Last Saturday, for the second successive season, the Rovers embarked upon a double-header against League Two opposition as part of their pre-season preparations. This year the matches were held at the Crown Ground, with hosts Accrington Stanley providing the opposition along with Fleetwood Town.
|Fleetwood Town||(0) 0 – 2 (1)||Blackburn Rovers|
|Formica 6, Gomes 54|
|Referee: N. Swarbrick||Attendance: 1,879|
Fleetwood Town v Rovers
The first of the matches saw the Rovers face Fleetwood Town, who are about to embark upon their first campaign in the Football League. Both sides boasted a number of summer acquisitions with the Rovers reshaping their midfield with the presence of Danny Murphy, Fabio Nunes and Paulo Jorge, while Leon Best and Nuno Gomes formed a twin spearhead in attack.
The Rovers quickly found their feet and were ahead after only six minutes and former Portuguese international Gomes was at the heart of the move which opened up the Fleetwood defence. Gomes worked the ball out to the right wing where Bruno Ribeiro had raced forward to join the attack. The forgotten man at Ewood Park showed a deft touch to control the ball and after taking the ball on he whipped in a deep cross to the far post where Gomes was waiting to head the ball down for Mauro Formica to fire home from the edge of the penalty area.
The Rovers took control of the game with Danny Murphy sitting deep and simply spraying the ball around with unerring accuracy. It was the sort of midfield display not seen in a Rovers shirt since Tugay departed the scene. Nunes looked lively down both wings as he switched around, while Jorge worked hard in the centre of midfield alongside Murphy.
Best had an effort cleared off the line and Scott Davies had to be on his toes to keep out another effort from the former Newcastle man.
Fleetwood rarely troubled Jake Kean as Scott Dann and Gael Givet kept Jon Parkin quiet without too much difficulty. Ribeiro performed neat-and-tidily at right-back and looked to get forward at every opportunity. However, on the opposite flank Josh Morris looked rather uncomfortable at times and again highlighted the fact that he really isn’t an orthodox full-back.
Apart from an effort from Parkin on 34 minutes, when the former Preston striker hit a powerful shot which flew narrowly over the bar, the opposition offered very little as an attacking force in the first half.
The Rovers ought to have been more than a goal to the good and a golden opportunity was missed when Best broke clear and failed to spot Murphy on his outside, who was in an excellent position. Best, however, held onto the ball until he managed to weave his way past a couple of defenders before firing in a shot that was well saved by the ‘keeper at the foot of the post.
Best might well have scored early in the second half when he again went clear, rounded the ‘keeper and then saw his shot cleared off the line by a defender.
However, the Rovers were not to be denied and on 54 minutes Gomes scored his first goal for the club after excellent work from Formica. The Argentinean international showed a fair turn of speed to get to the by-line and from his cross Gomes volleyed home from about 15 yards with the ball striking the inside of the post before hitting the back of the net.
Best had another effort cleared off the line as the Rovers dominated the game and as the match entered the final 15 minutes Nunes forced the ‘keeper into making a brilliant save when he tipped his well-struck shot around the post.
Such was their dominance that the Rovers took the opportunity to withdraw Gomes and have a look at Edinho Junior, another Portuguese youngster, who is clearly being looked at with a view to the future rather than the present campaign.
There were a number of heartening displays to revive a little hope that the forthcoming campaign might offer a little more hope than many of us expect. Murphy and Gomes both had excellent games with the veteran Portuguese international showing a turn of pace and speed of thought that belied his advancing years. He looked remarkably trim and seemed fitter than many of the squad who are much younger.
The defensive pairing of Dann and Givet looked sound while Ribeiro was neat and tidy in possession. Fabio Nunes caught the eye with his work on the wings, while Paulo Jorge was steady without being spectacular.
Leon Best worked hard in attack and, if his decision-making wasn’t always the best, he certainly looks to have the physical presence to cause a few defenders no end of problems.
All in all it was a very encouraging performance, but, of course, these are early days and the challenges ahead are going to be far more difficult than Fleetwood.
|Accrington Stanley||(0) 1 – 0 (0)||Blackburn Rovers|
|Referee: D. Bond||Attendance: 1,879|
Accrington Stanley v Rovers
After hopes had been raised during the first game against Fleetwood Town, the Rovers reverted to their old, lacklustre ways for the second game and were, to put it bluntly, embarrassingly poor against their Accrington neighbours. Stanley’s winning goal, on 66 minutes, typified the carelessness which pervaded the entire 90 minutes of mind-numbingly poor football delivered by the Rovers. A cross from Adam Rundle was met by the head of Brian Smikle at the back post and although Paul Robinson seemed to have the ball covered, a momentary lack of concentration resulted in him allowing to ball to slip from his grasp and drop over the line.As for the rest of the game, it was instantly forgettable with the Rovers failing to make any impact on a Stanley side that was experimental to say the least. On the plus side for the Rovers, a number of the club’s younger elements like Adam Henley, Raheem Hanley, Hugo Fernandez and Curtis Haley were given a chance to play at senior level and Edinho came on as a late substitute and livened up proceedings when he replaced the woefully inept David Goodwillie. The Scottish international is becoming something of an enigma at Ewood Park as his record in Scotland suggests that he ought to be doing better than he has thus far. However, in fairness to Goodwillie, he was being asked to fulfil a role — as a lone striker — that he seems ill-suited for and the service from midfield was exceptionally poor. As for the rest, there is little to be said that hasn’t already been said many times before. Petrovic struggled in midfield, Dunny knows what he wants to do but the legs no longer allow him to do it, whilst Rochina, although technically gifted, merely flatters to deceive because of his inability to fit into a team pattern. Playing wide on the right he wandered far too often and allowed gaps to develop in front of his full-back. Lowe was workmanlike, but no more, while Marcus Olsson is quick but rarely delivered an end product.
Edinho went closest for the Rovers when his last-minute shot came back off the post. However, the fact that it took 90 minutes for the Rovers to seriously threaten the Stanley goal just about sums up how ineffective the Rovers were as an attacking force.
It is, of course, far too early to make any predictions as to what the future holds for Blackburn Rovers in the Championship. The only certainties are that it is probably going to require at least 90 points to get one of the two automatic places and that it is going to be a hugely competitive division with a number of “big” clubs desperate to win promotion and reach the Premier League “gravy train”.The only other certainty, which was clearly evident at the Crown Ground on Saturday, is that the Ewood faithful — or what is left of the Ewood faithful — will continue to voice their displeasure towards Steve Kean and the owners. The unedifying spectacle of a strong security presence surrounding the manager while he posed for photographs with the fans merely underlined the surreal situation which the Rovers now find themselves in. Having failed to make the one change that the fans craved in the summer, the owners have ensured that an atmosphere of hostility will continue to pervade Ewood Park for the foreseeable future.
The games themselves gave us little indication of what type of season the Rovers are likely to experience in the coming months. There were times during the match against Fleetwood Town that we looked pretty decent and the more optimistic amongst us might have harboured hopes of a promotion push. However, the performance against Accrington Stanley was so abject and devoid of hope that you didn’t have to be a pessimist to realise that a second successive relegation is not beyond the bounds of possibility.
Personally, I left the Crown firmly of the opinion that much more needs to be done in terms of strengthening the squad in general, and certain positions in particular, if the Rovers are to make any impression on the Championship. Defensively we look thin, particularly at full-back, while both midfield and attack could do with extra bodies.
Teams v Fleetwood Town
Scott Davies (Chris Maxwell 64); Shaun Beeney, Nathan Pond (Kieran Charnock 64), Rob Atkinson, Dean Howell (Alan Goodall 68); Andrew Mangan (Danny Rose 57), Lee Fowler (Alex Titchiner 74), Jamie McGuire, Junior Brown (Rodrigo Branco 68); Steven Gillespie (Richard Allen 52); Jon Parkin (Barry Nicholson 46)
Manager: Micky Mellon
Jake Kean (Sebastian Usai 74); Bruno Ribeiro, Scott Dann, Gael Givet, Josh Morris; Mauro Formica, Danny Murphy, Paulo Jorge, Fabio Nunes; Leon Best, Nuno Gomes (Edinho Junior 74)
Manager: Steve Kean
Teams v Accrington Stanley
Ian Dunbavin (Andrew Dawber 89); Craig Linfield (Adam Stockdale 89), Toto Nsiala (Tom Eckersley 60), Dean Winnard (Peter Murphy 60), Michael Liddle; Luke Joyce (Ryan Hopper 89), George Miller (Bohan Dixon 79); Charlie Barnett (Adam Rundle 54), Luke Clark (Will Hatfield 54), Aidan Chippendale (Brian Smikle 46); Marcus Carver (James Gray 46)
Manager: Paul Cook
Paul Robinson (Sebastian Usai 72); Bradley Orr (Raheem Hanley 46), Grant Hanley, Anthony O’Connor, Adam Henley; Ruben Rochina, Jason Lowe, Radosav Petrovic, Marcus Olsson (Hugo Fernandez 46); David Dunn (Edinho Junior 72); David Goodwillie (Curtis Haley 80)
Manager: Steve Kean
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