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HUGHTON'S NOTES

Posted on 3 March 2006  - 12:00

Chris Hughton offers his regular assessment of forthcoming opponents - next up, Blackburn Rovers at the Lane on Sunday.

Chris Hughton offers his regular assessment of forthcoming opponents - next up, Blackburn Rovers at the Lane on Sunday.

IN SOME WAYS we have managed to stay in fourth place without great attention being paid to it and Blackburn have crept up to fifth in a similar manner.

Their form this season has been good and there is no doubt they are a tougher side to beat now than last season. They are a competitive side, over-competitive in the eyes of some, but we don't see it that way and view it as part of the game. You can't get to where Blackburn have by just being a competitive side and what they have got is a quality in the team and when Craig Bellamy plays he adds another dimension.

They deserve to be where they are but I, like many, looked at their result last Saturday and initially felt it was a good outcome for us - and it probably still is. What we have is a situation where matters are mostly in our own hands and there are games, particularly at home, that we need to win.

If we win against Blackburn it puts us six points clear of them. They are not so strong away from home but that is the norm in this division outside of the very top teams who are able to sustain a very good home record and also consistently pick up points away. For the rest of us, we are in there battling with good home form and trying to get as much as we can on the road.

One thing you know about Blackburn away from home is that they will be a very disciplined side with a very good work ethic. They are a fit side and any team that beats them has to work hard for the result.

A strength of Mark Hughes' side has probably been a fair amount of consistency in their line-ups. If I look at the back five - which includes the keeper - it has remained pretty much the same all season. Ryan Nelson and Andy Todd have a very good understanding in the centre, with Michael Gray and Lucas Neill the full-backs.

We certainly know what Robbie Savage gives them, while we also know Tugay can do - as an offensive player and passer there aren't many as good as him in the division. Young Steven Reid is someone I know very well from international level and we saw the signs of his improvement from when he became a regular player At Blackburn. We all knew he had potential, but he had to assert himself more in games. By the time I was finished with the Republic of Ireland he was showing the great maturity that comes with playing games.

Morten Gamst Pedersen has been a major plus for Blackburn with his set plays, crossing and contribution of goals. There won't be many wide players who have scored as many goals as him this season.

They do have options and can change, David Bentley is one who can play anywhere across midfield. Blackburn do attack, they work hard and do have pace in areas.

It is a game we want to win and feel we have to win really. A draw wouldn't end anything for us, but on the back of the last two draws we have been disappointed and feel we want a good performance, an entertaining one and we want to score goals.