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Fulham punish Blackburn

last updated Thursday 26th November 2009, 2:11 PM
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Mikey Stafford at The Guardian

Fulham 3 Blackburn Rovers 0

Blackburn Rovers must be growing to detest the site of London. On their three visits to the capital this season they have conceded 14 goals - the latest three condemning the Lancashire club to their sixth away defeat of the season and moving Fulham up to 10th in the process. On their long trip back up north the brave, recidivist Blackburn fans could at least console themselves with the fact that Fulham have shunted their bitter rivals Burnley out of the top half.

Fulham's manager Roy Hodgson admitted that the first 40 minutes was "not the sort of game you like to watch" - he was being extraordinarily generous. Erik Nevland's 43rd-minute opener was the first shot on target and it came about after a wonderful move that began with the Norwegian playing a neat one-two with Bobby Zamora and moving the ball wide for Damien Duff. The winger played the ball back into the striker's path and he rolled it under the advancing goalkeeper Paul Robinson.

Prior to this Blackburn had had the best of a bad lot and the manager Sam Allardyce, at home preparing for Friday's angioplasty, even if his wife Lynn had not confiscated his mobile phone, would have had little reason to call his assistant Neil McDonald. Franco di Santo, who started up front with Jason Roberts in an ambitious 4-4-2, perhaps should have opened the scoring in the second minute when he raced on to Keith Andrews' well-measured through ball, however Mark Schwarzer raced from his line to snaffle the danger.

After Nevland's goal, however, Blackburn wilted and the second half belonged to Fulham. McDonald thought the performance was an improvement on their previous London adventures, which is perhaps damning his players with faint praise. "They certainly didn't give in," he said. "In the past we've maybe done that a touch. Maybe at Arsenal and Chelsea but I certainly wouldn't throw that one at the players today."

Having missed two good chances with his head, Clint Dempsey switched to using his feet and doubled Fulham's lead with his right, getting the final touch to a shot from Duff that, having picked up a deflection from Pascal Chimbonda, may have snuck past Robinson on its own. Four minutes later and Nevland should have sealed the win after another swift one-two, this time with Dempsey, but he scuffed his 12-yard shot wide.

Good defending from Chris Samba and Lars Jacobsen was required to keep Fulham at bay as they encountered less and less resistance and it was a very tired tackle from Andrews - Blackburn's most industrious player by a distance - that failed to prevent Dempsey from controlling the substitute Simon Davies' cross to turn and beat Robinson from four yards.

Allardyce is hoping to be back at work on Monday and should Blackburn turn in another performance like this, at home to Stoke on Saturday, it may not be the stress-free first day his doctors would prescribe. For Hodgson, October's manager of the month, this was a "sweet victory" to relish.

"I have seen us play more attractive football but you have to be able to play well against the teams who don't allow you to play how you like," he said. "If you want to beat these teams you have to deal with that and then ask them questions."
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