Thursday, February 02, 2012

Soldiers of fortune

Blackburn Rovers 0 - 2 Newcastle Utd

If you do make your own luck, then we were very industrious indeed in between Saturday's game and the trip to Blackburn, the two clubs' fourth and final meeting of the season. It was a night where pretty much everything went our way: numerous wasted chances by the home side to add to a missed penalty, plus a heavy deflection for the game's first goal and (perhaps most remarkably of all) Obertan Kenobi finding the back of the net for the decisive second.

Some credit is certainly due to our defence, superbly marshalled by returning captain Sideshow Bob, but it's fair to say that Blackburn missed their predatory poacher Yakubu far more than we missed our own suspendee, Dreamboat. The Frenchman's place was filled by Raylor and, after an encouraging opening period during which Big Lad had a couple of opportunities, it was our utility man who was instrumental in giving us a 12th-minute lead.

Steve Kean will presumably be cursing his decision to leave out wantaway defender Chris Samba, who'd declared himself keen to play, having witnessed Scott Dann guilty of fatally hesitating in response to a loose pass and then diverting Raylor's subsequent somewhat optimistic effort past Paul Robinson. Football bores are fond of saying that things even themselves out over the course of a season - well, as far as wickedly deflected shots go, they've evened themselves out over the course of five days.

That should have been our cue to seize control and overpower our relegation-haunted opponents, but instead we sat back - or, more accurately, were pinned back - by a determined and gutsy home team. Gael Givet, who got the last-gasp winner in the League Cup tie back at the tail end of October, was denied by a goal-line clearance from Danny Simpson, new loan striker Anthony Modeste was regularly troubling our back line (though he was also doing the same for the offside flag), and efforts were flying in from all angles. Meanwhile, only the crossbar saved Leon O'Best from joining Dann on the wrong side of the scoresheet.

Two minutes from the interval referee Phil Dowd decided Rovers needed a little assistance and presented them with the chance to equalise from the spot. While Junior Hoilett had earlier done very little to endear himself to his prospective employers by taking a tumble in the area, Raylor sufficiently riled to earn a yellow card, there was probably a case for a penalty when Simpson collided with Modeste. Tim Krul, though, was undaunted, keeping out both David Dunn's effort and Givet's follow-up. It's reassuring to know we'll have him performing heroics between the sticks for the second half of the season, at least.

A Blackburn goal just before the break would have put a very different (if more equitable) complexion on the match, but we made it into the dressing room in front. The Silver Fox's response was to withdraw HBA - not a sniff of a sensational goal-of-the-season contender this time - and replace him with James Perch. Tactically astute, or (as my inward groan implied) just an invitation for Blackburn to attack us more?

In truth, our opponents were less of a threat in the second period. Sure, Modeste, Dann, Steven Nzonzi and Mauro Formica all had reasonable opportunities that they failed to take, and Morten Gamst Pedersen's dead-ball ability was a continual concern, but we contained them better and restricted them to fewer openings. Not that we looked capable of making the game safe either, though - there were a few speculative efforts, but O'Best and Big Lad toiled ineffectually up front until the former was replaced by Peter Lovenkrands.

Our third and final substitute, Obertan Kenobi, had been on the pitch all of two minutes when he belatedly made the game safe. The man at fault for Givet's winner in October made amends by finishing off a swift counterattack to deliver the sort of bullet that usually has our names on it.

In October we had been 2-0 down in stoppage time and yet had still managed to force extra time, but thankfully there was no stirring comeback on this occasion. Kean is notorious for his glass-more-than-half-full post-match assessments of Blackburn defeats, but for once he had a point in suggesting that his side created enough opportunities to win three games, let alone one. Still, the victory - and fifth place, above both Liverpool and Arsenal - was ours to savour.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was watching the game on a streaming site and I had to double check that it was indeed Obertan who scored a goal!

9:59 am  
Blogger Unknown said...

With Obertan's speed, he was going to score a goal like that one eventually.

We also have to stop giving up PKs... We're tided for the most PKs given at 8.

6:53 pm  
Blogger Ben said...

Not sure about Obertan, Bob - he's not exactly posed much of a threat to opposition teams thus far! As for our habit of conceding penalties, it's something we need to grow out of fast - we can't keep relying on Krul to keep them out!

7:39 pm  

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