Town 2-0 Blackburn - Match Report
Tuesday, 15th Mar 2016 21:44
Daryl Murphy celebrated his 33rd birthday by scoring two second-half goals to see the Blues to a 2-0 home victory over Blackburn Rovers. The Irishman netted the first from the penalty spot in the 67th minute and added the second three minutes from the end of scheduled time.
Brett Pitman and Jonathan Douglas returned to the Blues starting line-up for Ben Pringle and Kevin Bru, who dropped to the bench.
Town started with a three-man central midfield of Cole Skuse behind Douglas and Luke Hyam with Kevin Foley back amongst the subs, while Ainsley Maitland-Niles was left out of the 18.
With Blackburn playing a diamond formation, Pitman played behind front two Murphy and Freddie Sears.
Rovers, who were playing their 10th game in 31 days, made five changes with Adam Henley, Corry Evans, Chris Brown, Matt Grimes and Simeon Jackson all starting.
Tony Watt, Ben Marshall, Jordi Gomez and Darragh Lenihan moved to the bench, while Danny Graham - scorer of four goals in his last two games against Town - was sidelined with a back injury suffered at the weekend.
Murphy struck the game’s first effort in second minute, Blackburn keeper Jason Steele palming away his 20-yard shot down to his right.
Blackburn forced Bartosz Bialkowski into his first save of the evening in the ninth minute when Grimes crossed from the right and Jackson, who trained with the Blues’ academy as a schoolboy, deftly flicked towards goal 10 yards out at the near post. The Pole scrambled the ball behind to his right.
A minute later, the Blues keeper made an even better save when Elliott Bennett’s freekick from the left evaded everyone in a crowded box and looked certain to curl into the corner of the net until he got a hand to it and turned it over.
On 12 Sears sidefooted Jonas Knudsen’s left-sided cross well over on the volley, then three minutes later the Danish international sent in another ball which Douglas headed wide with Murphy unable to reach it to add a further touch.
In the 18th minute Hope Akpan ended a slick Blackburn move on the left by shooting over from the edge of the box.
Murphy teed up Pitman for a shot from the right just outside the area in the 26th minute which Blackburn keeper Steele punched away.
Just before the half hour Evans picked up the game’s first booking for a foul on Knudsen, who had been Town’s main threat down the left.
Moments later, Grimes smashed a shot from distance which Bialkowski pushed away from goal to his right.
In the 34th minute a loose ball fell to Murphy in the area but his shot struck Sears and Rovers eventually cleared their lines.
Neither keeper was tested again before the end of a fairly typical, scruffy not overly entertaining Championship 45 minutes.
The Blues had had more of the ball and had had more shots but were largely unconvincing, while Blackburn’s two chances which forced Bialkowski into saves in the early stages were the nearest either side had come to a goal.
Blackburn swapped Evans for Lenihan at the break but it was Town who started the second half on the front foot.
On 50 Murphy wasn’t too far away with a well-struck low shot which flew just wide of Steele’s right post.
But Blackburn began to have more of the ball and six minutes later Akpan headed down to Jackson, who shot over.
As the game moved into its final half hour Brown received a ball into feet on the edge of the six-yard box at the near post from Henley but hit his shot into the side-netting.
In the 63rd minute Hyam was yellow-carded for stopping the visitors from taking a freekick quickly, then ex-Rovers striker Luke Varney replaced Pitman in the Blues attack.
Sears hit the wall with a freekick from just outside the area in the 66th minute, the ball looping to Skuse, whose volley was deflected behind, off a Rovers hand according to the Town players.
Referee Iain Williamson waved away the protests but following the corner the Blues were awarded a penalty. As the ball came over from the right Akpan appeared to shove Chambers to the floor and the official had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Birthday boy Murphy took the kick and smashed it to Steele’s left giving him no chance. It was the Irishman’s ninth of the season having gone seven games without a goal.
Blackburn swapped Grimes and Jackson for Jordi Gomez and Tony Watt before Foley took over from Skuse in Town’s midfield.
On 77 Douglas was booked for a foul on Akpan, and from Bennett’s freekick midway inside the Town half on the left Berra just got in front of Shane Duffy to head behind.
Watt shot wide for Blackburn after a corner as the still very scrappy match moved into its final 10 minutes with the visitors trying to find an equaliser, although so far unconvincingly.
And on 87 Murphy sealed the three points for the Blues and put the icing on his birthday cake with his second of the game.
Varney won the ball just inside the Town half and brought it forward before playing a ball to the Irish international, who took it inside a defender before hitting a 20-yard strike past Steele and into the net to take his season’s tally to 10.
In the closing moments Paul Digby replaced Varney and shortly afterwards referee Williamson brought the game to an end.
It wasn’t a game which will linger long in the memory but Town did what they needed to do and ground out a hard-fought win against a determined Blackburn side, who had had the better chances before the break.
The Blues were starting to threaten more prior to the penalty which Murphy tucked away with great confidence.
The second goal, created by Varney and finished superbly by Murphy, cemented a vital three points which moves the Blues up to eighth, one point off the play-offs - albeit with an inferior goal difference - with resurgent Rotherham at Portman Road on Saturday.
Town: Bialkowski, Chambers (c), Smith, Berra, Knudsen, Skuse (Foley 76), Hyam, Douglas, Sears, Pitman (Varney 64 (Digby 90), Murphy. Subs: Gerken, Digby, Bru, Pringle, Touré.
Blackburn: Steele, Henley, Duffy, Hanley (c), Spurr, Evans (Lenihan 46), Akpan, Grimes (J Gomez 75), Bennett, Jackson (Watt 75), Brown. Subs: Raya, Marshall, Ward, Conway. Referee: Iain Williamson (Berkshire). Att: 16,488 (Blackburn: 214).
Photo: Action Images
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