Rovers muscle their way towards safety

IF Sam Allardyce has cut a largely relaxed figure compared to his managerial peers in the relegation scrap, a glance at his team-sheet might explain why.

While Blackburn’s rivals at the foot of the table can generally be deemed powder-puff, Allardyce possess raw power and brutal physicality by the bucketful. Now, just like their fellow partners in crime, Stoke City, Rovers appear to be easing towards safety.

Two set-pieces were enough to dispose of a luckless Wigan yesterday, with Benni McCarthy nodding in from a corner just before half-time and Ryan Nelsen, with exquisite timing, flicking home his first-ever goal for Rovers.

It was enough to lift Blackburn to 37 points and one more win should see them safe.

“We’ve clawed our way out slowly and we’ve responded well,” Allardyce said.

“It’s a great show of character from the lads and a fantastic effort. The determination today really made a difference for us and it is great for us all to go home happy.

Rovers will move a step closer to safety if Allardyce’s former club Newcastle fail to beat Portsmouth tonight but there will be no Schadenfreude, in public at least, from the Blackburn manager.

“I think there is pressure put on us all at whatever stage,” he added. “We’re the ones who have won out of the bottom six and that is a big bonus for us. But it doesn’t really concern me about what kind of pressure that puts on Newcastle.”

Blackburn had to weather an early storm from Wigan, who struck the woodwork early on through Antonio Valencia, but, having done so, they capitalised on their greatest strength — their strength.

Moments before the interval, McCarthy rose to meet Pedersen’s corner and steered the opener past Chris Kirkland, who might have done better.

Wigan showed pluck in the early stages of the second half and Paul Robinson saved well from Ben Watson, but the game was up in the 60th minute as McCarthy flung in a free-kick from the left and Nelsen diverted into the far corner, with makeshift striker Christopher Samba blocking off Kirkland.

“I’ve got no complaints,” Steve Bruce, the Wigan manager, said. “We spent all week talking about the threat they posed from set-pieces and then gone out and defended like that and we got what we deserved.”

BLACKBURN (4-4-2): Robinson 8, Ooijer 7, Nelsen 7, Givet 6, Warnock 6, Diouf 5, Grella 6 (Andrews 78, 5), Tugay 5 (Dunn 63, 5), Pedersen 6, Samba 7, McCarthy 8 (Villanueva 81, 5).

Subs Not Used: Bunn, Khizanishvili, Olsson, Doran.

WIGAN (4-4-2): Kirkland 5, Boyce 6, Scharner 6, Bramble 7, Figueroa 6 (Kapo 78, 5), Valencia 7, Watson 6 (De Ridder 78, 5), Cattermole 6, N’Zogbia 5, Mido 4 (Zaki 46, 6), Rodallega 5.

Subs Not Used: Pollitt, Edman, Koumas, Brown.

REFEREE: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire) 6: Slight question marks over Samba’s role in the goals but probably right to give them.

MATCH RATING: *** Blackburn’s urgency won the day, although Wigan were justified in feeling aggrieved.


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