Allardyce draws on past experience

Victory is a tall order for Blackburn after 1-0 first leg defeat as only two teams have managed to overcome that since the League Cup started 50 years ago.

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There are two ways a team can respond when there is talk of trouble within their camp. For Blackburn Rovers, the 2-0 win against Fulham on Sunday emphasised their desire to dig in and fight, and a commitment to their manager Sam Allardyce. He has endured a difficult time recently with rumours of player unrest and the notion that defeat to Fulham would have meant the end of his 13-month reign at Ewood Park.

That would have seemed nonsensical given that tonight's Carling Cup semi-final second leg at Aston Villa was on the horizon. But ever since he left his comfort zone at Bolton where he took a once-struggling club into Europe, Allardyce has found himself under pressure. He did not get enough time at Newcastle, but hoped he would at Blackburn. Reaching a cup final would help, yet the omens are not in favour of Allardyce and his side.

Only two teams have lost the first leg of the semi-final at home and gone on to reach the final since the League Cup started 50 years ago. Blackburn will need to emulate the last side, Arsenal in 1987, after James Milner's winner for Villa at Ewood Park last week. But Allardyce will look to another moment in League Cup history to provide hope. Villa's last semi- final in the competition saw them beaten by his Bolton side in 2004.

It finished 5-4 on aggregate after Villa, who had Gavin McCann sent off in the first half, almost clawed back a 5-2 first-leg deficit. "The second leg was an entirely different kettle of fish," recalled Allardyce. "We were hanging on even with Villa being down to 10 men, and we lost 2-0. That shows you that whatever the score may be, there's always a chance in the second game. We've got another 90 minutes to put it right. The prize is great."

Since losing at Arsenal last month, Villa seem to have lost some zest. The goalless draw at home against lowly West Ham on Sunday, where they spurned a host of chances, suggested fat-igue had crept in, perhaps mentally more than physically. Yet Stephen Warnock, Villa's former Rovers defender, is confident there is nothing to worry about. "The confidence is still high and it hasn't been dented from any of the results of late," he said. "We still know we are capable of doing well in the league and upsetting teams and we know we are very capable in the cup as well."