Premier League - Blackburn secure vital win
Blackburn brought a run of five Premier League defeats in a row to an end with goals from Junior Hoilett and Mauro Formica in a 2-0 victory against Norwich City at Ewood Park, that moved them up to third from bottom in their battle against the drop.
There was another pre-match protest from disgruntled Blackburn fans, who would have further voiced their displeasure at the interval had Formica not given the hosts the lead five minutes before the break in a scrappy first-half that the visitors just about shaded.
The second-half seemed destined to be a tense affair but a strike of genuine quality from Hoilett put the game beyond Paul Lambert’s men.
With the early March mini-renaissance that saw Rovers climb out of the relegation drop zone a distant memory, Steve Kean’s men welcomed Norwich City to Ewood Park in desperate need of a win to reignite their fight against the drop having not picked up a Premier League point in just over a month.
But, Kean - who has set his side a target of seven points from their remaining four fixtures that included today's match and trips to Tottenham and Chelsea – had to do without the services of centre-back Grant Hanley but Yakubu Aiyegbeni and winger Hoilett were available having recovered from niggling injuries.
Paul Lambert, meanwhile, welcomed James Vaughan back into the match day squad following a lengthy injury lay-off but was without defenders Marc Tierney and Daniel Ayala as his side vie with Swansea – a point and a place behind them in the table coming into this fixture – to be the most successful of last year’s promoted teams.
Despite not receiving the platitudes that are often reserved for their South Wales counterparts, Norwich’s successes this season have been built on ball retention but both sides began tentatively.
Neither side could get a foothold in the game as both employed a direct style of play, which rendered the midfield area obsolete for much of the first half.
But it was Norwich who just about edged the opening 30 minutes – on account of fashioning more openings.
However, Blackburn were unlucky not to have a penalty with a little under quarter of an hour on the clock when Russell Martin appeared to handle a David Dunn cross but referee Kevin Friend was unmoved by the appeals of the home side.
That penalty aside, the hosts offered little in the way of attacking threat early on.
Yakubu cut an isolated figure up front for much of the first-half but Norwich were to rue early missed chances by Vaughan and Grant Holt as the Nigerian broke the offside trap to feed Morten Gamst Pedersen, who picked out Formica at the back post to give the hosts the lead with a volley.
The goal was a little harsh on the visitors, but, coupled with those missed early chances, they failed to heed the growing influence of Yakubu, who had stuck a post moments before the goal with an improvised over-head kick.
Having taken the lead just shy of half-time, a period of consolidation would have sufficed come the second half, but Hoilett, out of contract come the end of the season, cut in from the left before whipping a curled effort just out of the reach of John Ruddy from just outside the area with only four minutes of the second period gone.
Having secured a two goal advantage, Blackburn appeared content to sit back, soak up the pressure and hit their visitors on the break and the tactic worked well until Lambert introduced Anthony Pilkington and Aaron Wilbraham.
Pilkington nearly found Aaron Wilbraham at the back post following a jinking run before the former MK Dons man drew a sharp save from Paul Robinson from a tight angle following some smart control.
Ryan Bennett headed the resulting corner agonisingly wide for the visitors, and Blackburn were able to see out the half relatively untroubled.
The win moves Rovers level on points with QPR who host Tottenham Hotspur in the late kick-off but will give Steve Kean’s men hope that they can again avoid the drop.