Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Blackburn sink to bottom three after Everton draw

Blackburn 0 Everton 0

Blackburn sank back into the bottom three after poor finishing let a much-needed victory over Everton slip away.

Both sides were left to rue missed opportunities in a generally dismal affair when real chances were few and far between.

Jason Roberts had the pick of them - a one-on-one run at the keeper he should have buried, while Joleon Lescott could have won it for the visitors at the death.

This was certainly no advert for the Premier League for the live TV audience on an evening of general excitement elsewhere, with both managers putting their faith in graft and perspiration rather than craft and inspiration.

Apologists will point to the stakes being so high for both, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Not only are Rovers back in the relegation trio, thanks to Stoke winning over Bolton, but Everton have drifted away from the top five.

It had all started so promisingly. Latecomers, understandably dawdling over their pints in expectation of a cagey start, missed Jo shaking the home side into life after just 14 seconds with a powerful shot that might have troubled stand-in keeper Jason Brown only for a deflection to divert it for a corner.

Rovers hit back with a passage of play where there were three strikes at goal, the most promising by Stephen Warnock, but all were blocked by Everton defenders.

Those incidents apart, the opening half had little going for it.

El Hadji Diouf raised a flutter of excitement in home fans' hearts when he took Andre Ooijer's cross on the chest but Lescott stepped in with a powerful clearance, then Roque Santa Cruz broke down the left and produced an exquisite cross that allowed Keith Andrews to take deliberate aim - but a touch too long as his left-footed strike was also blocked out.

It took 38 minutes for either keeper to make a save worthy of note but when it came, courtesy of Brown, it was certainly noteworthy.

Blackburn struggled to clear their lines after Phil Neville had fired in a cross from the left, and the ball came to Steven Pienaar 15 yards out who looked odds on to hand Everton the lead.

The ball was firmly struck and heading into the top corner only for Brown to come to his side's rescue with an excellent diving save.

Jo was on target as the visitors ended the half on top but his shot was feeble after he had done well to earn himself space.

Allardyce made a positive change at half-time, sending on Tugay in place of Vince Grella, and soon after Santa Cruz nearly grabbed the lead.

Warnock jinked past a challenge into the box and Santa Cruz took over with a first-time shot that drifted to the left of the post.

Santa Cruz sent a header from Diouf's cross over the bar before the two managers had a heated exchange of words after Gael Givet's aerial challenge on Leon Osman left both players on the floor needing attention.

As it was Givet came off worst having to leave the field with Aaron Mokoena coming on.

Suddenly the match burst into life. Twice in a minute Blackburn came within an inch but were denied.

First Warnock, deliberately going for goal with a free-kick from deep on the right, struck the crossbar then Jason Roberts burst through to be one on one with Tim Howard.

Roberts attempted to poke the ball under the Everton keeper but Howard read it easily and saved with his foot before clasping the ball to his chest.

Moyes played his ace, in the form of Louis Saha, to try to steal victory and the French striker so nearly had an immediate impact on the result when he put Pienaar through only for Warnock to come in with a last-ditch block.

Tim Cahill lashed a half-volley from 25 yards but straight down Brown's throat.

In the dying minutes Lescott could have had a barely-deserved winner for Everton but volleyed a yard over.