Wonderful Warnock lifts Rovers

Wednesday, 19 January 2022


Ashbee 79; Warnock 34, Andrews 37

Rovers were in massive relegation trouble in December 2008 and Paul Ince was sacked after six successive Premier League defeats. Sam Allardyce steadied the ship with a six-match unbeaten run in the league but the new manager bounce had evaporated in a poor February which included losses to Aston Villa, Manchester United and Coventry City – the latter being an embarrassing FA Cup exit with Leon Best scoring the winner in the replay.

Camped back in the relegation zone at the start of March, games were becoming increasingly crucial – especially against an out-of-form Hull side who had been dragged into trouble.

The excellent loan acquisition of Gaël Givet, who started at left-back, had allowed Stephen Warnock to be moved into a somewhat unfamiliar midfield role alongside Vince Grella and Keith Andrews. Wide men Morten Gamst Pedersen and January signing El Hadji Diouf supported Roque Santa Cruz up front in Allardyce’s favoured 4–5–1 turned 4–3–3 formation.

Warnock was excelling in his new midfield role, driving Rovers forward with tenacity and determination from the off – and he received a booking in the first minute for crashing into Bernard Mendy. He gave Rovers the lead in the first half when Hull keeper Matt Duke spilled a cross and Santa Cruz cleverly laid the ball back to him to coolly side-footed into the roof of the open net. 

Minutes later and the advantage was doubled when Pedersen found Warnock sprinting into space down the left, and he went past Nathan Doyle with ease before squaring for the supporting Andrews to tap in from close range. Andrews celebrated wildly as if he’d volleyed one in from 40 yards, but it was all down to Warnock’s work. Much criticised by some Rovers fans, it should be noted that Andrews still scored four crucial goals that season after making a huge step up from League Two with Ince, and he continued to be selected for much of Allardyce’s reign too.

The second half turned into a tempestuous affair, which had started on the stroke of half-time when Michael Turner clattered into Paul Robinson, winding him and requiring Jason Brown to come on – a rare Rovers appearance for the longstanding reserve keeper.

Dean Marney received a straight red for Hull after an hour for kicking out at Pedersen, which should have meant the result was secure for Rovers, but Pedersen received a booking in the incident and he was cautioned again for a late challenge on Kamil Zayatte, meaning that both sides had to play the last 20 minutes with ten men.

Ian Ashbee pulled a goal back for Hull creating nervy closing minutes for Rovers, but the experienced and steadfast defence held firm. Rovers moved out of the relegation zone on goal difference with the win and secured enough points to finish the season safely in 15th place, while Hull scraped to safety by one point above Alan Shearer’s relegated Newcastle United.

Match Significance: A huge psychological boost in the battle against relegation, and the emergence of Stephen Warnock as a driving force in midfield – he would eventually be voted as Rovers’ Player of the Year.

Quote: “We were getting to the stage of must-win football matches, to get three points on the board” – Sam Allardyce

Rovers: Robinson (Brown 45), Ooijer, Nelsen (c), Samba, Givet, Diouf (Mokoena 83), Grella, Andrews, Warnock, Pedersen, Santa Cruz. 

Hull City: Duke, Doyle (Fagan 67), Turner, Zayatte, Dawson, Mendy, Ashbee (c), Marney, Kilbane (Cousin 53), Geovanni (Barmby 54), Garcia. 

Attendance: 24,612


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