FULL-TIME: Blackburn Rovers 2 Ipswich Town 0
SECOND-HALF strikes from Jordan Rhodes and Rudy Gestede ensured Rovers returned to winning ways after four successive draws with a deserved and ultimately comfortable victory.
Gestede set-up top scorer Rhodes to notch his 50th league goal for Rovers in the 64th minute – and his third in three games against his former club – before he got the goal his outstanding individual display deserved 10 minutes from time.
It was a first home win in five and a first clean sheet in nine for Gary Bowyer’s side.
They are now enjoying their longest unbeaten run of the season – six matches.
But they remain seven points behind the final play-off spot after sixth-placed Reading won 1-0 at Charlton Athletic.
Rovers started brightly and inside the first 20 seconds Lee Williamson fired straight at Dean Gerken from range when he had options better placed either side of him.
But it was Ipswich, who now find themselves five points behind the top six, who created the first real chance of the game in the seventh minute when Jonny Williams breezed past right-back Michael Keane on the byline and pulled the ball back for Daryl Murphy, who blazed over.
Williams, on loan from Crystal Palace, was majestic for 45 minutes in his free role off the front.
The Wales international created another opportunity for Murphy in the 28th minute, which the lone forward headed over after he beat Paul Robinson to the cross, and then brought a brilliant reaction save out of the Rovers goalkeeper in the 39th minute after Matt Kilgallon had made a brave, goal-saving block to deny Aaron Cresswell.
The hosts also threatened in an evenly fought opening period with Corry Evans seeing a cross deflect into the side-netting by Tommy Smith in the 20th minute before Gerken was truly tested for the first time in the 31st minute by Tom Cairney’s 25-yard curler.
Against a well-drilled Tractor Boys defence which had kept clean sheets in their previous two away games – both of which they won – Rovers’ best hope for a goal before the break came from distance and set-pieces.
They nearly scored from the former in the 33rd minute when the recalled Gestede let fly from 25 yards with a shot that bent inches over the bar with Gerken well beaten.
Gestede then forced Gerken into a sprawling stop low to his left in the 39th minute, after he flicked on a Conway free kick, and he then had a big penalty appeal turned down on the stroke of half-time after he appeared to be pushed in the box.
The big striker was a handful throughout and, after he teed up Conway to smash a rising drive over the bar, he created the opening goal.
Rovers captain Grant Hanley played the ball up to Gestede, whose delightful, cushioned pass gave Rhodes a shooting opportunity he did not pass up as he sent an unerring, first-time, left-footed effort back across Gerken and into the bottom corner.
It was a wonderful goal, his 23rd of the season and his 138th in 237 appearances since being allowed to leave Ipswich by then manager Roy Keane in July 2009.
The visitors had started the second half strongly with Robinson saving from Nouble from 25 yards.
But once the deadlock was broken there was only one team in it.
Gestede should have doubled the advantage in the 76th minute as he skied over after an overhead kick from Rhodes fell invitingly to him six yards from the centre of the goal.
But he made amends four minutes later when he rose highest to meet a Conway free kick swung in from the side of the area.
The goal, headed low and hard past Gerken, was Gestede’s sixth for Rovers and it sealed their first home victory since February 1.
And, with the fit-again Dickson Etuhu on for his first appearance at Ewood Park since December 7, 2012, Cairney would added a third in injury-time after Keane pulled the ball back for him had Cresswell not cleared off the line.
Rovers: Robinson, Keane, Hanley, Kilgallon, Spurr, Cairney, Evans (Varney 78), Williamson (Etuhu 90), Conway, Gestede (Dunn 83), Rhodes. Subs not used: Eastwood, King, Taylor, Feeney.
Booked: Kilgallon, Williamson.
Goals: Rhodes 64, Gestede 80.
Ipswich: Gerken, Chambers, Berra, Smith, Cresswell, Wordsworth (Ebanks-Blake 73), Hyam (Green 90), Skuse, Nouble, Williams (Hunt 86), Murphy. Subs not used: Loach, Mings, Tabb, Richardson.
Booked: Wordsworth, Chambers.
Referee: Keith Stroud.
Attendance: 13, 281 (635 away).
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