Jimmy Bullard curled in a fabulous free-kick to earn a point at the death for struggling Fulham at Blackburn Rovers this afternoon.
The shaggy-haired midfielder, so missed by Fulham for much of this season, produced a replica of his winner against Aston Villa to give Roy Hodgson’s side belief they might be able to beat the drop. Bullard certainly still thinks so and the boyhood West Ham fan is taking inspiration from the Hammers’ escape last season, when their miraculous run of seven wins from the last nine games began at Ewood Park.
“We all know what West Ham did last year and that was mentioned at a big team meeting we had before the game,” said Bullard afterwards. We knew that it started here for West Ham as well. At the meeting we said ‘the season starts here. Forget everything that has gone on, forget what position we are in, we go to Blackburn to try and win the game.’ “In the end I think we deserved the point. And with a bit of luck, we would have nicked all three”.
Driving rain made beautiful football impossible but these two teams certainly served up some stodgy fare. Rovers managed just a single shot on target in the first half for all their dominance of territory and possession with Kasey Keller comfortably holding Zurab Khizanishvili’s header. Hodgson’s men were never going to be ultra attacking in search of the points they need to secure safety and they frustrated the hosts for long periods.
Blackburn finally broke the deadlock just before the hour mark when Jason Roberts delivered a teasing cross for Mortem Gamst Pedersen to climb highest and head past Keller. The visitors had the perfect opportunity to hit back moments later but Eddie Johnson clipped the outside of the post after finding himself clean through on goal. The hosts hunted for a killer second goal but couldn’t find a telling finish with Pedersen curling a free-kick wide and Keller pulling off a great save with his legs to deny Roberts.
Bullard’s brilliant free kick made them pay in the last minute of normal time – finding the top corner from twenty yards – to breathe new life into Fulham’s survival bid.
BLACKBURN ROVERS (4-4-2): Friedel; Ooijer, Samba, Khizanishvili, Warnock; Bentley, Reid, Tugay (Roberts 57), Pedersen; Santa Cruz, McCarthy (Derbyshire 56). Subs (not used): Brown, Mokoena, Dunn.
BOOKED: Tugay, Warnock.
GOAL: Pedersen (59).
FULHAM (4-5-1): Keller, Stalteri, Konchesky, Hughes, Hangeland; Andreasen, Bullard, Murphy (Healy 84), Dempsey (McBride 66), Davies; Johnson. Subs (not used): Niemi, Volz, Bocanegra.
BOOKED: Stalteri, McBride.
GOAL: Bullard (89).
REFEREE: Mike Riley (Yorkshire).