Blackburn Rovers 1 Leeds United 2

Last updated : 10 April 2004 By Footymad Previewer

Eddie Gray's side have certainly had their problems this season but back-to-back wins for the first time this season has provided a real fillip to their hopes of beating the dreaded drop.

Meanwhile, Rovers slipped to their tenth defeat of a shocking Premiership home campaign and with struggling Leicester City visiting next Saturday, Graeme Souness' side need to arrest their worrying slide or face Division One football next season.

Rovers boss Souness said afterwards: "This game was the story of our season. We gave them a dream start but my players didn't give up and had lots of effort. I believe I had a team that had a good go today but we blew it."

He had to watch his side gift Leeds United the perfect start inside the first 84 seconds, Gary Kelly looping a cross in from the right and Steven Caldwell ghosting in to head home with the Blackburn defence stood like statues.

While the baying Leeds support celebrated in one corner of the ground, Blackburn fans barely uttered a sound having seen this scenario on all too many occasions this season.

In fairness, they could have had a penalty on three minutes by referee Steve Dunn as Michael Duberry hauled Jonathan Stead to the ground inside the box but Dunn waved away home appeals. Blackburn have not been given a spot-kick all season and they are unlikely to get a better shout.

Souness later commented: "There were two major incidents; their goal and then we should have had a penalty straight afterwards."

However, an equaliser would have been a little unfair on a Leeds side who applied themselves well from the off and belied the statistics saying they had won just twice away from home all season.

Their impressive and in-demand striker Alan Smith skipped away from Lorenzo Amoruso after just nine minutes, and flashed an instant half-volley on goal only for Brad Friedel to deny him with a world-class save.

Gray was delighted with his team's efforts saying: "We worked extremely hard and contained them very well. The early goal gave us a big lift and made it an uphill struggle for them."

On 19 minutes, Blackburn's Turkish midfielder Tugay tried to create something for Andy Cole but his pass forced the ex-Manchester United striker wide and Paul Robinson made an excellent claim from his cross.

Smith caused problems for the Rovers defence seven minutes later, ultimately being bundled over by a combination of Michael Gray and Craig Short. Ian Harte's resulting free-kick though was high and wide.

Blackburn striker Stead has enjoyed a dream start to his Rovers career but he failed to take advantage of a good opportunity on 27 minutes, getting away from Caldwell but blasting high into the stand.

At the other end, Seth Johnson went for goal from 20-yards, his bouncing half-volley beating Friedel but also whizzing past the post.

Next to try his luck was right-back Gary Kelly from 30-yards with a howitzer of a shot but it dropped a foot over the bar.

During the break Souness tried to inject some life into his players, also bringing on Paul Gallagher for Steven Reid.

The changes did not have the desired effect although Stead did force Robinson into a comfortable diving save on 48 minutes.

Leeds' survival battle took a negative twist on 55 minutes as Johnson fell following an innocuous collision with Amoruso and was carried off on a stretcher.

However, they still wasted two glorious chances in five minutes to make the points safe at a time when Blackburn were looking most likely to equalise.

First, Smith handed a chance on a plate for young midfielder James Milner only for his shot to crash down off the underside of the crossbar and out.

In the 65th minute Mark Viduka raced clear off the defence but shot wide with his left foot when it appeared easier to score.

In between, Cole had attempted to spark his side, latching onto two left-wing crosses but each time Robinson was able to gather the ball in before he could score.

As the game reached a frantic conclusion, Robinson was called into impressive action once more as Blackburn desperately sought a leveller.

With Amoruso thrown upfield to add weight to the attack, Tugay's high ball caused confusion and Cole's resultant shot was superbly beaten away by Robinson.

Almost immediately Leeds broke to kill off any final Blackburn resistance. The speedy Jermaine Pennant ran to the byline, cut the ball back for Smith and even though he missed it, Viduka was on hand to reward the raucous away fans with the clincher.

Despite Garry Flitcroft being denied a goal in the dying seconds by Duberry and then Craig Short arriving in the middle to head a consolation from Gallagher's free-kick, Leeds had notched a convincing win and now look a better bet for survival than Souness' sorry men.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Alan Smith - Was his usual effervescent self with a wholehearted display that epitomised Leeds' current form.