Jor­dan’s off but Rovers hit three

The Football League Paper - - FA CUP FOURTH ROUND - By Con­nor Arm­strong

JOR­DAN Rhodes might be all but gone from Ewood Park but Black­burn boss Paul Lambert in­sists his side are in good hands up top.

Black­burn shrugged off the news that Rhodes is set to join Mid­dles­brough for a fee be­lieved to be around £9mil­lion with a com­fort­able FA Cup vic­tory over Ox­ford United.

Ben Mar­shall struck twice but it was the other goalscorer, debu­tant Tony Watt, and his strike part­ner Simeon Jack­son that left Lambert purring.

“I thought we were ex­cel­lent,” he said.“They’re a good side and the crowd were up for it, but I thought we were ex­cel­lent. We could have won by more.

“I thought Simeon Jack­son was un­playable. He was a big part of Nor­wich get­ting out of the league and I thought his run­ning and gen­eral move­ment was first class.

“Tony Watt com­ing in gave ev­ery­body a lift. With Tony Watt you’ve got one hell of a tal­ented foot­baller, I think he’s got to get a lot fit­ter, but he is a hell of a tal­ent.

“He’s a hell of a player and he’s had a hard time, I think.”

Lambert handed Jack­son, who he worked with at Nor­wich City, and Watt their first starts since ar­riv­ing in Jan­uary, and the front two pro­vided plenty of cause for op­ti­mism in the early stages of their fledg­ling part­ner­ship.

Af­ter a scrappy open­ing 20 min­utes in which nei­ther side threat­ened to break the dead­lock, Sam Slo­combe pro­duced the first save of the match when he de­nied El­liot Ward af­ter he rose to head at goal from a cor­ner.

Just six min­utes later the hosts forced a save out of Rovers goal­keeper Ja­son Steele, when Liam Ser­combe – mak­ing his 300th ca­reer ap­pear­ance – had a fierce low drive turned just around the far post.

The Us cup dreams were dented in the 34th minute when Joe Skarz caught the heels of Jack­son as he looked to get a shot away on goal. Black­burn right­back Mar­shall stepped up to take the spot­kick and found the bot­tom-right cor­ner.

Watt then had a rasp­ing ef­fort par­ried over the cross­bar by Slo­combe, but he made no mis­take when pre­sented with a se­cond sight of goal just mo­ments be­fore half-time. Hav­ing ad­vanced from mid­field the for­mer Celtic for­ward, who only joined Rovers on loan from Charl­ton on Fri­day af­ter­noon, ri­fled a low shot in­side the far post.

Tom Lawrence re­placed Watt in the se­cond half and should have teed up the wait­ing Jack­son af­ter wrig­gling in on goal. In­stead he opted to go it alone and blazed over from a tight an­gle.

Mar­shall then struck again to de­liver the knock­out blow, send­ing a su­perb free-kick into the bot­tom-left cor­ner from 25 yards.

Vic­tory se­cured Black­burn’s pro­gres­sion to the last 16 of this year’s FA Cup, with Rovers hav­ing made it to the quar­ter-fi­nals in three of the last four sea­sons.

And Ox­ford boss Michael Ap­ple­ton felt his side’s naivety was ex­posed by their Champi- on­ship op­po­si­tions, as he rued a dis­ap­point­ing cup exit at the hands of the Ewood Park out­fit.

“I said to the play­ers at the end of the game, and cer­tainly at half­time, that you’ve got to earn the right to play,” Ap­ple­ton said.

“I just felt that in the first 25 min­utes we al­most played a lit­tle bit like a five-a-side team.We prob­a­bly just got caught up in the oc­ca­sion a lit­tle bit at times.

“Prob­a­bly the big­gest dis­ap­point­ment is that we played a part in all their goals.

“We were just a lit­tle bit naive, and that shows why we are still a League Two side.

“But the play­ers will learn from it.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

DOU­BLE TROU­BLE: Ben Mar­shall cel­e­brates scor­ing Rovers’ third goal, in­set

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