Rovers move closer to safety
South Africa's Benni McCarthy scored one goal and created the other as Blackburn Rovers beat Wigan Athletic 2-0 at Ewood Park to move nearer survival. Victory left Sam Allardyce's side six points clear of the bottom three with four league games left to play this season, after Middlesbrough's 2-0 loss away to Arsenal earlier. Defeat left Wigan on 41 points, four more than Blackburn, and seemingly safe from all drop concerns.
McCarthy opened the scoring on the stroke of half-time when he headed in from a Morten Gamst Pedersen corner which left Wigan keeper Chris Kirkland floundering, although the visitors had a case for saying he had been impeded. It was a similar story on the hour mark when, from McCarthy's whipped in free-kick, Rovers captain Ryan Nelsen scored his first goal for the club when the New Zealand central defender headed in past the stranded Kirkland.
In an open start, Antonio Valencia nearly gave Wigan the lead against their north-west rivals when his third minute shot hit the underside of the bar before Charles N'Zogbia also went close for the visitors. Rovers also created openings, with El-Hadji Diouf's header cleared off the line by Lee Cattermole.
But just when it seemed the sides would go into half-time level at 0-0, McCarthy met Pedersen's corner before Kirkland, who had failed to force his way through a crowd of players, could punch clear.
Wigan manager Steve Bruce replaced Mido with Amr Zaki at half-time as the Egypt striker played his first match since his controversially-delayed return from international duty. Rovers goalkeeper Paul Robinson then parried away a well-struck shot from Ben Watson.
But on the hour mark Rovers gave themselves some much-needed breathing space when Nelsen's flick-header from McCarthy's expertly delivered cross gave Kirkland and the Wigan defenders on the line little chance. Former England No 1 Robinson then tipped an N'Zogbia header over the bar.
The visitors continued to press forward but the ball would not go in for Steve Bruce's men. Emmerson Boyce had a shot cleared off the line before Robinson parried Valencia's long-range follow-up and Paul Scharner's close-range header to snuff out any hope of a Wigan recovery.