HOW Blackburn Rovers must wish they didn't have to wait until Sunday morning to turn back the clocks.

Because if British Summer Time had ended at 8pm on Saturday they would have loved the chance to rewind an hour and start the second half of this pulsating Premiership encounter all over again.

At this stage they were leading Liverpool 2-1 and, after fighting back from a disastrous start to assume control of the game, flowing with a confidence that seemed certain to bring them only their second victory of the season.

But if there was an opportunity for Rovers to travel back in time, Jay McEveley would surely have won the race for the Tardis and programmed in the 54th minute as his exact destination.

It was at this stage that the left back, making his first appearance since the final day of the 2002-03 season, suffered a lapse in concentration that turned a promising Blackburn free kick into a Milan Baros equaliser.

To be fair to McEveley, his mis-placed pass to Luis Garcia still didn't seem fatal as the Spaniard collected the ball on half-way, but his chip forward then set up a race between Baros and Craig Short to collect it. No contest.

The Czech sprinted away to slide the ball beyond Brad Friedel to prove that the smallest mistake can carry the most brutal punishment.

For McEveley, still only 19, it was the only foot he put wrong in a performance that announced his comeback from almost 18 months in the wilderness.

And goalscorer Jay Bothroyd, another player making his first Premiership start of the season, was quick to jump to the defence of his namesake.

"Everyone makes mistakes," said Bothroyd. "You can't blame Jay because these things happen in the heat of the game.

"It was end to end, everyone can see that and sometimes, when the adrenalin is flowing, you want to get the game moving.

"But I thought we should have got the three points. Dickov had a couple of chances, Short had a good header cleared off the line so if we keep creating chances like that I can't see why we can't get up the table as quickly as possible."

Bothroyd, who cancelled out John Arne Riise's early goal, brought fresh and flambuoyant ideas to the Rovers forward line and his wasn't the only stand-out display.

The midfield showed what they are capable of when their key players are on song, and Mark Hughes must have high hopes for his team's survival with a leader like Barry Ferguson spearheading it.

The Rovers manager must now hope that the dominance he showed in seeing off Didi Hamman will have the same impact on his season as a similar showing against the same opponents in the Carling Cup did a year ago.

Tugay's liveliness showed the benefits a week off through suspension can have on a 34-year-old's legs, while Brett Emerton finally managed to find the finishing touches to complement his fancy footwork.

The Australian laid Bothroyd's first Premiership goal on a plate for him then scored the second himself with a precise shot in first half injury time.

All these individual parts wrapped up together looked like providing Hughes, who turns 41 today, with the perfect birthday party.

And it would have been a surprise party too - because the way Blackburn started the game gave nobody in the ground any reason to think that they wouldn't suffer their third consecutive 4-0 defeat, or even worse.

Friedel had already made good saves from Djibril Cisse and Baros before Liverpool took the lead in only the seventh minute.

A long cross-field pass found Riise and, with the home defence seemingly lurking somewhere around Darwen, the Norwegian had time to do as he pleased. As expected, he teed the ball up on his left foot and drove it into the far corner.

As Hughes had, before the game, expressed concern about the way his players couldn't prevent their heads going down after conceding the opening goal in the previous two defeats, the Ewood faithful feared the worst.

Short's pre-match call for a good start with an early goal had also gone out of the window and the live Sky encounter was looking like a prime candidate for the next TV Nightmare compilation show.

But Blackburn somehow got their game together and a slick passing move between Paul Dickov and Emerton sprang the offside trap to give Bothroyd the easy task of tapping in from five yards.

Short and Nissa Johansson suddenly seemed to have the measure of Baros and Cisse, whose horrific leg-shattering injury clearly knocked the stuffing out of the team-mates he left behind in the 38th minute.

Just seven minutes later, Rovers capitalised on this when Sami Hyypia's feeble clearance gave Emerton the chance to pass the ball into the corner from the edge of the area.

Although Baros wiped out the lead with this seventh of the season, there were still plenty more positives ahead for Hughes.

His players showed encouraging signs of recovery to look the likelier winners, as Chris Kirkland made great saves from Jonathan Stead and Dickov, while Short's header was cleared off the line.

Friedel had to be at his best to preserve a point when Riise let fly again late on, and Harry Kewell's last kick of the game fizzed inches past the post.

But nobody could deny Rovers their place on that first rung off the bottom of the table.

And there's now every reason to believe they can keep climbing the ladder to safety.



Goals: 0-1, Riise 7; 1-1, Bothroyd 16; 2-1, Emerton 45; 2-2, Baros 54

Liverpool: Kirkland, Josemi, Traore, Hyypia, Carragher, Finnan (Kewell 55), Alonso, Hamman (Diao 81), Finnan, Baros, Cisse (Garcia 38). Subs not used: Dudek, Kewell, Garcia, Diao, Warnock

Attendance: 26,314

Referee: Rob Styles (Hants) Sensible 7

Yellow cards: Rovers - Stead 69; Liverpool - Josemi 45

FRIEDEL: These big games always seem to bring out the best in him.


NEILL: Left Riise in far too much space for opening goal but roamed forward well


McEVELEY: Looked like he'd never been away and vital error didn't dent his confidence


SHORT: Couldn't cope with pace of Baros but such a solid and reliable reader of the game


JOHANSSON: Early nerves settled and he soon looked pretty much unbeatable


REID: Quietly effective and got stuck in to stifle Liverpool's dangerous passing game


FERGUSON: The best central midfielder. Not a bad achievement considering Xabi Alonso was out there


TUGAY: Busy and battling, but could sometimes come up with a better final ball


EMERTON: Some entertaining pieces of trickery, yet he always looked so dangerous


DICKOV: Always a nuisance and he dropped deep to help set up both goals


BOTHROYD: He justified Hughes' decision to start him, simply by giving the side something different


SUBS: STEAD (for Bothroyd, 65). Wonderful turn and shot nearly brought winner 7. Not used: Enckelman, Flitcroft, Djorkaeff, Todd.


Brett Emerton scored one, set the other up, and looked as good as he ever has done for Blackburn


Milan Baros. So greedy and ungainly, yet he always seems to spoil your fun with a vital goal


Two attacking teams - and some dodgy defending - made sure the Sky subscription was good value this week