Defending the key

Saturday 9 February 2002

Fulham assistant manager Christian Damiano pinpointed Rovers' deep defending as a reason why his team won today, rather than firing blanks - as they did in the awful goalless draw with Aston Villa last weekend.

He said: "Blackburn have good quality offensively and can score goals, but I was very surprised they gave us more space than we usually get in midfield and up front.

"We had some good counter-attacks today, whereas but against Villa it was difficult to find that space.

"We started badly today and were lucky in the first 20 minutes, but in the end we could maybe have finished with another goal."

Blackburn boss Graeme Souness demanded his players stand up and be counted after they were plunged into deep relegation trouble at windswept Craven Cottage. Souness came out fighting after the match and said: "We're in the bottom three but I believe we can get out of it. I think we're playing good enough football.

"No-one enjoys being in this situation and now I think we have to win five games and draw a couple."We find ourselves in a difficult situation - but not an impossible one. You never find out about people until their backs are firmly against the wall. Ours aren't far from being there and now we will see what the players are made of."

Rovers' woe was complete when Craig Short was sent off in injury time after elbowing Marlet in the face.

Souness was fuming over ref Halsey's performance - and his midfielders' reluctance to defend. "I have worked with Craig Short for two years. He's an old school English pro and would not put his elbow in someone's face. He put his arm out to shield the ball.

"I thought someone would be sent off today, as the ref booked three players in the first five minutes - including two Fulham players for nothing.

"Where's the game going? People like to see effort and challenges, but they don't want to see players sitting in the stands for long periods of the season. It's beyond me and frustrates me.

"Both goals we conceded today were very, very poor. For the first one, the linesman saw it as a penalty and I turned away - but there was a feeling from some of our players that it might have hit Barry Hayles' hand. "And the way we conceded the second goal is a major reason why we find ourselves in the situation we're in. "We're not good at sensing and smelling danger. Our midfielders need to sense danger better than they did today, or it will be a very difficult last 12 games."