Date:Monday December 4 2006
The growing crisis over falling Premiership crowds was there for all to see at Ewood Park as less than 17,000 turned out to watch Blackburn get their season back on track.
Premiership chairmen and chief executives have met three times over the last 18 months to discuss plans to reverse a trend that is threatening to undermine the success of a league that continues to call itself the best in the world.
Blackburn officials had feared this would be the day when attendances hit a new low and they were right. With Fulham bringing no more than 250 die-hards up from London, the usual excuses were heard. It`s too far. It`s Christmas. There are too many games. All may be valid but they are undermined by the fact that more fans turned out at eight Coca-Cola Championship games on Saturday than at Ewood. Fulham manager Chris Coleman said: 'It`s hard to be critical. Our supporters are great at home and they give us tremendous backing. I can`t fault them.
` It was a shame because those who did turn up witnessed a feisty and reasonably entertaining Blackburn performance. Most impressive was the South Africa striker Benni McCarthy, who scored one goal and led the line impressively. McCarthy has scored goals throughout his career but even when he was starring for FC Porto under Jose Mourinho, his Premiership suitors chose not to buy. Mark Hughes took the plunge in the summer after missing out last year and has been rewarded. The Blackburn manager said: 'Benni has got great quality. It has been a steep learning curve for him playing over here. He plays with a smile on his face and I don`t know why other clubs didn`t go for him. I am just delighted he is here now.
` Czech goalkeeper Jan Lastuvka made his Fulham debut and his day began badly as Shabani Nonda got a toe to Stephane Henchoz`s long ball to wrong-foot the keeper in the sixth minute. Eighteen minutes later McCarthy controlled a Lucas Neill pass on his chest and showed impressive strength and control to turn Ian Pearce and score courtesy of a deflection from the defender`s foot. For Blackburn, this was a first league win since their October 1 game against Wigan. What a pity there weren`t a few more people there to see it.
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