BRAVE Barnsley were cruelly denied a deserved point last night as Portuguese substitute Nuno Gomes pounced for the winner with just five minutes to go.
The Reds had given a great account of themselves at the Championship leaders, but Gomes struck from close range to meet compatriot and fellow substitute Fabio Nunes’ low cross.
It was an agonising blow for Keith Hill’s men, who remain pointless on the road.
Unsurprisingly Hill named an unchanged starting line-up following Saturday’s impressive showing against high-flying Blackpool at Oakwell.
Kelvin Etuhu was on the bench, no doubt hoping he would get the nod so he could face brother Dickson, who started in the Rovers midfield.
It was Barnsley’s first visit to Ewood Park since an FA Cup defeat in 2002, and they started encouragingly and ought to have scored after four minutes. Jacob Mellis pounced on a poor pass from Martin Olsson, only for his low shot to be beaten away brilliantly by Paul Robinson.
The rebound fell for Craig Davies, barely six yards out, but Robinson’s trailing leg this time got in the way.
The lively Tomasz Cywka saw a shot blocked, before a mighty scare passed for the Reds in the 19th minute.
The normally reliable Stephen Foster was robbed by £8million manJordan Rhodes 40 yards out, but the ex-Terrier screwed an angled shot wide.
The Reds responded with a well-crafted opportunity. Cywka surged through the midfield before neatly playing Davies in, but his shot from the edge of the box was palmed away by Robinson.
Just beyond the half-hour the Reds stormed into a deserved lead courtesy of a cracking strike from Mellis.He combined superbly with Chris Dagnall pass before taking a stride and cracking a crisp diagonal shot past Robinson.
The Reds faithful erupted and the cries of ‘Kean out’ became more and more evident.
Those chants became even more audible when Cywka took aim but saw his shot fizz narrowly wide.
It had been a terrific first half from Barnsley, but just as the game was about to move into stoppage-time, Rhodes pounced for a clinical leveller.
Rhodes swivelled to guide a shot past Alnwick after latching on to Morsten Gamst Pedersen’s cushioned header into his path.
Driving rain greeted the players when the second half got under way.
Rhodes’ strike had clearly lifted Rovers, and two minutes had passed when his strike partner Ruben Rochina curled a 20-yard shot inches over.
Barnsley hit back quickly, with Davies looping a shot onto the roof of the net after Scott Golbourne’s corner-kick wasn’t sufficiently cleared.
Hill made a couple of changes with Davies being swapped for Marlon Harewood Kelvin Etuhu replaced the hard-working Dagnall. Kelvin Etuhu missed a great chance to stun Rovers just minutes after coming on.
He nipped in to pounce on Scott Dann’s slack back pass, but could only fire a dismal shot well wide with only Robinson to beat.
There was then another fright at the other end as Alnwick got down superbly to save Rhodes’ low drive after the Rovers hot-shot had taken a neat pass from eventual match-winner Gomes.
Blackburn: Robinson 7; Orr 6, Dann 8, Formica 7 (Lowe 90), Olsson 5; Hanley 7, Murphy 8, D Etuhu 7, Pedersen 8 (Nunes 79, 6); Rhodes 8, Rochina 5 (Gomes 65, 6). Subs not used: Kean, Henrique, Dunn, Ribero.
Yellow cards: Etuhu (41).
Barnsley: Alnwick 7; Stones 7 (Perkins 72, 6), Foster 8, Wiseman 7, Golbourne 7; Dawson 6; Cywka 7, Cranie 6, Mellis 8; Dagnall 7 (K Etuhu 69, 5), Davies 7 (Harewood 64, 6). Subs not used: Steele, Done, Digby, Noble-Lazarus.
Yellow cards: Mellis (56)
Referee: Scott Mathieson (Stockport).