Blackburn 1-3 Rovers: A Famous Win
Updated: Jul 16, 2019
If the story of last week’s draw with Gillingham was that we didn’t take our chances despite creating plenty, then the opposite is true this week. Rovers had to work hard to carve out good opportunities against stronger opposition in Blackburn, but when we did we took those opportunities to seal a big win. The visitors more than held their own in a fairly cagey first half, making one or two clear-cut chances without ever really troubling David Raya in the Blackburn goal. After the break however, the game changed in one moment as former DRFC defender Elliott Ward inexplicably failed to control a simple pass shortly after kick-off, allowing John Marquis to take the ball and stride forward before coolly slotting home to give us the lead.
Blackburn, playing the same 3-5-2 formation that Gillingham deployed against us last week, were expected to come out of their shell and push Rovers from that point on but it didn’t happen. Despite enjoying more of the ball for the next quarter of an hour, still nothing was coming for them, although the introduction from the bench of creative midfielders Ben Gladwin and Bradley Dack did add some degree of cutting edge. Then, Rovers proved their clinical prowess again with a sharp counter attack from a Blackburn corner. Marquis, presented with two options – to send either James Coppinger or substitute Alfie May through on goal – chose the captain, who brought the ball forward into the box before being chopped down by counterpart Charlie Mulgrew for a penalty. Copps himself stepped up to convert doubling the lead to 2-0, putting the 1000+ away following into dreamland.
Still we stood firm in the face of renewed forward purpose from the home team, Ian Lawlor brilliantly turning a curling effort from Gladwin past the post, before Rovers punished sloppy defending by Blackburn once again. A long ball went forward down the middle, the tenacious May chasing along with two defenders, only for the inexperienced Raya to come flying out of his area and head the ball sideways straight to May, a baffling sequence that the diminutive striker took full advantage of, calmly taking a touch before driving the ball home to seal a remarkable win. Dominic Samuel would nab a consolation for Blackburn a few minutes later, converting a right wing cross with his head, but by this point half the home fans had already left and there was nothing about to dampen the mood of the buoyant Rovers fans. It was a rampant second half display of ruthlessness and poise, Ferguson masterminding a famous win across the Pennines.
What Defensive Crisis?
The big talking point for the past few weeks at Rovers has been the apparent pressing need to sign a centre half, with numbers deemed short in this area after an injury to Mathieu Baudry. There has been good cause for concern among fans about the failure to address this need, particularly after experienced trialist Steven Taylor went to Peterborough suddenly, along with the poor pre-season performance of Craig Alcock. However, any notion that we are desperate for bodies at the back has so far been dispelled completely in two league matches here. After a solid display and a clean sheet to boast from the opening day, central pairing Andy Butler and Joe Wright put in a dominant display at Ewood Park, proving pivotal in the 3-1 win with an excellent display to nullify the Blackburn attack.
Wright has been given the chance to cement his place in the team after a strong end to last season by the youngster, and he has grabbed it with both hands. Despite plundering three goals, Rovers’ best player on the park on Saturday was in fact Wright, who won everything in the air and was as composed as could be with the ball at his feet. His distribution appears to have improved immeasurably, and the mental side of his game is only going to get even better with more experience gained. Butler has also been a formidable presence in both our opening games and, despite being beaten to the ball by Samuel for the home side’s consolation goal, this was another excellent display by the veteran, who so far has answered those doubting his ability to cope in League One admirably.
With Baudry not yet fit, and Reece Fielding now out on loan, we may still need another body in at the back for cover, but in a few weeks time a central core of Baudry, Wright, Butler and Alcock, with the likes of Niall Mason and Danny Andrew able to fill in at the position, may be more than enough to see us through and, crucially, that may allow us to bring fan-favourite Jordan Houghton back to the club from Chelsea to augment the midfield ranks.
Good Day, Bad Day
To say that it was a good day for the Rovers squad would be an understatement, this was a superb performance from start to finish by nigh on every man in a green and black shirt. Joe Wright edged out his defensive partner Andy Butler for the ITEN Man of the Match award, whilst Niall Mason and Ian Lawlor also put in fine displays at the back too. Up front, John Marquis was key to the victory as was James Coppinger, both playing their part in two of the three goals as well as providing plenty of energy and quality in our play throughout. Ben Whiteman too continued his good start to life at the club, going largely unnoticed due to the showing of several of his team mates, but again playing a pivotal role in breaking up opposition forays into our half and giving the ball off to team mates in advanced positions.
The only real spot on a near-flawless display was the performance of Liam Mandeville, restored to the team after the EFL Cup win at Bradford despite struggling with a hamstring injury picked up on the opening day. The young forward didn’t look up to it here, possibly not yet fully fit, and was barely involved in the game during a poor first half for himself. Rovers’ attacking threat transformed once Alfie May came on for him after the interval, adding energy and dogged resilience that proved crucial to breaking down an edgy Blackburn back line. May got the goal he deserved to add to his opener against Bradford, and has now surely done enough to earn his first League One start when Blackpool visit the Keepmoat next weekend.
All in all then a fabulous result for Darren Ferguson, earning Rovers a first league win of the season and making it three games unbeaten to start the campaign. The side will take plenty of confidence into fixtures against Blackpool and AFC Wimbledon, who we will face for the first time ever in just under a fortnight.
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