The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Alec Fenn

BLACK­BURN boss Gary Bowyer rued the loss of Rudy Gest­ede af­ter watch­ing his side go down to Wolves in their open­ing game of the new sea­son.

The striker left the club for Premier League side As­ton Villa over the sum­mer and it was ironic that he scored the win­ner for his new club as his for­mer team failed to find a late goal at Ewood Park.

Rovers trailed to Benik Afobe’s first-half strike but lev­elled cour­tesy of a ter­ri­ble er­ror from Wolves goal­keeper Carl Ikeme.

The visi­tors then gained what proved to be the win­ning goal just be­fore the break, though it came in con­tro­ver­sial cir­cum­stances af­ter David Ed­wards ap­peared to palm the ball into the net.

Black­burn were de­nied a sec­ond-half penalty when Adam Hen­ley was tripped in­side the box, while new sign­ing Fode Koita saw a long-range ef­fort come back off the post.

Bowyer be­gan his post-match press con­fer­ence by re­veal­ing he was thrilled for his for­mer charge Gest­ede, but could not hide his dis­ap­point­ment at los­ing the striker and the man­ner of his side’s de­feat.

“I’m ab­so­lutely de­lighted for Rudy,” he said. “But the irony is that we’ve asked other play­ers to play a bit more this sea­son with­out him and we couldn’t do that.

“It was def­i­nitely hand­ball and we should have had a penalty in the sec­ond half. I felt we were very un­lucky.

“We’ve hit the post in the first half and again in the sec­ond and on another day we would’ve had a bit more luck.”

Rovers could have taken the lead in­side the open­ing two min­utes. Jor­dan Rhodes struck the post with a 30-yard ef­fort.

Min­utes later and Ben Mar­shall skewed a shot wide of goal from the edge of the box, be­fore Craig Con­way snatched at another good op­por­tu­nity in­side the area.

But it was Wolves who took the lead against the run of play. Ed­wards flicked a long ball into the path of Afobe in­side the 18-yard box and he prod­ded past goal­keeper David Raya on 28 min­utes.

The visi­tors’ lead did not last long, how­ever, as Black­burn were gifted an equaliser. Con­way’s shot looped goal­wards off the boot of Richard Stear­man, but Ikeme pro­ceeded to palm the ball into his own net as he at­tempted to tip it over the bar.

An ac­tion-packed first half then came to a con­tro­ver­sial end.

Nouha Dicko whipped a cross­cum-shot to­wards goal from the left hand side of the box and Ed­wards turned the ball home with his hand, though Wan­der­ers boss Kenny Jack­ett felt it was not de­lib­er­ate.

“It was ball to hand,” he said. “It was a whipped cross in and he’s headed it on to his own hand. But, did it hit his hand on the way in? Yes it did, so peo­ple will call it hand­ball.”

In the sec­ond half, James Henry struck the cross­bar for the visi­tors with a 30-yard shot, but Wolves were for­tu­nate to sur­vive a fran­tic end­ing to the game, as Rovers went in search of an equaliser.

Ref­eree Mark Hay­wood should have given a penalty when Hen­ley was fouled by Kort­ney Hause, be­fore sub­sti­tute Koita saw his lon­grange ef­fort come back off the post.

Shane Duffy then prod­ded wide from close range in­side the six-yard box from a cor­ner, as Jack­ett breathed a sigh of re­lief. He said: “It’s a great three points on the first day of the sea­son.

“The mid­field we played gave us op­tions go­ing for­wards.

“Black­burn have been in and around the play-offs in the last two years and even though they’ve lost Rudy Gest­ede, they still look a good side and they gave us a very good game.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

OPENER: Benik Afobe cel­e­brates scor­ing for Wolves. Inset: David Raya can­not keep out Afobe’s ef­fort

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