Club Focus – Blackburn – Dunn and dusted

Blackburn Rovers continued their impressive run of form at home with a good 2-1 victory over Birmingham City. The game featured two goals from local boy David Dunn, who has scored an excellent seven league goals in only sixteen appearances this season. Dunn began the game just as he began this season, finding the net with a neat finish after just five minutes. The ex-Birmingham midfielder then scored what was to be the winning goal midway through the second half, getting in front of goalkeeper Joe Hart and heading home from just a yard out. Unfortunately, the game also told the story of his troublesome season, as he limped off the field injured towards the end of the match. That injury will most likely keep him out of Sunday’s crunch showdown against fierce local rivals Burnley.

This week was supposed to be a tough one for Rovers, with Chelsea, Birmingham and Burnley all to play. However, Sam Allardyce’s side stunned many with their brilliant draw against Chelsea. Many will imagine that Blackburn ‘parked the bus’ or played in a physically threatening way to secure that vital point, but this was not the case. In fact, having been accused of playing ‘dirty’ in the past, Rovers have shown they are in fact a cleaner side than people think, picking up just two yellow cards in three games. This excellent discipline, coupled with some very good results has left fans feeling proud of their side.

In that game against Chelsea, the home fans were very unhappy with Big Sam’s decision to replace young striker Nikola Kalinic for centre-forward Jason Roberts in the second half. Many would have preferred to see a midfielder sacrificed for the services of Roberts and for Rovers to change to a 4-4-2 formation. Nevertheless, Allardyce made the right move in this case, as Blackburn were bossing the game in midfield and Kalinic was rather ineffective. Ironically, the same change was made against Birmingham at half-time, this time the crowd responded much more positiviely.

The big talking point around Ewood Park has not been the two good recent results, but in fact the emergence of a new local hero in Phil Jones. The centre-back was thrown right in at the deep end as he made his debut against Chelsea, performing exceptionally well and being named man of the match. Jones coped well with the attacking force of Anelka, Drogba and Malouda, showing great determination and courage to throw in some tackles during the game. Despite the return to fitness of skipper Ryan Nelsen for the game against Birmingham, Jones kept his place in the Rovers team and again put in a reasonable performance. Big Sam does have a squad full of old players at Blackburn, but he has put trust in the youth this season. Martin Olsson is another young player who has performed well at left-back, as he now seems to have cemented his place in the starting eleven. Similarly, Steven N’Zonzi has played every game in the Premier League for Blackburn this season, the youngster was snapped up from French side Amiens in a deal which cost the Lancashire side around half a million pounds. Dubbed the new Patrick Vieira by local press when he first arrived, N’Zonzi has put in some solid performances this season and is yet another one of Allardyce’s gifted youngsters. Despite the emergence of young Phil Jones, one wonders whether he will be selected to play in the feisty local derby on Sunday, or whether the manager feel the occasion is too big for him. Regardless, Jones is certainly one for the future and has got the fans talking and excited as we reach the end of the season.

Blackburn travel to Turf Moor to face bitter rivals Burnley in Sunday’s early kick-off. There is no love lost between these two Lancashire sides and Blackburn fans will be hoping for a similar result to the home fixture earlier in the season, where Rovers swept their enemies aside with a 3-2 victory. It was a glorious result for the clubs local fans and this weekend should prove to be the same. Although Burnley have a respectable record at home, they have crumbled in recent weeks and are favourites to be relegated. Rovers will be looking to take advantage of this and claim the bragging rights come the end of the week.

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