Preview: Stoke City (H)
Posted: Tuesday, July 14th 2020
Saturday, January 5th 2013
City’s miserable winless run in the FA Cup was extended to six years as Blackburn Rovers coasted into the fourth round at Ewood Park.
The hosts struck early in the first half through veteran skipper Danny Murphy’s long-range strike and doubled the lead 13 minutes after the interval thanks to defender Grant Hanley.
Before, after and inbetween City offered little, although the home side, under the caretaker charge of Gary Bowyer hardly set the world alight themselves in a subdued tie played in front of less than 6,000 fans.
Derek McInnes made four changes to his side beaten at Millwall on New Year’s Day – three enforced.
Albert Adomah is away on international duty, while Neil Danns has been recalled from his Ashton Gate loan spell by parent club Leicester City.
Fellow loanee Stephen McManus was refused permission to play by Middlesbrough and former Teesside team-mate Matthew Bates dropped to the bench.
The defensive gaps were plugged by returning duo James Wilson and Louis Carey, while Stephen Pearson returned from injury to replace Danns in midfield.
Also restored to the starting line-up was Ryan Taylor, who partnered former home favourite Jon Stead up front with 18-year-old winger Wes Burns named on a youthful City bench.
The hosts controlled the early possession, but it was City who handed them the initiative with an early opener.
Mark Wilson’s stray pass into midfield was picked up by veteran playmaker Danny Murphy, who dribbled the ball unchallenged towards the penalty area before letting fly with a 25-yard drive which Tom Heaton could only help into his own net despite getting two hands on the shot.
City did respond with their first attacks of note, as Ryan Taylor was penalised for a foul on Blackburn keeper Jake Kean in attempting to reach Greg Cunningham’s high cross, before Mark Wilson’s deep delivery was headed back across goal by Paul Anderson and looped over by Stead from ten yards.
At the other end, Heaton went some way to redeeming himself by tipping wide Colin Kazim-Richards’ imaginative curling effort with the outside of his right foot, while Liam Fontaine also had to be on his toes to make a crucial last-ditch challenge on the same player.
A game already short on atmosphere, chances and generally much to get excited about, soon lost a man when Rovers right-back Adam Henley hobbled off injured to be replaced by Simon Vukcevic, who had a full three-minute wait on his hands until a break in play saw him trundle into the action.
Within seconds he was nearly joining in the celebrations of a second Blackburn goal. Spaniard Ruben Rochina manufactured space for himself inside the box and drilled a low left-footed shot across goal which may have been drifting wide before Fontaine cleared to safety.
The half looked to be petering out with no further action until, in the second minute of two added, Fontaine’s cross was met by a powerful header requiring urgent action from Kean who helped the ball over his crossbar one-handed.
The second half began in similar fashion, with neither team able to find sustained periods of domination.
But the hosts found the all-important second goal to virtually assure themselves of a place in the fourth round when Hanley slid in to score from close range.
A long ball into the box was misjudged by Cunningham at the back post, allowing Scott Dann to take the ball down inside the area and smuggle it between two defenders into the path of his central defender, who forced it home from six yards.
McInnes responded with two substitutions in quick succession, introducing Steven Davies for Stead and Bobby Reid for Mark Wilson either side of the hour mark to adopt an orthodox 4-4-2 formation with namesake James filling in at right-back.
But Blackburn continued to press and threatened a third goal when Kazim-Richards’ series of stepovers saw him outfox Cunningham and stand up an inviting cross for Jordan Rhodes to attack, only for Wilson to intervene with an important header to keep Rovers’ leading scorer at bay.
City’s final change saw Martyn Woolford adopt an unfamiliar left-back role in place of the unusually below par Cunningham, ensuring Burns will have to wait for his first taste of senior football.
There were still signs of life in a subdued contest, as Anderson stung the palms of Kean from 20 yards before Heaton stooped to save comfortably from Vukcevic.
Blackburn’s lead remained comfortable, and Martin Olsson and Kazim-Richards both threatened to give the scoreline a more one-sided look in the final ten minutes, but Heaton saved well from both.
The blue and white shirts were not content with their already unassailable advantage, as Rochina embarked on a weaving run culminating in a vicious right-footed shot which flew just off target, but the damage, from City’s point of view, had long since been done.
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