When your team have not scored an away goal in four games, it is understandable that you start to travel more in hope than expectation.
Hence the banner that was unfurled in the away end after Burnley suffered defeat No 5 against their local rivals at Ewood Park on Sunday.
‘Beaten but still above you lot,’ was the message, which suggested Burnley fans had either managed to smuggle a tin of paint and an old sheet in to the stadium or that they had travelled along the M65 fully prepared for another loss.
Franco di Santo
Derby delight: Blackburn fans mob Franco di Santo after his goal
Whatever the case, Burnley ultimately got what they deserved from this tense game. A narrow defeat prompted manager Owen Coyle to suggest his team’s first Barclays Premier League away win was ‘just round the corner’. To the neutral, however, this was a match that merely provided evidence of just how difficult it will be for Burnley to survive.
It is to be hoped that they do. Coyle is one of the league’s more engaging managers and a progressive coach, too. His team certainly endeavour to play football the right way.
Yet Burnley are a severely limited side at this exalted level and, despite the scoreline, they were second best by a distance to a Blackburn team that has hardly set Lancashire alight this season.
Equal measure: David Dunn strikes to draw Blackburn level
In scoring a superb early goal through their most important player, Robbie Blake, Burnley gave themselves the best possible start. But by half-time their were 3-1 down, having proved themselves incapable of defending properly and of keeping possession.
On a day when pride and passion meant much, it was still Blackburn’s greater skill levels that brought them a victory they really needed ahead of tough games at Chelsea and Manchester United.
‘This is a fantastic early birthday present for me and I have thanked the players,’ said Rovers manager Sam Allardyce, who is 55 today. ‘After conceding an early goal and thinking, “oh dear”, we got ourselves back in to the game and into the lead by playing some very good football and scoring some very good goals. I’m very pleased.’
With David Dunn playing as a second striker to on-loan Argentine Franco Di Santo, Blackburn’s two forwards were the best players. Dunn, in particular, was exceptional and it was this pair who combined to haul the home team level after Blake had cut in from the left to score with a right-foot belter in the fifth minute.
Thunderbolt: Robbie Blake blasts Burnley into a shock lead
As Burnley sensed an opportunity to further unsettle Blackburn and isolated scuffles broke out in the crowd, it was important that Allardyce’s players remained composed. This they did and they were level within four minutes. Morten Gamst Pedersen played the ball into the penalty area from the left, Di Santo laid it off expertly into the Dunn’s path and the low, first-time finish was typical of a player who has always been technically proficient.
With the teams not having met in the top-flight for 43 years, this game had been eagerly awaited to say the least. And the opening 10 minutes had been utterly enthralling.
With Blackburn back on terms, it was Burnley’s time to wobble. With central defender Clarke Carlisle enduring a dreadful day and keeper Brian Jensen struggling to stand up to Blackburn physically, Burnley’s defending was not good enough and the second goal in the 21st minute was crucial.
Striking impression: Pascal Chimbonda celebrates Blackburn's third goal
Chris Samba headed a free-kick across goal, a combination of Di Santo and Burnley defender Stephen Jordan seemed to unsettle Jensen and when Graham Alexander inexplicably nodded the ball back towards danger, Di Santo was able to nudge it into the goal from less then four yards.
‘At first viewing it looked like a foul,’ said Coyle. ‘I haven’t seen it again.’
It was an odd goal and replays suggested Di Santo had nudged Jordan into Jensen. But the Dane should have been stronger.
With Rovers on top, the remainder of the first half was one-sided and when full back Pascal Chimbonda stole a yard on Steven Fletcher two minutes before half-time, he was able to cut back on his right foot and convert an excellent third goal.
Burnley’s bubble really had burst. They were better in the second half and it may have been an interesting finale had Fletcher not dragged a chance wide and had another goal-bound effort from Alexander not struck a defender.
It was all a little too late when substitute Chris Eagles scored Burnley’s second in the 90th minute.
Coyle said: ‘Over the balance of the game, there’s no doubt we contributed enough to get something from it.’
The Burnley manager said that as if he really believed it, which is admirable.
It was, however, not true.