Lowly Blackburn kept their chances of staying in the Championship a boost with a close hard fought 1-0 win over Aston Villa. It was all one way traffic in the first half with Blackburn on the offensive knowing that only a win would give them a chance of staying in the division. Three times in the first half Blackburn almost took the lead through Nyambe, Graham and Jason Lowe. In fact Blackburn were head and shoulders above a subdued Villa.
Having dominated the first half, Rovers opened the scoring when Danny Graham converted a Jason Lowe cross to lift an Ewood Park crowd with little to cheer this season. Sure Aston Villa had more possession in the game with 56% however they concentrated the ball in the midfield area and never really looked dangerous except the odd touches from Anthony Kodija.
Aston Villa would have relegated Blackburn if they had won but strangely more than a few Aston Villa fans actually wanted the hosts to win. Chants of: ‘Come on Blackburn’ echoed from away end as a section of the 6000 travelling supporters cheered on the home side.
Obviously Villa fans wanted Blackburn to do well in the hope of their bitter rivals Birmingham City being relegated instead. This result did Birmingham and their new manager Harry Redknapp no favours though and Birmingham were left to their own devices with a 2-0 home win over Huddersfield Town in a game full of incident. Lukas Jutkiewicz missed an early Blues penalty after Che Adams was fouled. Adams was then sent off following a 23rd-minute challenge on Martin Cranie but Jonathan Grounds put Birmingham ahead four minutes before the break. Craig Gardner doubled the lead from Blues’ second penalty, following Dean Whitehead’s foul on Jacques Maghoma.
In a tense atmosphere in front of a 26,914 near full house, Blues wasted a glorious chance with their missed eighth-minute penalty, after Adams was brought down by Mark Hudson. Victory kept Birmingham out of the relegation zone and, with just one match remaining, they are two points above Blackburn and Nottingham Forest but have an inferior goal difference. So it will go down to the last kick of the season to see which of the three teams will join already relegated Wigan and Rotherham in League One next season.
For Aston Villa they looked jaded and at times out of touch knowing it’s a mid table ending to a season that started with hope, spiralled into near disaster, had a fantastic run coming out of winter and a tepid ending to the campaign.Blackburn fought tooth and nail for the three points and deserved them although it took Rovers until after the break to get the winning goal. Danny Graham’s goal was enough to seal victory for Blackburn Rovers who live to fight another day.
The claret and blues just couldn’t get going as their troubles on the road continued, they looked lethargic and bored. Four wins in a Championship season away from home is simply not good enough and Villa need to change that next season. Whether they will be up against Rovers or their bitter rivals, Blues, will only be decided next week.
The hosts’ keeper David Raya had denied Jonathan Kodjia with a good save that was Villa’s best moment. But it is far from what Villa are capable of. Despite their deserved win, Rovers remain in the drop zone on goal difference, but will stay up if they better Nottingham Forest’s final-day result, after Forest lost at QPR. Tony Mowbray’s 22nd-placed Rovers travel to Brentford on Sunday, 7 May, while 21st-placed Forest host Ipswich in their final game and 20th-placed Birmingham travel to Bristol City.
Blackburn could survive even with a defeat at Brentford, should Forest lose by two goals more than Rovers, while victories for both sides would leave Birmingham needing a win to avoid the drop. Complicated? It could well turn out to be.Villa came into the game on the back of a derby win against Birmingham, and having conceded, brought on Gabriel Agbonlahor in a bid to change the game and they rallied, despite losing Kodjia to injury. However, Blackburn showed great spirit to keep Steve Bruce’s side at bay and they survived the five minutes of added time to given themselves significant hope for the final day.
Rovers Manager Tony Mowbray had the team on a seven-game unbeaten run since his arrival in late February, then Rovers then lost three games in a row to dent their hopes.
However, they have regrouped to record two wins and two draws to give their survival bid a huge lift.
Tony Mowbray had this to say:
“Danny Graham has been unavailable for most of my time at the football club and is way off fitness-wise where he should be, but players like Graham, when you need a goal and you need to win a football match, you have to have him on the pitch.”
“The last couple of home games have been nervous for us, but I thought we started really well today on the front foot, played a lot of the first half in their half, asked questions of them.”
“Whilst it didn’t get us a goal first half, it gave us a momentum that we took into the second half, got the goal and saw the game out.”
Steve Bruce was his usual honest self:
“That’s arguably the worst we’ve played since I’ve been here, but a big club like ours, away from home, four wins all season, is nowhere near good enough to where we should be.”
“Too many times I’ve seen us play the way we did today, where we haven’t done enough in every department.”
“We were absolutely hopeless. Hopeless. And unfortunately away from home I’ve seen that too many times. Not good enough and I’ve been here the best part of six months and too many times I’ve come away like that and thought, ‘Dear oh dear, that was inept’.”
It is obvious Bruce will put his stamp on the team in the summer. I can’t wait for the summer sales.