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Sunday 5 February 2023 Dublin: 8°C
# Irish Eye
'Special' Lenihan excels once again, helping Blackburn continue Championship rise
It was a mixed night for the Irish across the water – and one which saw plenty of postponements.

DARRAGH LENIHAN EXCELLED once again as Blackburn moved closer to the top of the Championship table after beating struggling Barnsley 2-1 tonight.

Hailed ‘special’ by manager Tony Mowbray just before Christmas, the Irish defender continued his red-hot form with another solid performance in the captain’s armband — on a night where just three English second-flight games went ahead amidst a raft of postponements.

The 27-year-old Meath man was the club’s official Player of the Match after going the distance across 90 minutes, the only blot on his copybook a yellow card shortly after the hour-mark.

But Lenihan’s team-mate, Ben Brereton Diaz, will steal the headlines after hitting his 20th Championship goal of the season as Blackburn moved level on points with second-placed Fulham.

The Chile international’s clinical finish in the 65th minute settled a game that the hosts threatened to run away with but could not shake off the Tykes who put up a spirited display that belied their lowly position.

Joe Rothwell slotted in Blackburn’s opener after 24 minutes to cap a sustained spell of pressure.

Barnsley survived the onslaught and equalised through Carlton Morris’ deflected strike which breached the Rovers defence for the first time in nine hours.

But Blackburn’s star man showed why he is in demand, providing the extra quality to seal the points and a sixth consecutive league victory – the first time they have achieved that feat since November 2000, when they beat Barnsley.

Poya Asbaghi’s men are the only Championship side not to win away this season, losing two and drawing one of his three games in charge. He can be encouraged with the performance against the league’s most potent home attack, but they remain seven points from safety.

Elsewhere, Irish internationals Alex Pearce and Dan McNamara helped Millwall earn an unlikely win at Coventry, as Tom Bradshaw stabbed home his fourth goal in as many games to seal a 1-0 victory for the depleted Lions.

The EFL had denied the sides’ request for the match to be postponed, and they arrived in Coventry with just 15 senior players available.

Boss Gary Rowett filled his bench with Under-23 players Nana Boateng and Besart Topalloj and 15-year-old striker Zak Lovelace.

Millwall had to request for the teenager’s parents and school to approve his inclusion in the matchday squad, as Rowett was forced to shuffle the pack due to Covid and injuries.

The decisive goal came in the 79th minute; Bradshaw in the right place to poke home the winner inside the six-yard box after Jake Cooper flicked on Pearce’s free-kick.

coventry-city-v-millwall-sky-bet-championship-coventry-building-society-arena PA Coventry City's Tyler Walker (left) jumps above Millwall's Alex Pearce to head the ball away. PA

It was just Millwall’s second shot on target of the evening after they had thwarted a Coventry side that had lost just twice in nine outings. Former Ireland U21 international Jordan Chipley was on the hosts’ bench.

There was disappointment for Richard Keogh and Blackpool, as Middlesbrough substitute Duncan Watmore struck a dramatic 93rd-minute goal to hand his side a 2-1 win.

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Watmore charged in to slide home Isaiah Jones’ low cross to cap a frantic finish on the Fylde coast.

Blackpool thought they had earned themselves a point when sub Shayne Lavery struck to make it 1-1 in the 91st minute, but Watmore was on hand to stun the hosts.

‘Boro consolidated their place in the Championship play-off places thanks to a fifth win in six games.

In League One, Mark Skyes was on target once again as Oxford United were 3-0 winners over AFC Wimbledon. Anthony Forde was a late substitute for the winners, with Luke McNally on the bench. Daryl Horgan was held in reserve as his Wycombe Wanderers side fell to a 1-0 defeat at Ipswich, while a handful of Irish players featured in Morecambe’s home loss to Crewe Alexandra, and Shrewsbury and Accrington Stanley’s scoreless draw.

It was a similar story in League Two, with the stalemates of Barrow-Oldham and Swindon Town-Stevenage the only two games to go ahead.

In the Scottish Championship, Kilmarnock and Greenock Morton finished 1-1, while Luca Connell‘s Queen Park lost 1-0 to Airdrie United in the lower league. The 20-year-old got 90 minutes under his belt, though capped it with a late booking.

BTL 5

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