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Rovers 1 Man Utd 0


Alan75
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Match Report by Scotty

What a fantastic result! It was completely inconceivable that we would win 4 on the trot after the Leeds game but we have and are now officially safe. Marvellous.

The team news before the game was good and bad. The bad was that Short was missing from the team that beat Everton along with the hamstrung Amoruso. Babbel and Johansson came in. The good news was the "names" missing from the United team. No Keane, Scholes, Van Nistlerooy, Ronaldo or Saha.

We adopted the same formation that has served us so well recently, playing three deep-lying narrow central midfielders with Tugay further forward orchestrating play. I'd hate to see us play this way for a whole season, it's not the best thing to watch every week, but it's certainly got us results just when we really needed them.

We were the better team in the first half. We competed for everything in midfield, denied United any space and defended well when we had to. Not that we had to much, I can only think of one or two United opportunities and they were half-chances at best. We, on the other hand, looked more threatening and created a few decent chances. Stead, Cole, and Flitcroft all could have put us into the lead before Cole thought he had just before the break. He expertly chested a cross down from the left and perfectly executed a lob over Howard into the net. Sadly, the linesman ruled it out for offside. I didn't think it was at the time and the TV replays proved inconclusive.

Still, 0-0 at half-time was OK and we were still on course for the precious point we needed to guarantee safety.

United came more into it in the second half. They dominated possession and gradually began to exert some sort of sustained pressure for the first time in the game. In turn, our defence got deeper and deeper and our forwards became more and more isolated, meaning that we quickly lost what little ball we had. Thankfully though we continued to defend well. I can only think of one clear-cut chance that United managed to create during this spell - a snap shot from Giggs that Friedel saved well.

As the half wore on though, and spaces started to appear, we began to look dangerous on the break. Tugay was becoming increasingly influential, as were the overlapping runs of both full-backs. We just lacked the required quality in the final third that would open up their defence. Or at least we did until the 85th minute. Gallagher, on two minutes earlier as a replacement for Cole, picked the ball up on the edge of the United area. He exchanged passes with Stead and then, just as it looked like the move was about to fizzle out, played a superbly delicate pass inside the full-back for Stead to run onto. Stead's lofted finish from an acute angle was composed, breathtaking, and exactly what we've come to expect from him. Class.

Ewood was having kittens. The noise was deafening, the sun was shining and everything was right with the world. Unfortunately, the team seemed to get a bit carried away as well as they proceeded to forget how to defend during that last five minutes. United, suddenly playing with real urgency at long last, won a couple of needlessly given away corners, took them short without a Rovers player in sight, and created their two best chances of the game. Thankfully, joyously, they both went over the bar when they really should have scored - Fletcher and Forlan the culprits (although Forlan's would have been ruled out for off-side anyway).

And that was that. We won and Ewood rejoiced.

It wasn't a great game, United were as poor as I've ever seen them and we weren't that much better, but we deserved the win all the same.

Our forwards were excellent throughout, Cole especially looked a class act again, and Stead's goal was superb. He seems to get better as the game goes on. Gallagher's contribution from the bench was also vital. Our midfield worked their socks off with Tugay, my man of the match, outstanding and our defence coped easily with their attack. Johansson again looked a top centre-back and should keep his place in the team.

On the negative side I didn't think that Andresen had a good game. He lost the ball too often and only got away with it because he had two other central midfielders alongside him to pick up the pieces. Based on what I've seen of him so far I don't think he'd be good enough as one of a central midfield pair. Neill as well was guilty of giving the ball away but he looked better than in recent weeks.

We've won 4 on the trot by smothering midfield, defending well at the back, and by having two forwards who are starting to look like they are forming an understanding. It's not pretty to watch but it's been mighty effective and all credit has to go to the manager and the players for turning the season around. Let's hope we can keep the run going for the last two games and see where it takes us.

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