|Chorley||(1) 2 – 3 (2)||Blackburn Rovers|
|Denham 19, Vermiglio 67||Goodwillie 25, Pedersen 27, Dunn 52|
|Referee: P. Dermot||Attendance: 642|
Originally scheduled to be a reserve team friendly, this match was upgraded to first-team status as Steve Kean opted to mix senior players with some of the club’s more promising youngsters. The result was a fairly entertaining affair with the performance of Simon Vukcevic — something of a Lord Lucan figure at Ewood Park — being the main talking point of the evening. On the evidence of his first pre-season appearance it would appear that Vukcevic could yet have a part to play for the Rovers as the quality of his use of the ball was highly impressive. On the day that the manager announced that the additions of Colin Kazim-Richards, Diogo Rosado and another forward would see the end of incoming transfers, it’s clear that although the senior squad is large in numbers, doubts remain about the quality of many of those numbers. Certainly the performances of Vukcevic, Morten Gamst Pedersen and David Dunn suggested the club can ill afford to dispose of them as easily as some would suggest.
The Rovers made a sluggish start and Grant Hanley was forced to hack the ball away for a corner after Jake Kean miscontrolled the ball in the opening minutes.
Josh Morris then shot wildly over, while Vukcevic found the back of the net after a pinpoint pass by Pedersen only to find his attempt ruled out by an offside flag. In a game that ebbed and flowed, Kieran Kilheeney tried a spectacular volley when well placed in front of goal but saw his effort fly high over the bar.
The home side took the lead on 19 minutes when former Clitheroe player Simon Garner crossed the ball into the area and, after the Rovers defence failed to deal with it, Chris Denham was on hand to score from close range. Once again, questions must be asked about the ease with which the opposition were able to attack down the flank and capitalise on what was nothing more than a simple bread-and-butter cross.
Fortunately, the goal brought an immediate response from the Rovers and Vukcevic showed his quality in the build-up to the goal when he played a lovely ball into the path of David Goodwillie as the Scot broke into the area. Goodwillie showed great composure in rounding the ‘keeper before slotting the ball into the net.
Two minutes later the Rovers had taken the lead thanks to a superb piece of opportunism by Pedersen. Andy Robertson, in the Chorley goal, came out of his area to clear the ball, which fell to Pedersen just inside the Chorley half. The Norwegian international wasted no time in firing the ball back over the heads of the home defence and into the back of the net. It was a wonderful goal and a timely remainder to the manager that the quality that Pedersen has in his locker is something that the club is going to need in the Championship.
Goodwillie then fired just over after more promising build-up play, while Rochina worked a good shooting position for himself, but his final effort lacked power and Robertson had no problem in gathering the ball safely in.
Adam Roscoe came closest for Chorley with a fine long-range effort which Kean couldn’t hold but did well to collect at the second attempt with a Chorley player in close attendance.
The second half didn’t bring any substitutions, but the Rovers rearranged their line-up with several players swapping positions. Bradley Orr moved over to right-back with Adam Henley switching to the right of midfield. Simon Vukcevic moved over to the left wing and Josh Morris dropped to left-back.
The Rovers started the second half quite brightly with Pedersen and Dunn prompting from the centre of midfield and Vukcevic working hard down the left wing. On 52 minutes the Rovers scored a third goal when Rochina showed a neat touch to play in Dunn, who fired the ball across the goal into the far corner of the net.
It was at this point that Steve Kean and Garry Flitcroft started to make a plethora of substitutions and the game suffered as a result with both sides trying to adjust to the continual change in personnel.
On 67 minutes the home side pulled themselves back into the game thanks to a superb strike by Jamie Vermiglio which flew past Jake Kean, who moments earlier had made a terrific save at point-blank range from a Steve Foster header to foil the home side.
As the game entered the final ten minutes, Matt Jansen entered the fray to the delight of both sets of supporters. Four minutes from the end the home side were awarded a free-kick in front of goal and Jansen blasted a fierce shot which Kean did well to fingertip over the bar for a corner.
Hugo Fernandez, who looked very impressive during his short stint on the pitch, tried to curl an effort into the top corner but was wide of the mark.
The performances of Vukcevic, Pedersen and Dunn were encouraging, but again questions were raised about the defensive qualities of the team, with the full-back positions looking particularly weak.
The Rovers close their pre-season against Cork City on Sunday, while Gary Bowyer will be left to find another fixture for his young side after having had to give way to the seniors for this game.
Andy Robertson; Kieran Walmsley (Mark Ross 59), Andy Teague, Andy Russell, Simon Garner (Matt Jansen 82); Chris Denham (Tom Williams 59), Adam Roscoe, Jamie Vermiglio, Tom Ince (A.N. Other 68); Steve Foster, Kieran Kilheeney (Ahmadi Proya 59)
Manager: Garry Flitcroft
Jake Kean; Adam Henley, Grant Hanley, Anthony O’Connor, Bradley Orr (Kellen Daly 75); Simon Vukcevic (Edinho 64), Ruben Rochina (Osayamen Osawe 81), Morten Gamst Pedersen (John O’Sullivan 64), Josh Morris; David Dunn (Hugo Fernandez 75); David Goodwillie (Raheem Hanley 64)
Sub not used: Sebastian Usai (gk)
Manager: Steve Kean
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Editor’s note: Since publication, we have received an update on the Chorley team: Ahmadi Proya replaced Kieran Kilheeney (not Proya Amedi) and Tom Ince was replaced by someone other than Russ Saunders.