ROVERS THE BEST AS FANS PROTEST
BLACKBURN boss Owen Coyle insists his side must focus on matters on the pitch after Rovers fans joined their Blackpool counterparts in protesting against their respective owners before this victory.
Sam Gallagher’s header and Elliott Bennett’s thunderbolt secured Rovers’ passage into the fifth round, eased by Blackpool midfielder Kelvin Mellor collecting two yellow cards in less than five second-half minutes.
Supporters from both clubs protested outside Ewood Park before the game, and Coyle praised his side for not allowing it distract them.
“The stuff outside, that’s an uncontrollable,” he said. “All we can do is try to control the stuff on the field and we did that very well. That’s what we need to focus on.
“We’re not naive. We certainly understand [the situation], but that’s not controllable for us so we can just try to make the best of what we do.
“It was important we started really well. We controlled the game from the first whistle and scored two wonderful goals.
“We all understand cup competitions and it was always going to be a dangerous tie.”
Rovers took a ninth-minute lead when Jason Lowe’s cross was met by Gallagher, who headed past an onrushing Sam Slocombe into an empty net.
The Championship side doubled their lead in spectacular fashion through Bennett, who unleashed a powerful, dipping 22nd-minute shot from 30 yards which flew past Slocombe.
Tangerines midfielder Jack Payne nearly emulated Bennett with his own long-range effort before the half-hour but his powerful shot rose just over Jason Steele’s goal.
Blackpool thought they had pulled one back when Tom Aldred headed Payne’s free-kick past Steele in the 32nd minute but it was chalked off for offside.
Jim McAlister could have halved the deficit in first-half stoppage time after meeting Andy Taylor’s curling cross, but he headed wide.
Mellor was dismissed by referee Peter Bankes for a rash 64th-minute challenge on Hope Akpan and a second booking moments afterwards for a tackle on Craig Conway.
The lively Bennett darted down the right flank and teed up Gallagher in the 70th minute, but the low effort was claimed by Slocombe.
The ten men should have grabbed one back but Will Aimson headed Clark Robertson’s cross against the bar in the 72nd minute.
Gallagher knocked down Connor Mahoney’s cross for Derrick Williams who drew a good save from Slocombe as Rovers progressed two minutes from time.
Tangerines manager Gary Bowyer, returning to Ewood Park for the first time since being sacked in November 2015, branded Mellor’s dismissal as the turning point.
“The game changes really on the sending off, but credit to our lads down to ten men,” he said.
“The key moment obviously was when the lad heads it against the bar and if that dropped in and it was 2-1, then it would have been really interesting.
“Full praise to our lot, they kept going, they didn’t cave in and we now go and focus on the league and take the positives from this and put that into it.
“The fine margins have gone against us a bit. It’s a wonder-strike and we find ourselves 2-0 down but they kept going.”
HEADS I WIN: Sam Gallagher leaps to put Blackburn in front and, inset, turns to celebrate