[STORY] Blackburn, A new era has begun.

Discussion in 'Older Championship Manager Titles Forum' started by voetballiefhebb, Feb 2, 2003.

  1. Chapter 1 - New manager for Blackburn, first press conference

    Two weeks into July, Graeme Souness has caused upsets within the club, and the board of directors have decided a fresh approach. So they scan the UK shores, and come accross a certain 17 year old. Blefast born, Gareth Thomas, whose mothers second cousin, Johnny Berry played for Manchester United, unfortuantly died 6 weeks after the Munich air disaster.

    In his first press conference, Gareth Thomas offered the club a Golden era as long as he remained as gaffer. He promised the fans immediate success without expenditure.

    The press questioned Robert Coar on bringing an unexperience manager into the club. He revealed he had been scouting Gareth for 5 years for his local club Molesey FC, and how determined he was. The media thought otherwise, however, the fans loved Thomas' approached towards the club, present, and future of English football.

    Gareth preferred an attacking style of play, lot's of skill involved, and knocking the ball around, opening up gaps, then striking. He decided to use the AOA07UK tactic.

  2. Chapter 2 - WBA, Liverpool and Fulham

    1 month on, it is just 4 days until Gareth's first game incharge. It is away to WBA, the media speculated Kaka or Ricardinho maybe bought in to suit Gareth's stylish play, but Gareth played down the rumours.

    So after a month of working with the squad, and staff, we were ready to do battle. Gareth named his starting 11 and his 5 substitutes.
                   Yorke  Cole
         Duff   Flitcroft   Dunn   Thompson
                 Curtis    Berg
    The side cruised to a 2-0 victory, both goals from lone striker Hakan sukur. Off to a winning start, the board pleased at the away victory.

    A post match interview, Garth Crooks questioned Gareth on his decision to play Yorke and Cole as AMC. Gareth replied "Yorke and Cole will most famousley be remembered for the spell they had together at Manchester United, they work well together, with someone as strong in the air as Sukur, we need him at the heart of the attack, in this case, 3 is not a crowd"

    3 days later, Blackburn host potential title contenders Liverpool. Again, Gareth names the same starting 11 that faced WBA revealing you are only as good as your last game. Hakan Sukur gave Blackburn the lead with his 3rd goal in 2 games on the 52nd minute. 25 minutes later, Danny Murphy lined up a free kick, David Dunn jumped with the wall and deflected into his own goal past the stranded Friedle. So with 13 minutes to play, Gareth tells the team to give it to Sukur straight away as the team play Direct passing. Duff picks up the ball, floats a pin point cross, met by the head of Sukur who out jumps Dudek and nods one in on the 84th minute to take 3 points from Liverpool.

    The fans were at this stage praising Gareth, however, Gareth played the fans down, telling them not to get big headed and expext the European Champions league trophy in the cabinet next season. Take one step at a time, and look forward to the next win.

    Blackburn's next match was away to Fulham. The coach journey down to Gareth's town where he grew up, and had trials at 13 years old. Yet again, the same 11 were chosen. Blackburn dominated the match and a 34' minute strike seperated the two teams as Dunn pounced on a fumbled save from a powerful Yorke header.

    So after 3 games, Gareth was top of the table with Chelsea, both with 9 points, but Blackburn the better goal difference.
  3. Chapter 3 - The start of Europe, Bolton, Cemtenarnica and Southampton

    Blackburn on the road again, this time travelling to Bolton. 9 minutes into the match, Duff was caught late by Kevin Nolan, however, Nolan got away with a yellow card, Duff stretchered off, Gareth looks at his bench, and sticks 31 year old veteran Craig Hignett on the left wing. 6 minutes later, Andy Cole opens up what proves to be a 5 goal thriller, with a header from a Craig Hignett cross. The next 15 minutes thing's shattered, Chris Armstrong, ex-Spurs striker netted twice in 9 minutes, 20' and 29'. Going into half time away 2-1 down. Dwight Yorke who had not scored yet was taken off, Matt Jansen, his replacement. A harsh half time team talk led to a more confident Blackburn coming out of the dressing rooms. It took just 4 minutes to get another goal, Hakan Sukur yet again. This time the poor positioned Jaaskelainen fumbled Sukurs initial shot, and as all great strikers follow up, Sukur netted the ball home. On the 64th minute, Friedle gave the ball to Curtis, who took it forward, he hit a 40 yard ball into the area, Sukur rised above David Holdsworth and headed home the winner on the 67th minute.

    Next up, The quest for the European title. It all starts off with Cementrica, and Blackburn tore them apart. Going into half time, Blackburn were 6-0 up. David Dunn 2' Hakan Suker 4 in 35 minutes, and a Hignett penalty in the 39'. Gareth told his warriors to take the foot of the pedal and just save their energy for their home match v Southampton. It finished 6-0 and Blackburn were certain to qualify for the second round.

    Southampton travelled to Ewood park. Normally a great fixture, however, sadly, Michael Svensson was red carded by the dubious refereeing of the inconsistant Mike Riley, for...wait for it...shirt pulling. lol. Dunn put 'The Rovers' infront on 41'. 2 second half goals sank Southampton, Cole 48' and Hignett 72'

    So Hignett looking very good while covering for Duff. Duff is only out for another 5 games. Sukur, Rovers leading goalscorer, and defensively looking strong. The Blackburn fans ecstatic hoping Gareth can recreate the scenes of the 1994/95 season.
  4. Chapter 4 - Newcastle, Cementarnica and Manchester United

    Gareth takes the long windy road to Newcastle. The team he hates most seeing as he is a West Ham fan.
                  Yorke   Cole
          Hignett Flitcroft Dunn Thompson
                   Curtis Berg
    So, Yorke with 6 starts and still no goals, but 2 assists, can he finally find the back of the net? The answer was no, Blackburn got off to a great start on Tyneside, it only took 3 minutes for a cheeky ball from Dunn round the back of Andy 'Own Goal' O'Brien and Sukur to knock it past Given. 30 minute later, Sukur was on the scoresheet again, this time with a head from a super Thompson cross. Goalscorer Hakan Sukur returns the compliment to Dunn, as goalscorer turns provider, he sets up Dunn for a 30 yard striker who blasts it home as Blackburn take 3 points from Tyneside. 3-0.

    Away to Cementrica, in the 5th minute, Cementrica took a shock lead, Stankovski rising above Friedel to head home the corner. 21 mnutes later, the Macedonian team went 1 player down as Colakovic was given his marching orders for hacking down Flitcroft. It only took 5 minutes for Blackburn to take advantage of the advantage and Hakan Sukur evened the scores at 1-1 as the teams went into half time. The second half Thomas tells his men to sit back, Friedel gets injured 1 minute into the second half, Gareth seems worried as his star keeper is stretchered off. Alan Kelly comes onto replace him. Jansen replaces Dwight York on the hour mark, and Sukur on the 61st minute makes it 2-1. Jansen getting his first goal under the Thomas regime on the 87th mnute as Blackburn cruise through 3-1 away, 9-1 on aggregate.

    With news that Friedle is out for 2 weeks with a twisted knee, Alan Kelly, Southern Irish ex-international steps between the posts at home to Manchester United. Unbeaten, Blackburn Rovers who have won 8 out of 8 so far face there biggest challenge yet. Also with Duff out, thing's were not to be easy. Forlan put the Mancs ahead on the 14th minute, however, 5 minutes later, Jansen, who replaced the out of form Yorke netted home his second. Manchester United dominated the rest of the first half and they went in at 1-1 at the break. Determined to get a result, Gareth Thomas told his playersto fight to the end, and to attack. They did so, but it did not pay off, Forlan took 2 minutes to score and added his second on 47 after a dropped cross from Kelly. On the hour mark Keane rounded off Manchester Uniteds win and Blackburns first defeat.

    Not impressed, Gareth Thomas made his anger clear in a post match interview, he blamed Alan Kelly's dropped cross, for letting the team down. And publically said he was dropping Kelly and would be letting ex-Middlesbrough keeper Alan Miller take the number 1 jersey and Kelly would face a one week fine. Gareth then said he would not answer any questions on the game, and said he was now looking forward to the home match v Charlton.

    1st) Blackburn Played:7 Points:18
    2nd) Manchester United:Played:6 Points:16
  5. Chapter 5 - Charlton, Arsenal, Dunaferr

    Gareth looked to bounce back after a home roasting from Manchester United. He kept his word and dropped Kelly, with Duff and Friedel out of action, this could prove to be tricky. Blackburn attacked from the start, taking only 13 minutes to score, Jansen, and Cole working wonders as Cole scores. Dunn adds to the scoreline on 26 minutes. Jason Euell responds on the 30th minute making it 2-1 and an interesting second half. Second half Gareth has obviousley bollocked them and Hignett scored 3 minutes after the restart, to make it 3-1. On the hour mark, a header from Sukur rounds things off as it finished 4-1. Gareth proud and now has to look forward for a trip down south.

    Naming the same side that beat Charlton, Gareth seems confident as 3rd place Arsenal kick off. 8 minutes in, a Henry corner met by the bald, shiny head of Cygan get's the game underway. Again, another Henry corner, this time Ukrainian Luzhny heads home to make it 2-0. On the 37th minute, Thompson catches Seaman off of his line, and, I am surprised he did not get booked for lobbing Seaman/Semen. :D
    Thompson thrived on the adrenaline rush, and went and bagged home another one on the 45th minute to go into half time 2-2. Whatever Wenger said, worked. A dominated second half an 13 minutes from Time, Wengers army strikes as Wiltors pace is too good for the ever ageing Henning Berg. Arsenal win 3-1, to move into second place 1 point behind Blackburn, but with 1 game in hand.

    Blackburn caught the plane to Budapest, not much to say really on this second round tie. Blackburn won 3-0. After a goaless first half, the return of Duff as he assisted Hakan Sukur twice with 2 crosses and Dunn scoring to make the first leg 3-0 with 3 nice away goals.
  6. Chapter 6 - Birmingham, West Ham, Dunaferr

    Gareth's 13th game incharge. The Media speculating this is where thing's now go downhill. Gareth replied, "Luck is for the unfortuanate, where as unlucky, is for the lucky". James Goddard did not reply as he dashed off to take pictures of Jordans knockers for tomorrows page 3.

                  Duff   Cole
         Hignett Flitcroft Dunn Thompson
                  Curtis Berg
    The return of Friedel was good. After facing Man U and Arsenal with 2nd and 3rd choice keepers, Gareth was ecstatic to have him back. Facing bottom of the table Birmingham was screaming out for a Blackburn win. Well it was after 33 minutes when Michael Johnson was sent off for a two footed tackle on Andy Cole. Hignett stepped up and put it in off the left hand post sending the keeper the wrong way. Half time and 1-0. Birmingham still not out of it. I told my team to go cautious at the back, thus setting mentality to Normal. Cole scored a header on the 56' from a Thompson cross, and Tugay scored an excellent free kick from 25 yards out which was dummied by Duff. Back on winning ways and proving lucky numbers and annoyng journalists wrong.

    West Ham travel to Ewood. Yet again, because of Gareth's love for the Hammers, the media posted lot's of propaganda that he was to throw the match for the Hammers. Gareth strongly denied the rumours lashing out at the press calling them "Lying bastards". A boring first half with hardly any goals got to Gareth, he told his players the media could destory me after this is we lose, and told them to go out and play there hearts out to save Gareth's arse. They did just as he requested. 2 goals in 2 minutes, Hignett on the 51' and Tugay on the 53' winning Blackburn the match 2-0.

    The second leg saw Dunaferr travel to England. The Hungary based team had no chance from the start. Only getting one shot on goal during the whole 90 minutes. Gareth's army won 2-0. Sukur on the 31' and Thompson finishing the Hungarian based team off on the 81'

    So after 15 matches, 11 matches in the premiership, Blackburn had won all but 2. They have had no players sent off as of yet which is excellent. The Blackburn supporters have been praising Gareth's work at the club and have branded him with the nick name "Rovers own Belfast Bulldog"
  7. Chapter 7 - Everton, Start of the League cup, Tottenham and Leeds

    So yet again, Blackburn back to a decent winning streak. This time Everton travel to Ewood park. Could it be 3rd time lucky for the away teams at Ewood? Gareth shrugged it off, took it in his stride, and said his only concern was the young starlet Wayne Rooney.

    It took only 21' minutes to get the first goal of the match, Hakan Sukur, 3 minutes later, yes, wonder boy Roonaldo get's his third goal in 2 starts. Manager Gareth Thomas sits in the Dugout with a concern look on his face. 37th minute, Damien Duff opens up his scoring account with his first goal of the season knocking it in the open goal as Sukur turns in the assist. Into half time, and Blackburn are 2-1 up. Hakan Sukur completes the win on the 73rd minute with a volley past the stranded Richard Wright.

    The third round of the League cup comes soon, and in a pre-match interview, Gareth Thomas said that he is manager, and will try to win every game he can to keep team confidence on a high.

    Tottenham, who Blackburn faced in the final last year fielded there strongest 11. However, it was to prove no match for the Rovers. Blackburn cruised through 3-0. Thompson 31',81' Sukur 45'. After the match Gareth praised Thompson for showing excellent form recently and encouraged him to keep it up. Into the 4th round they cruised to face South London based Chelsea.

    Going to Elland road was always going to be tough, but however, without Woodgate, Bowyer, Rio, Fowler and Keane all gone since the summer, the odds were a Rovers win. On half time, the worst time to concede Smith scores as Leeds go 1-0 up. For the minutes after the break, Leeds looked like they would add another, on the 80th minute, they decided to sit back, I tried the long ball method, howlong could Matteo stop Sukur from heading up at goal? 9 minutes is the answer. Sukur rose upon Matteo to head home a dramatic late equaliser. However, the point was not enough. Teams coming from behind have a psychological advantage, and Gareth threw everything at them. A sprinted dribble down the right flank by Thompson, into the box, and laying it back for Flitcroft to knock it in was excellent. 3 points maybe not deserved, but none-the-less, 3 vital points that keep me at the top of the English Premiership.
  8. Chapter 8 - Brondby, Man City, and Chelsea, UEFA, Premiership, and League cup.

    Blackburn then travelled to face the strong Danish team, Brondby. A goaless and rather boring first half lef to Andy Cole being substituted off and being replaced by Jansen.
              Duff   Jansen 
         Hignitt Flitcroft Dunn Thompson
             Curtis  Berg
    Martin Johansen scored on the 64th minute to put Brondby 1-0 up. 80th minute and still 1-0 down, Gareth is desperate. He sticks counter attack and Direct and the results show as the defense collapses Duff on the 86th minute, and again, another 90th minute goal, this time from Hakan Sukur. 2 away goals, still not over yet. 2-1 to Blackburn.

    With Blackburn being left out of the weekends premiership matches, this gave a chance for Arsenal and Manchester United to capitalise. Arsenal did so, beating Charlton 4-1 at home, however, 10 men WBA pulled off a shock win at Old Trafford 2-1.
    Again, Kaka is linked with me.With Thompson, I feel I do not need another right winger. And the rumoured price of 23m is not funny. :)

    14th place Man City travel to Ewood. I am very aware of Fowler and Anelka and the problems they could cause. Disaaster! On the 7th minute Hignitt is tripped in the box, he steps up and puts it wide. Fowler makes his mark on 34' with a left footed volley. I swear I never sore that coming. However, the lead lasted 9 minutes, Andy Cole equalising on 43 as we go into half time. Hignitt hits the post on the 57th minute, and it does not look to be my day, just when I thought it could not get any worse, John Curtis is sent off on the 69th minute. Hignitt comes off and Nills-Eric-Johansson replaces him. Duff moves to ML.
        Duff Flitcroft Dunn Thompson
             Berg  Johansson 
    I now suspect the worse, and I will lose. In the 79th minute I hit the bar, Schmiechel is playing a 9, and I am frustrated, shouting on the bench. And then a major kick in the balls. Haaland scores a 90th minute winner for City. A headed goal from the corner. Curtis recieves a 1 week fine.

    Now, I travel to London to face Chelsea. Celtic are linked with Thompson and Dunn. I deny that they will be moving away to the club. Especially to Celtic. The same side that started v Man City starts, hopefully I will finish with 10 men. Chelsea field a mixed team, experienced mixed with youth. With Cole and Zola leading the attack. Moriss puts the blues 1-0 up on 18'. I hope this will not be another loss. Hakan Sukur levels things on 28' and we go into the break at 1-1. On the 70th minute, Ranieri is telling Chelsea to attack, I decide to go normal and counter, on the 80th minute, Thomspon who is playing his best football of all season, hits the bar. A few tactical changes and Duff move to ML, Jansen on for Flitcroft, Hignitt to MLC, and Jansen to AMC. Hignitt on the 86th minute strikes a screamer from 25 yards putting it past Cudicini. Back to winning ways again, and the draw confirming I will be facing 1st Division side, Nottm Forest, at Ewood park.
  9. Chapter 9 - Spurs, Brodnby, Middlesbrough

    With Liverpool's Michael Owen netting a 90th minute goal v Manchester United, and WBA holding Arsenal to a 0-0 draw, this is my golden opportunity to take advantage.

    In a pre-match interview, Rovers manager Thomas seems very pleased with the other results. He seemed unsure if Blackburn could capitalise and go even further ahead at the top.

    However, Gareth's been looking and working on his tactics from the coach trip from Ewood Park to White Hart lane as Blackburn travel to Spurs who are 4th AND unbeaten at home.

    A very even first half, 4 shots on goal for both teams, and the first half draws in at 0-0. For the first 20 minutes of the fist half, the frosty pitch results in scrappy play. Gareth switches to normal mentality, does not go much, not even Jansen on for Cole. Full time 0-0.

    Failing to capitalise and further the lead on top, Brondby travel to Ewood park 2-1 down from the first leg. Blackburn welcome Brondby to a mild Ewood park, the pitch in good condition and dry conditions, this should be an excellent match for a neutral spectator, however, manager Gareth Thomas, wants the match to be over within half an hour and sets out a direct passing game. Blackburn take the lead via a 28th minute goal from Thompson, Brondby now need 2 to get back into it. Brondby come out more attacking, I rest Damien Duff and replace him with Jansen. Dunn scores on the hour mark to secure oue place in the 4th round. Hakan Sukur adds 10 minutes later on the 70th minute mark.

    UEFA cup 4th round draw:
    Mallorca v AEK
    Leverkusen v Lyon
    Newcastle v Club Brugge
    Betis v AIK
    Valencia v Sporting
    Inter v PSV
    Blackburn v Sedan
    FC Kobenhavn v Chelsea

    Also on the same day, the draw was made, if I beat Nottm Forest in the quarter finals of the worthington cup, I will face Man City in the semi finals.

    Some great news and bad news 24 hours before I face 17th placed Middlesbrough. Arsenal are held to a 0-0 draw at Highbury with Liverpool, excellent, however, Man U beat Fulham 6-1 at home.

    Confident from my last match, and no changes, Blackburn take on Middlesbrough at a very breezey Ewood park. Blackburn dominate, 8 shots to 2 in the first half, however, they somehow fail to hit the back of the net. Gareth Thomas does the unthinkable, Sukur, who has scored 27 in 25 was taken off at Half time to make way for Dwight Yorke. Yorke then moved back to AMC as Cole went upfront. With the keeper Mark Crossley playing a 9, it was going to be hard to win this one. Yorke fails to peform, and on the 87th minute, still at 0-0, Gareth removes Yorke for Jansen. Yet again, another 0-0 stalemate.
  10. Chapter 10 - Nottm Forest, Sunderland, and Liverpool

    Blackburn draw Southampton in the FA cup third round at home.

    So in the quarter final v Nottm Forest, Blackburn are without John Curtis, Tugay, and David Thompson, obviousley a massive blow.
                     Duff    Cole
        Hignett Gillespie Dunn  L.Neil
               Johansson Berg
    Obviousley a big blow. 10th place Forest decide to come out defensively. Big mistake against such a strong attacking team. From the kick off I was sure I could murder them. Even 3-0 I would be happy. Duff scores on the 34th minute in a first half which sees Blackburn hit 10 shots, and Nottm Forest 0. Nottm Forest decide to go defensive counter. I hit normal and direct to counter there strategy. Hignett scores on the 53rd to put me 2-0 up, and secure the tie. Cole comes off and is rested and is replaced by Matt Jansen who assisted Hakan Sukur on the 87th minute to make it 3-0. All the smiles soon turned to dissapointment, Dunn limped off, and is now out for 3 weeks with a damage foot.

    Traveling North upto Sunderland, the team bus seemed quieter than usual, without Curtis and Dunn, suspension and injury keeping them out resspectively, maybe that was the reason team spirit was low.
                 Jansen    Cole
             Duff Hignett Flitcroft  L.Neil
               Johansson Berg
    The Mackems kick off and soon start an attack, only to be palmed away by Friedel. It only took 17 minutes for Sunderland to score, Kevin Philips, things were not looking too good. Sunderlands only shot, and they scored, Blackburns 8 shots and only 4 on target. Cole was playing scrappy in the rain, he was bought off and I introduced Yorke into the game, hopefully proving himself worthy that he deserves to play for us. I lost 1-0, hit the bar in the 93rd minute via Jansen, in the other result, Man U won 3-0 v Charlton and now moved into first.

    Going into the Liverpool match, I decided to change the tactic and go with Christmas tree.
                          Jansen  Cole
                    Duff  Tugay Thompson
             Hignett                        Neil
                    Johansson      Berg
    As you can see, Flitcroft dropped for O'Neil.

    A few hours before the kick off, Duff signs a new contract, and I find out Owen is injured. Things are looking food. Martin Taylor departs for Barnsley on loan until the end of the season. I got anfield to attack against a stylish Liverpool team who for some unrealistic reason, have plenty of flair and are attacking me. It only takes 10 minutes for the first goal to come, Emile Heskey. Again, Gareth Thomas can be seen shouting on the touchline. 13 minutes later, Andy Cole grabs one back for the Rovers, it stays this way with Blackburn dominating yet again for the rest of the half, but Sukur, failing to take his chances. The second half was boring. Finishing 1-1. Blackburn should have won. Arsenal beat Man U to move into first place.
  11. Chapter 10 - Fulham, Villa, W.B.A

    With Arsenal in first, 2 points clear of Blackburn, with 2 games in hand. We can assume Blackburn are 8 points behind, assuming Arsenal win both games in hand.

    The media were all outside Ewood park as Gareth Thomas arrived, they seemed to be thinking that Blackburns title race was over after failing to capitalise on Arsenal and Manchester Uniteds poor results. Gareth replied "Tell me that in May".

    Fulham traveled to Ewood, after losnig 6-1 to Man U, they beat Chelsea 4-1, and Leeds 5-1. However, Fulhams away form was poor, failing to win in their last 3 outings. Fulham dominated the first half, in possesion and chances on goal, however it still ended 0-0 at half time. Gareth Thomas came out with a more attacking tactic:
    Duff                                         Thompson
                    flitcroft  Jansen
    Hignitt             Tugay                   Neil
                     Curtis   Berg
    Nothing worked for the Rovers attacking wise. And Friedel kept them in the match, again, to be held to a 0-0 draw. This is where Gareth is to be tested now. With Arsenal and Man U winning, again, Blackburn slipped. The teams confidence on a slide, it was not looking too good.

    Yet another Home match for Blackburn, and the Blackburn fans are still confident the bad spell will be over.

    Duff                                         Thompson
                    flitcroft  Jansen
    Hignitt             Tugay                   Neil
                     Curtis   Berg
    Again, Thomas goes for the 2-3-2-2-1. Aston Villa, who are 6th, are in good form, they had won 3 on the trot, then lost last weeks away to Leeds. Again, Villas record not too good away from Villa park. The weather was horrible, windy and raining. The worst happened, Mellberg headed home a corner, to put The Villa 1-0 up. However, Jansen scored hust before half time on the 45' to go in 1-1. No changes for either side, both teams coming out to look to get back to winning ways, Duff floated in a cross to be met by the head of Sukur who towered Lee Hendrie to score his 200th goal of his career to put us 2-1 up on the 56th. The Blackburn fans were singing, the atmosphere was great for such a droggy day. On the 80th minute, Mellberg was replaced by Crouch. He came on, I decided to sit back and knock the ball about, if they do not have the ball, they can't score, right? Well it stayed that way, and we finally won!

    Arsenal and Manchester United also won, however, they gained nothing on Blackburn this week as the Rovers finally recorded there first victory in 6 league matches. With a League cup semi final all to look forward to in 29 days, results had to change.

    Again, another home match, this time, Blackburn host W.B.A, who are 11th. West Brom get off to a flying start scoring in the 3rd minute, only to be ruled out for offside, much to Rovers manager Gareth Thomas' relief. That was there first and last shot of the first half. Blackburn knocked the ball about, and when midfielder Flitcroft spotted Sukur making a run in the box, he knocked it in for Sukur to glance it past the stranded Russel Hoult, again on the 45' minute to make it 1-0. Sukur addedto his goal talley and scored in the 52nd with another header. Blackburn seemed back on track for another home win. Jason Roberts hit a late consolation goal, but that was all it was.

    Gareth Thomas, delighted at his change of fortune went into the dressing room to congratulate his team, he switched on the T.V and found West Ham had held Man U to a 1-1 draw, and Newcastle beat Arsenal 3-0. Thing's were finally looking better as his side look to challenge for more silverware this may.
  12. Chapter 11 - Southampton, Chelsea, Southampton. FA cup and Premiership.

    The third round of the FA cup was upon us, Gareth Thomas wanted to win, to keep team spirit high, and the return of David Dunn boosted the teams morale. Gareth Thomas named his squad 18 hours before the kick-off. Something he has never done before.
    Duff                                         Thompson
                    flitcroft    Dunn
    Hignitt             Tugay                   Neil
                     Curtis   Berg
    Matt Jansen made way for David Dunn. Southampton had not won a match in their last 5. Strachan was under fire. Hakan Sukur scored his 30th goal in 31 games with a goal from nothing. It only took 22 minutes for Dunn's presence to be recognized. An excellently timed pass into the feet of Duff, who took it well and put it past the stranded Paul Jones. With Chelsea in mid-week. Gareth decided to rest some of his key players. Sukur made way for Cole, and Thompson moved to right back as Jansen was stuck out of position on the right wing as he came on for Lucas Neil. However, James Beattie made matters worse, 2 goals on 71 and 74' levelled the scores up at 2 a piece. The game was really on now. It finished 2-2, a horrible result. A replay at St Mary's was due. If The Rovers got through that, then they would face Division 2 strugglers, Crewe.

    Chelsea were playing a 5-3-2, inform Forsell led the attack with Hasselbaink, and Zola playing in the hole. Gareth kept the same formation, however, injured Andy Cole, was replaced on the bench by Dwight Yorke. The game got underway, and from the kick off, Chelsea just did not stop attacking. This gave me the chance to counter and sit back, suck it up, then lash a ball out wide to the wingers. This worked perfect, Sukur scored in the 28th as Thompson got down the line and crossed for a Sukur volley, Forssell was injured on the 28th also, his replacement, Carlton Cole. 3 minutes later, Dunn proved what an asset he is and scored from Cudicini's parry. 2-0 up, and determined not to make any changes, Gareth left the team alone. No action for 15 minutes, out of the blue yet again, a Sukur volley from 25 yards and a possible contender for goal of the month sees 6th place Chelsea sink as Blackburn go 3-0 up. On the 78th, Zola got a consolation goal, but nothing more than that.

    Manchester United beat 4th place Spurs 2-1 to move into second. Meanwhile, Arsenal, again, lost to Fulham 3-1to slip down into third.

    Blackburn - Played: 22 - Points: 46
    Man Utd - Played: 21 - Points: 45
    Arsenal - Played: 20 - Points: 44

    Looking good again for Blackburn, Arsenal's recent inconsistant may have cost them the title. Rovers still have to be aware of Manchester United, they are there biggest threat. Again, the board delighted with the peformance shown by the team.

    Gareth Thomas decided to bring in a player. 16 year old Dean Shiels. Nobody knows much about Dean Shiels, however, Gareth Thomas, being from Belfast, knows the Northern Irish born striker well. Gareth said "On a free transfer you can't go wrong, this young man has potential, and he is an excellent long term investment, he will get the odd game, with Grabbi, Yorke, Ostenstad, Dean Saunders, Yorke, Cole and Sukur all ahead of him, he should be excellent with all the experience around him.

    As Blackburn travel to the south coast to face Southampton in the premiership, Thomas booked in a hotel for 5 days, seeing as they would be playing here again in an FA cup replay. It only took 4 minutes for David Thompson to score, skimming accross the slippery surface into the bottom corner. 11 minutes later Hakan Sukur made it 2-0 with a header, and Duff on the 19th made it 3-0. However, Gareth was not willing to take a chance and substitute again. Gareth told his men to just knock the ball about, dont attack, just keep a balance to your defence and attack, and for 45 minutes, Blackburn did ever so well, and ended up winning 3-0.

    Arsenal, yet again, slipped up, being held to a 2-2 draw by Everton at Highbury. Arsenal have not won in 4 matches. Also, the FA wrote to me confirming Flitcrofts one match ban for picking up 5 yellow cards. The following day, an 80th minute goal by John Terry rescued Chelsea a single point as they drew 1-1 with Manchester United at Old Trafford. With the crowd fully behind Blackburn, Thomas was determined nothing was to get in his way of silverware.
  13. Chapter 12 - Southampton, Bolton, Crewe. FA cup replay, Premiership, and Fa cup 4th round

    Just before Thomas left the hotel, Manchesteter United directors enquired into 32 year old Craig Hignett, stating a possible move for between the region of 3-5m. Gareth told Man U where to stick their money.

    As they arrived at St Mary's, 3 Manchester United scouts were sat int he front row behind the Blackburn dugout. Thomas refused to breathe a word of this to Hignett. It was goaless for 33 minutes, then in the 12 minute spell to follow, the game was over, Duff 33 and 45, one from a superb free kick, and U21 England star, Dunn on 35. John Curtis made way for Nils-Eric Johansson, as did Flitcroft for Jansen. On the hour mark I told the lads to take their foot of the pedal and just play out a win now as we secured the place away to Crewe Alexandra with an excellent 5-0 win, Dunn scoring twice late on 77 and 88th to complete his first ever professional hat trick under the reign of Thomas. Following the win, the media were hailing Dunn as the next big thing. Also Tugay did not go unmentioned, he also recieved praise for keeping it tight at the back.

    Bolton visit Ewood. 11th place, in-form, they were going to break down. With only 3 minutes gone, Duffs cross was superb as Sukur beat Jaaskaleinen to the ball and headed home. 2 minutes later, French veteran Youri Djorkaeff equalled things at 1-1 with a free kick. An even amount of chances went both ways to both teams, none could capitalise until Flitcroft pounced on a fumble by the Bolton keeper as the Rovers went in 2-1 at the break. Sukur added another on the 49th with another header. Thomas was clearly pleased, but only 30 seconds later, Brad Friedel, again, for the second time this season, limped off clutching his knee. So with 40 minutes to play, Miller had to be aware of what Bolton are capable of when coming forward. Sukur volleys home on the 60th to give him his hat-trick, and to put us 4-1 up. Miller played blinding in goal, and will have to for the next three weeks as Bra Friedels week right knee gives way again. This time strained knee ligaments.

    Friedel missed 2 important fixtures out with his knee injury, Man U and Arsenal. For the next 3 weeks, he will miss:
    Man City
    And very doubtful v Man U.

    Disasterous. However, Arsenal lost 4-0 to Chelsea, and Man U won 3-1 at Birmingham. Manchester United beat Arsenal 2-0 to put them on level points with me, however, Man U have a +9 better goal difference than me. So with no games in hand, we are evens.

    The League cup semi final, was rescheduled. Thomas' boys traveled to Crewe, without Curtis who is out for 4 days with a stubbed toe, the suspended Flitcroft, and the injured Friedel. Johansson replaces short, Miller replaces Friedel with kelly on the bench, and MC goes Jansen along side Dunn. Shiels is on the bench and looking for his first appearance in a Blackburn shirt.
    The pitch was very poor, even for Division 2 standards, my skillful players could not dribble because of a bobbling ball, and I decided to go direct in the second half after Johanssons first goal via a header from a Duff corner. Thompson made way for Gillespie, Sukur was bought off for Shiels, and the second halff got under way. Dean Ashton got one back on the 76th minute to make it 1-1 and give Thomas a fright, however, the 2 Northern Irishman, Shiels and Gillespie would not give up, they worked down the right flank, Gillepsie crossed and Duff was there to nod home. However, Crewe did not give up, some sloppy defending and this gave Foster the chance to level to take the game to a replay. Another dissapointing result.
  14. Chapter 13 - Man City, Charlton, Arsenal, FA cup draw, League cup semi final, Premiership

    The Fa cup 5th round draw, and Blackburn draw Man U at home, assuming Rovers beat Crewe in the replay. The media are now starting to take Blakburn Rovers as serious title contenders. Also, Manchester United were also tipped to last the pace.

    The first leg of the Worthington cup semi final came. The same team who faced Crewe would play. It was a bitter Winters evening. -1C to be precise. The pitch was in good condition. Man City got us underway, and then scored 4 minutes in, Benarbia to be precise. Not looking good. On the 23rd Minute, Wanchope scored, 2-0 down and not even 25 minutes played, things were looking bad. But on the 32nd minute, Duff was bought down in the area, Neil stepped up, and slotted home, again Jensen slides through Duff 5 minutes later, and Neil again steps up, and sends the keeper the wrong wyay as he equals the scoreline at 2 a piece. Jensen somehow, stayed on the pitch. thr 64th minute comes, and again, unbelievably, another penalty is awarded, Neil, has the chance to complete his hat trick of penalties, the night he scored his first goal for Blackburn, could be the night he scores his first hat trick, he steps up, and puts Rovers 3-2 in the lead. 2 more goals were to come, Sukur on the 71st and Thompson on the 86th. Blackburn win the first leg 5-2 after going 2-0 down.

    In the other semi final, Sunderland lost 1-0 at home to Liverpool.

    Blackburn travelled to London. Charlton this time. Charlton came out posotive and wanted to get the early goal. There was an early goal, 4th minute from Sukur. It only took 6 minutes for Charlton to reply via Robinson. It was clearly visible Friedel was being missed. Sukur added to his talley to make it 39 goals in 38. The first half finished 2-1. Charlton came out pressing, and they were always going to score, they did so in the 77th minute to make it 2-2. Jansen came on for Tugay, went MC, and Flitcroft back from Suspension moved to a DMC. I pushed and pushed for a goal and Sukur got it in the 88th minute to take the 3 points from The Valley.

    Again, Rangers bid for Dunn and Curtis, 15m for Dunn, and 6m for Curtis, both are rejected and that results in Curtis and Dunn signing contracts for another 3 years worth 2.5m each.

    Johansson goes to the sub bench as Curtis steps in, it has now been confirmed friedle will miss the Arsenal and Man U match again. Arsenal look to be getting back to winning ways, having only won 1 in there last 5 premiership matches. The game finishes 1-1. Sukur and Campbel scorers for either team. Man U beat Everton 2-1, which means, travelling to Old Trafford in 3 days time won't be easy.
  15. Chapter 14 - Man U, Crewe, Man United, Premiership, FA cup 4th round replay, FA cup 5th round.

    The Blackburn coach arrives at Old Trafford. It's a bitter morning in Manchester. Miller who has been superb in training ever since the Arsenal game started. Jeff Winter blew, and Man U got underway, they had 5 goes on goal and not one hit the target, Blackburn broke on the counter, Duff with a long ball out wide to Thompson, who swung it in, Sukur got up to head and scored! Blackburn stayed this way and led 1-0 into the break. Ferguson got another chance to watch Hignett. This is why he wanted him, Hignett got up, went to swing it in, dragged it back, and Keane took him out, only a yellow card said Winter. Jansen hit the free kick in the 81st minute and Rovers won 1-0. Top of the table after 27, League cup semi, FA cup 4th round replay to come, and UEFA cup 4th round, things were looking excellent.

    With Friedel now back, Blackburn are back to full strength, Crewe came to Blackburn, 2 goals in 5 minutes from David Dunn killed them off. The 8th minute and 13th. However, Hignett got injured on the 28th, and Rovers manager Thomas looked concerned as his Left wingback hobbled off. Hakan Sukur added and made it 3-0. And with the next match a week away, Gareth decided to leave things alone, but just don't attack, defend, make Crewe work in the cold. On the 80th minute, Flitcroft was subbed off for Jansen to stretch his legs, Ashton scored a 90th minute goal, but that was just consolation.

    So the FA cup 5th round tie all set, Ewood park, Blackburn v Manchester United. Hignett out for 2 weeks, so Neil will take over left wing back, and Gillsepie will move to right wing back. With the next match 1 week away, this means Hignett will not miss many matches which is great.

    Gareth makes a few last minute changes, experienced full back Bjornebye goes left back, Tugay, also out due to concussion is replaced by Jansen.
    Duff                                         Thompson
                    Jansen    Dunn
    Bjornebye       Flitcroft                   Neil
                     Curtis   Berg
    16 minutes into the match, Neil is injured, the wind and drizzle not helping us. Thing's get worse, Veron scores twice in 9 minutes, 32' and 43' to put us 2-0 down as we go into the break. Friedel playing a stinker. Manchester United continue to attack, trying to break us down mentally so we do not peform in the league. On the 61st Sukur gets one back, it stays the same through to the 89th where everyone, comes up for a corner. Cole comes on for Curtis, and a last minute attack comes to nothing, Man U attack and Rio scores to make it 3-1 as Blackburn go out of the FA cup. Lucas Neil injured for 2 weeks, and Berg and Tugay suspended. That's 2 wingbacks, a DMC, and a DC out. Tugay suspended for 2 matches.
  16. Chapter 15, Man City, Chelsea, Sedan. League cup semi final 2nd leg, Premiership, UEFA cup 4th round

    After losing at home to Man U, Rovers now have to travel to Man U, this time to play City.
    Duff                                         Thompson
                    Jansen    Dunn
    Bjornebye           Flitcroft           Gillespie
                     Curtis   Berg
    Blackburn kicked off, they attacked and on 20 minutes Duff took it past 2 defenders before chipping Schmeichel to put me 6-2 up on Aggregate. No changes at half time and on the 50th minute Duff scored again to claim his 10th goal of the season putting us through to the League cup final.

    The same side that beat Manchester City lined up at home to Chelsea. 4 minutes in, David Dunn scored to put the Rovers ahead. Keith Gillespie added to the lead on the stroke of half time putting Rovers 2-0 up, and on course for another win. Dunn added another on the 78th minute and Zola scored a late goal to end the match at 3-1.
    Tottenham beat Man U 1-0, so Rovers lead the premiership by 4 points with everyone played 28 games. The League cup semi final, Liverpool beat Sunderland 2-0 to win 3-0 on aggregate which means Blackburn v Liverpool final at the millenium stadium in Cardiff is on.

    After the winter break, the UEFA cup returned, Sedan traveled to Blackburn for the 4th round encounter.
    Duff                                         Thompson
                    Jansen    Dunn
    Bjornebye         Tugay           Gillespie
                     Curtis   Berg
    So, Hignett and Neils still out, Flitcroft serving is one match European suspension, Rovers should still win. Rovers looked to finish the tie this leg, so when travelling to Sedan, they would not have to work in France. Sukur rose above the Sedan keeper Catherine, male or female? You decide :crazyboy:. Dunn then scored a penalty as Catherine took away the legs of Duff in the area. Thompson added on the 57th minute to make it 3-0, Sedan clawed one back with an 89th minute penalty, that could be dangerous if a Rovers player recieves a red card in the return leg in France, however Thompson rounds off the win with a fine 30 yard strike to win 4-1.
  17. Chapter 16 - Birmingham, Sedan, Chelsea, Premiership and UEFA cup 4th round 2nd leg, UEFA cup quarter final

    With Craig Nignett's return to first team football after injury, can anything stop the Ewood steamroller?
    Duff                       Thompson
              Flitcroft  Dunn       
    Hignett      Tugay       Gillespie
              Curtis    Johansson
    Johansson takes the place of the suspended Berg, and Neils last game out with injury as he is set to make his return v Sedan. Flitcroft is back in the team as Jansen sits on the bench. 20th place Birmingham should be swept aside, especially if Blackburn want to win, and if the season finsihed level on points, Man U will take it due to goal difference, this is where Blackburn should pick up goals. Birmingham wanting to get off the foot of the table attacked, they took a shock 1-0 lead in the 20th minute, Purse scoring, Hughes scored on the half hour mark. 2-0 down at half time to Birmingham. Thomas makes a huge tactic change and goes AOA07UK. The wet surface proves tricky. Even a point would be nice out of it now as Thomas looks on angry. Hakan Sukur gets the early goal needed 49'. It is now 2-1, everything to play for, nothing much went on from there, a few squandered chances, and finally Sukur in the 84th minute grabs another. Thomas happy with a point does not want to push and lose it as they sit back and defend the lead. Full time 2-2.

    Lucas Neil and Henning Berg returned to the line up, replacing Gillespie and Johansson respectively. 4-1 up from the 4th leg, Rovers sat back and did not want to push on too much to save players from getting worn out and then being unfit for the Newcastle match. 25 minutes into the match, Lucas Neil, just back from 2 weeks out with strained knee ligaments, is stretchered off in tears holding his thigh. Gillespie comes onto replace him. Things were not looking good, 0-0 at half time, Gareth decides to take the game to them. Sukur scored in the 72nd minute to put Blackburn 1-0 up and 5-1 up on agg. Lucas Neil out for another 2 weeks with a thigh strain, and Berg banned for the UEFA cup quarter final.

    UEFA cup quarter final draw:
    Leverkusen v Betis
    Sporting v AEK
    Blackburn v Chelsea
    Inter v Newcastle

    The first leg of the UEFA cup quarter final was here.
    Duff                       Thompson
              Flitcroft  Dunn       
    Hignett      Tugay       Gillespie
              Curtis    Johansson

    That was the first team, the home leg was the first leg. Blackburn looking not to concede too many away goals. On the 12 minute Gallas put Blackburn 1-0 up with an amazing own goal lobbing Cudicini with a header. It only took the Stamford Bridge 10 minutes, Hasselbaink pouncing on a Friedel dropped cross. Half time and 1-1. Le Saux scores his first goal of the season in the 63'. Chelsea now, 2 attacks and 2 goals. The Blackburn defence looking dodgey. Duff leveled things up on the 75th minute, and Chelsea won it 3-2 with an excellent volley via Hasselbaink. 3 away goals, 1 goal down, going into the second leg, it won't be easy.
  18. Chapter 17 - Newcastle, Chelsea, Liverpool, Premiership, UEFA cup quarter final 2nd leg, League Cup final

    Possibly, my 3 biggest fixtures. With 17th placed Leeds thrashing Man U 4-0 at Elland Road, with one game in hand, 2 points clear, Newcastle come to Ewood park. Kieron Dyer, out with a thigh strain, is a massive boost for the Rovers. Neil out though, is a huge loss as Gillespie steps in at DMR and Berg returns to DC in place of Johansson. Newcastle come out looking to get the early goal, they don't get it. It ends up 0-0 at half time. Surely Blackburn will not fail under pressure again? With Shearer injured on the 55th, I attack, Hakan Sukur scores 2 before the full tie, 65' and 88' Blackburn do take advantage and win 2-0.

    Manchester United still pursueing and interest in signing Hignett, Rovers may as well sell him at the end of the season and bring in an attacking, versatile wingback.

    Chelsea loko to defend there 3-2 win over Rovers in the first leg. 3 away goals is a mighty score line. A low score draw or a loss is too little, Blackburn need the win, they need to at least score 2 goals to enter the semi final draw. Half time and it is 0-0, Something has to be done or the European dream is over. Thomas warms up Jensen on the touch line in order to get Dunn working. The 60th minute and Sukur scores. 1-0 to Blackburn, 3-3 on Aggregate. Blackburn need more to get through. In the 70th minute Thompson is removed for Jansen, Dunn goes AMR, and Jansen, MC. Desperately trying to get one more goal here. The 76th minute Duff took it down the left wing, a floating cross and Dunn Volleys home off the post, for the last 15 minutes Blackburn sat back and defended. The full time whistle came and Blackburn cruised into the semi finals!

    UEFA cup semi final draw
    Leverkusen v Blackburn
    Inter v AEK
    Can Blackburn do what Manchester United could not and deny Leverkusen a place in the final?

    Blackburn and Liverpool make the trip to Cardiff, both in search for the Worthington Cup. Blackburn looking to pull off the treble, Premiership, League Cup, and UEFA cup.

    In a pre-match interview Gareth Thomas was questioned on would he be playing Henning Berg who featured in so many games this season, but has been very poor. Thomas replied "Yes, the experience of Berg is a great asset to the club and he will start, the only change will be Gillespie off for Niels".

    So as Gareth said in the interview, Niels back, and working the right flanks with Thompson was going to help Thompson out a whole lot. The match got underway, Liverpool out to attack, looking for the silverware. Houlliers young army ready to do battle with Thomas' Rovers. The first half saw no goals, and few chances, all of them going to Blackburn. Blackburn, 3 shots on goal and nothing, Liverpool not even getting a shot on goal. The highlite of the half, Biscan being stretchered off on the 26'. On the 52' Cheyrou got injured via a Flitcroft challenge, and in return, Gary Flitcroft was booked. Carragher was bought on for Cheyrou, and Baros for Heskey. Liverpool decided to suck my attacks in, then hoof the ball to Owen and catch Berg and Curts asleep. Thompson was taken off for Jansen, and Dunn moved out wide to the right, Jansen was given his chance. Berger slid through Sukur on the 74th minute, and referee Paul Durkin immediately sent off Berger. Liverpool were now on the backfoot, 10 men down and having to defend. Liverpool held out, and the game went into extra time. Sukur was having a poor match, yet Thomas let Sukur continue. A goaless first half of extra time, and penalties was drawing closer. Blackburn pulled Flitcroft on and stuck Gillespie at wingback as Neil pushed to AMR. Blackburn failed to take advantage and it finished 0-0. The match went to penalties.

    [b]Liverpool:[/b]    [b]Blackburn:[/b]
    Murphy missed         Neils scored
    Baros scored            Hignett missed
    Owen scored            Dunn Scored
    Hamann scored        Jansen scored
    Riise scored              Tugay scored
    Henchoz scored        Duff scored
    Carragher missed     Sukur missed
    Babbel scored           Gillespie scored
    Carlisle missed          Berg missed
    Dudek scored            Friedel scored
    Murphy scored          Curtis scored
    Murphy scored          Neil scored
    Baros scored            Hignett missed
    2 chances to win, Berg and Sukur both failing to do so, the most dramatic penalty shoot out ever in a league cup final. Hignett hitting the post and out again as Blackburn lose the league cup final, to Liverpool who did not deserve to win the match.
  19. Chapter 18 - Leverkusen, West Ham, Leeds, UEFA cup semi final, Premiership

    5 days after Blackburns league cup final defeat, which they deserved to win, but Sukur and Berg bottled it, Blackburn travelled to the Bayarena to face Leverkusen in the 1st leg of a 2 leg battle challenging for a place in the final. 37 minutes in Tugay got injured, Flitcroft moved back to DMC, and Jansen replaced Tugay. The physio revealed Tugay has a slight knee injury. Dunn scored on the 45th minute, Sukur hit a 25 yard ball into the box for Dunn who flicked it over Butt to put the English league leaders 1-0 up. A crucial away goal. Duff adds on the 56th to my lead, to put me 2-0 up. Freidel played a cracking match keeping me in the lead. Inter beat AEK 1-0 at home, Tugay is also out for 2 weeks.

    Sukur picked up English player of the year, while Sukur and Tugay were selected in premiership team of the year.

    With Tugay injured, Flitcroft took over DMC, and Sukur took the captains armband. If Blackburn win, with 7games left, they are 5 points clear, if they lose, 2 points clear, if they draw, 1 point clear. West Ham start out defensively, surprising, Hakan Sukur and Jansen tear the rubbish defence to pieces and Sukur on the 16th and Jansen on the 33' gives me a two goal cushion at half time. Defoe pulls one back on the 72nd, Dunn is replaced with Gillsepie. 78th and 83 Di Canio and Carrick score. West Ham leave it late, but Blackburn slump to a 3-2 defeat. A terrible result.

    The following week Manchester United lose away to Sunderland, and Arsenal draw 2-2 away to Villa. Some good results there, however, Rovers have to beat Leeds to go 5 points clear with 5 to play.

    The same team that started v West Ham, starts v Leeds. Leeds come out attacking at Ewood, and rightly so, Sukur, Dunn and Thompson looking to catch the Leeds defence out. Within 10 minutes, Leeds are 2-0 up, Harte and Viduka scoring, Jansen and Sukur each score, one on the 22' and one on the 27' to level it at 2-2, however, Viduka puts Leeds up 3-2 on the 35th. Lucas Neil level the score at 3-3 with a penalty on the 51' minute, and Hakan Sukur adds to his tally of goals on the 65th as Rovers go infront, Viduka completes his hat trick on the 72nd minute with a volley to make it 4-4, so I move into second place. A game in hand, Man U have a +2 better goal advantage than me. It's all or nothing in the last part of the season.
  20. Chapter 19 – Leverkusen, Tottenham, Middlesbrough UEFA cup semi final 2nd leg, Premiership

    After a poor result v Leeds Friedel was fined a weeks pay packet for his poor performance between the posts. The media again posted on in the sports section “Blackburn title run over?”, it also showed pictures of Gareth Thomas frustrated in the dugout.

    German based Leverkusen, 2-0 down from the first leg travelled to Ewood park for their second leg, semi final show down. Franca had a goal disallowed on the verge of half time after Sukur hit the bar 10 minutes earlier. The second half got underway and Leverkusen through their troops forward, Burbatov scored in the 67th, one more was all Leverkusen needed to take Blackburn into extra time. However, they failed too, and Dunn’s 25 yard belter put Blackburn into the UEFA cup final challenging for their first European trophy. In the other leg, AEK held Inter at home to a 0-0 draw, but that was not good enough as Inter flew into the final to face Blackburn at Parken on Copenhagen.

    4th place Tottenham were still not out of the title race, Blackburn had to beat them to get back on track after poor results lately. Hakan Sukur put the Rovers 1-0 up on the 17th minute with a header from a Thompson cross. 8 minutes later, Teddy Sheringham got injured. Excellent stuff so far, and the Spurs title ambitions looked finished. 1 minute after Sheringham was taken off, Thompson scored, and 3 minutes after that Jansen finished them off, 3-0 in just under half an hour. Spurs dominated the match, however, Robbie Keane also got injured on the 63rd and was substituted. Spurs win 3-0 and 3 points clear of Man U with a game in hand for Rovers, and level on points with Arsenal, and Rovers have two games in hand over Arsenal.

    Blackburn travelled to the Riverside stadium to face an in-form Boro. And in-form they were too. An even first half saw Whelan net on the 7th minute, however, a clumsy foul via Southgate led to a penalty. Lucas Neil stepped up, and does he ever miss them? No, 1-1 as Rovers go in at half time. Gareth Thomas, not worried about Fulham v Man U, and Liverpool v Arsenal concentrates on his team, Sukur and Thompson who are having a less than average game are replaced by Cole and Jansen. This pays off hugely, Cole nets on the 47th minute with his first touch of the ball. Duff then adds 2 on the 59th and 65th to make it 4-1. As the match ends Gareth Thomas goes into the dressing room, switched on sky sports, and sees that Fulham beat Man U 3-2 at Loftus Road, and Arsenal lost to Liverpool 2-1.

    Blackburn Rovers - Played: 34 -------Points: 73
    Arsenal - Played: 36 -------------------Points: 70
    Manchester United – Played 35-------Points: 67
    Arsenal, maximum points: 76
    Manchester United, maximum points: 76

    Blackburn need 4 points from 4 games to secure the title.

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