As I made my way from South London to the Emirates on Saturday, I didn't need my ESPN phone app to tell me that West Ham were having a first half to dream about at Upton Park. Arsenal fans in the meantime were making the tedious journey on the Victoria Line a whole lot worse with their songs and general merriment about winning the Premier League etc.
The tube ride gave me time to consider the future. Given the foregone conclusion that West Ham would win the game and consequently leapfrog Rovers in the the battle at the bottom and United themselves giving Arsenal a free hit to go and win the title, I contemplated the afternoon to come with huge trepidation. As I left the underground and made my way out of Finsbury Park Station the expected atmosphere of jubilation among the Gooners was not evident. Their fans were subdued and at that moment I believed Rovers had a chance.
The final score at West Ham (Man United fought back to win 4-2) certainly aided Rovers on two fronts but let's not take anything away from the performance, they were magnificent. The midfield and defence were tight and disciplined and rarely allowed Arsenal's match winners space and time on the ball. They nullified the pace of Walcott and Co and rarely did Wenger's men have a sight on goal. When they did, Jack Wilshere somehow conspired to shoot wide when it was easier to score.
Without doubt, this was the best Rovers performance on their travels since the West Brom game at the Hawthorns way back in December. I was sat with two friends who had no allegiances to Blackburn but they were baffled and equally amazed that all my pre-match pessimism and doomsday inevitability was not materialising. They were impressed with Hoilett and Olsson's constant running, Samba and Nelsen's handling of Van Persie and the enthusiasm of Salgado.
Steve Kean and the boys certainly sent out a message to the doubters on Saturday and I include myself in that category. The point will have done wonders for the club's confidence and by that I mean both the supporters and team but a much more important game awaits on Saturday with the visit to Ewood of Birmingham. Three points is imperative in what is the first of the trilogy of games along with West Ham and Wolves that will define Rovers future.
Undoubtedly, the relegation places will be decided by how the respective teams fare against others in trouble during the run-in. It is worth considering who they have to play between now and the end of May.
Wigan have to play (Blackpool, Villa, West Ham)
Wolves (Birmingham, West Brom, Blackburn)
West Ham (Villa, Blackburn, Wigan)
Villa (West Ham, West Brom, Wigan)
Birmingham (Blackburn, Wolves)
West Brom (Villa, Wolves)
Looking at the list, Blackpool seem to have their work cut out but there will be many twists and turns to come.
A couple of observations from the afternoon/evening on Saturday.
Firstly, 'The Faltering Fullback' in Finsbury Park is one of best pre-match watering holes I have been to for a long time. It is a little bit off the beaten track but well worth a visit. And secondly, it is becoming increasingly obvious when watching Rovers in the capital that the demographic of the away contingent is becoming more multinational by the game. This adds to the atmosphere and hopefully those from foreign fields, who are visiting London for the weekend and choose to watch a Premier League game, will adopt Rovers as their English team to follow.
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