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Oct 18, 2009

Dunn the difference in East Lancs derby

Their bright yellow jackets illuminating an otherwise gloomy day in and around Ewood Park, the hordes of Lancashire Police who invaded Blackburn recognised the significance of this game. So, too, did the lone local in a team of players from four continents. David Dunn, unlike most of his colleagues, grew up with a dislike of Burnley and a thirst to beat them. "No doubt we will be having a few," said the most influential player on display, when asked to discuss his plans for the evening.

• Blackburn Rovers 3-2 Burnley

"People who aren't from here probably won't get it, but it's a big derby," Dunn had argued. That category could have included team-mates and opponents alike. Born in Great Harwood and brought up a Blackburn fan, Dunn was the one supporter the many stewards allowed on the pitch. He was also the sole survivor of their last league meeting eight years ago.

Once the recipient of a challenge from Burnley's Kevin Ball that invited an arrest for GBH as much as a red card, Dunn was scythed down by Clarke Carlisle on Sunday. A lesser crime brought the lesser punishment of a yellow card, but it was a sign that different generations of Clarets have found it equally hard to halt him legally.

The scorer of Blackburn's equaliser, he had a part to play in their second goal and figured throughout. If it appeared that, after levelling, his immediate thought appeared to be to celebrate in front of the Burnley support. Team-mates restrained him then, but Dunn was nonetheless the calmest player in possession. His contribution was recognised with a standing ovation from fans at the Walkersteel End, serenaded with a rarely-heard chant of "Dunny for England".

Hampered by injuries, his sole cap came seven years ago, yet technically gifted English midfielders are at a premium. A Lancastrian version of Joe Cole, he is unlikely to occupy Fabio Capello's thoughts for too long, but represents a rarity: an Englishman ideally equipped to play in the hole behind the main striker. Granted a more advanced role, he has become Rovers' top scorer. His fifth of the season was taken well, placed into the corner after Franco di Santo laid the ball back to him.

"Dunny and di Santo were both terrific today," said Sam Allardyce. "Those two made us tick going forwards. The first thing was to secure a fit David Dunn on a regular basis. We have found him a position to play in which is just off the front man. We have four strikers here who are becoming more and more frustrated because I can only pick one of them because Dunny's playing so well."

Dunn initiated the move that led to Rovers' second goal. His free kick was headed across goal by Christopher Samba and inadvertently into the path of di Santo by Burnley's Graham Alexander. Burnley felt di Santo had nudged Stephen Jordan into Brian Jensen in the build-up. "I was adamant and you won't convince me otherwise," said Burnley boss Owen Coyle.

Nevertheless, it was di Santo's first strike in English football and a reward for an adept display as a lone striker. A perennial substitute for Chelsea, he had to move north on loan to start matches. "He's a young man who is learning his trade and who has finally got an opportunity," said Allardyce. "He has grasped it."

The third goal provided another first for Blackburn as Pascal Chimbonda opened his Rovers account, breaking into the box to defeat Jensen. "We had two opportunities to make a tackle," lamented Coyle, whose defence has now been breached 17 times in their five away defeats. "We need to stop conceding soft goals. If we eradicate those silly mistakes..."

While they remain one of two teams in English football without a point on their travels (and Blackburn are the other), Burnley did at least achieve something: a first top-flight away goal since 1976. Although Chris Eagles managed an injury-time consolation strike, the distinction of scoring it fell to the man who managed their maiden Premier League goal. That was superlative and this merely spectulative but Robbie Blake - or Robbie Elliott, as Allardyce called him - found the top corner from 25 yards.

For the handful of celebrating Burnley fans who had infiltrated the Blackburn support, it brought a premature end to their afternoon as they were promptly expelled. The larger contingent of Clarets in the appropriate seats could be forgiven for wishing they had left at the same time. But when the final whistle blew, one Rovers fan looked understandably reluctant to leave the pitch. And he was the scorer of their first goal.

MAN OF THE MATCH: David Dunn - The sharp footwork, inventive passing and fine finishing that are features of Dunn's game were all apparent. The importance of his goal, four minutes after Burnley struck, was not lost on Allardyce. "He's doing a terrific job for us," he said. "He can change a game. Today he put us back in contention early on."

BLACKBURN VERDICT: With Christopher Samba a forceful presence in both penalty areas, they have the toughness that is associated with Allardyce's teams. Nevertheless, this side is more attacking than some of his sides. The switch of formation and the alliance between di Santo and Dunn have benefited Blackburn. The worry for them is that the Argentine is due to return to Chelsea in January. None of Rovers' other three strikers - Benni McCarthy, Jason Roberts and Nikola Kalinic - have exactly excelled so far.

BURNLEY VERDICT: Brian Jensen's shot-stopping has been superb at times this season, but "the Beast" seemed strangely tame when it came to dealing with crosses. The second goal, contentious as it was, was one of a number of occasions when the Dane failed to claim the ball in the air. While the defence can be blamed again away from home, their midfielders rarely got close enough to Dunn or, when he scored, Chimbonda.

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