnny Heitinga (Jason Beckford 85), Mikel Arteta, Ross Barklay (Tim Cahill 53), Marouane Fellaini; Victor Anichebe
Subs not used: Jan Mucha (gk), Tony Hibbert, Jose Baxter, Apostolos Vellios
Manager: David Moyes


Blackburn Rovers – Michel Salgado, David "Junior" Hoilett, Radosav Petrovic, Steven Nzonzi

Everton – Victor Anichebe, Mikel Arteta

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