The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By John McDougall

BLACK­BURN boss Tony Mow­bray hopes his side can put doubt into fel­low rel­e­ga­tion can­di­dates’ minds after a hard-fought win over As­ton Villa kept their hopes of stay­ing up alive.

In a clash that has graced the Premier League in pre­vi­ous sea­sons, Danny Gra­ham’s 13th strike of the sea­son proved to be cru­cial.

And Mow­bray high­lighted his match­win­ner ahead of their key clash against Brent­ford as they re­mained in the drop zone only on goal dif­fer­ence by a sin­gle strike to Not­ting­ham For­est.

“The most im­por­tant thing was that we won our game and we man­aged to do that,” he said.

“If we can go to Brent­ford next week and win, I know it still might not be enough, but we have to just put that doubt in ev­ery­body’s mind.

“Ul­ti­mately we’ll send them out next week to try and fin­ish the job, win the foot­ball match and see what hap­pens.

“He’s still way off fit­ness wise where he should be and yet I think play­ers like Danny Gra­ham, when you need a goal and you need to win a foot­ball match, you have to have him on the pitch.”

Sam Gal­lagher ran clear of Nathan Baker after three min­utes to curl across the box ahead of Gra­ham, while Der­rick Wil­liams’ 12thminute cross was volleyed first time by Danny Guthrie and fizzed off tar­get in a bright Black­burn start.

Ryan Nyambe fired from a tight an­gle after 26 min­utes forc­ing Sam John­stone into a low save, while El­liott Ward shot wide from the re­sult­ing cor­ner.

Villa for­ward Jonathan Kod­jia tried his luck from dis­tance less than ten min­utes be­fore the break but blasted into the stands.

Nyambe could have given Rovers a 38th-minute lead after Baker slipped but drew a mag­nif­i­cent stop from Manch­ester United loa­nee John­stone.

Kod­jia cut in­side his man three min­utes be­fore the break to curl a pow­er­ful ef­fort which David Raya punched to safety. The Span­ish stop­per com­fortwho ably saved Henri Lans­bury’s free-kick mo­ments later, while Gra­ham wasted a guilt-edged chance after swing­ing and fail­ing to con­nect with a closerange ef­fort.

But Black­burn took a de­served 54th-minute lead when Baker care­lessly gave away pos­ses­sion to Ja­son Lowe, who threaded through to Gra­ham slot­ted coolly past John­stone.

Gal­lagher darted down the right wing and de­liv­ered a teas­ing 68th minute cross which Wil­liams was un­able to con­vert.

Lu­cas Joao’s late chance deep into stop­page time could have put the game be­yond doubt but the striker shot off tar­get as Rovers held out.

Man­ager Steve Bruce claimed it was ar­guably the worst his side has played since land­ing the Villa Park job as he be­moaned their away form.

“A big club like ours, away from home, fours wins all sea­son, is nowhere near good enough to where we should be or want to be.” he said. “Too many times I’ve seen us un­for­tu­nately play the way we did where we haven’t done enough in ev­ery depart­ment. We still have to im­prove be­cause we can’t be happy with mid-ta­ble in the Cham­pi­onship.

“We’ve still got a mop-up job of what have got to leave the club and we’ve still got a few play­ers to bring in to make us bet­ter, be­cause at the mo­ment, we’ve still got work to do.”

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