English Premiership

Benni helps Rovers to victory

2009-05-09 18:34
Benni

Ian Whittell

Blackburn - Blackburn can turn their attentions to another season in the Premier League after goals from Benni McCarthy and Morten Gamst Pedersen secured a comfortable 2-0 victory against fellow strugglers Portsmouth at Ewood Park on Saturday.

Although not yet mathematically safe, another victory for Sam Allardyce's club ensures that only the most unlikely sequence of events over the final two games of the season can see them overtaken by rivals beneath them.

For Portsmouth, in contrast, the wait will be more nervous although, even allowing for their current lack of form and desperate shortage of goals, the seven-point cushion they currently have over the bottom three clubs should be enough to guarantee their safety.

Rovers can enjoy a far more relaxing end to a campaign which began with the brief, and wholly disastrous reign of Paul Ince, prior to Allardyce's appointment just before Christmas.

The former Newcastle manager was not a universally popular choice when selected by a club that was, at the time, one position from the foot of the table. But his experience and no-nonsense approach have proved invaluable with Blackburn now all but safe two games from the end of the season.

Not that the manner of their survival was particularly memorable. A first half that lacked much in the way of goalmouth activity finally produced a move of note in the 28th minute as Stephen Warnock's cross from the left-hand by-line appeared certain to be turned in by El-Hadji Diouf only for the Rovers man to somehow steer his attempt off target.

First attempt

At least the near miss breathed life into the home side and, two minutes later, Pedersen struck the vital goal after Warnock's long far-post pass was controlled by Chris Samba.

David James seemed to hesitate as he advanced to deal with the loose ball and an unkind ricochet fell for the Norwegian, who gleefully converted.

As half-time approached, Portsmouth made it 327 minutes since their last goal and there was little sign of the drought ending - Hermann Hreidarsson's off-target header from a Sean Davis free-kick was the visitors' first attempt of the day.

It took a minute of the second half for Pompey to finally force Paul Robinson into action with a speculative long-range shot that the Rovers keeper smothered comfortably.

Warnock and Pedersen responded with strikes which were deflected behind before McCarthy put the outcome beyond all reasonable doubt, winning and then converting a 56th-minute penalty.

The South African's flick struck the hand of Hreidarsson and there were few complaints from the visitors when Mike Riley pointed to the spot and presented McCarthy with the chance to score his tenth league goal of the season.

Samba, still being pressed into action as an emergency centre-forward because of injuries to Jason Roberts and Roque Santa Cruz, almost headed a third goal past James just after the hour.

But the measure of Portsmouth's problems in attack - last season's FA Cup winners have now scored just a dozen times in 18 away matches this season-- were summed up over the remainder of the contest.

First, Peter Crouch's neat lay-off played in substitute Jermaine Pennant who rolled his effort inches beyond the far post then, in the 74th minute, Kanu's pass freed John Utaka who rounded Robinson only to see what looked a certain goal cleared, heroically, off the line by Blackburn defender Ryan Nelsen.

Worst of all, four minutes from time Keith Andrews was judged to have handled Kanu's shot only for Utaka to strike the resulting penalty high over the Blackburn bar.

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