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[Archived] News Article -> 2013/14 Match Report: Derby County 1 Rovers 1

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Derby County (1) 1 – 1 (0) Blackburn Rovers
Russell (pen) 43 Best 89
Referee: S. Attwell Attendance: 21,188

It was rather apt that Gary Bowyer should begin his tenure as manager of Blackburn Rovers at Derby's Pride Park. In the build-up to the game Bowyer had stressed the fact that the rebuilding of the club would be a long-term project and that there were no instant solutions to the problems that are likely to accompany the introduction of the rules surrounding Financial Fair Play. For the past few seasons Nigel Clough has been faced with similar issues of having to reduce the wage bill whilst building a team on limited resources which necessitated the promotion of young players from their academy. Bowyer has begun the task by bringing in a number of new faces at little cost, in terms of transfer fees, but the shedding of high earners is likely to take some time — just as it has done at Pride Park.

Several of Bowyer's new faces were on view at Pride Park as the Rovers showed their battling qualities to overcome adversity and grab a vital point with a late, late goal. Last season it was the opposition who invariably sneaked a late goal to pinch a point or snatch a win and it was a refreshing change to see the Rovers look much fitter in the closing stages of the game. Bowyer had said his pre-season plans revolved around improving the fitness of the players and that certainly looked the case.

As part of the 125-year Football League celebrations both teams were led out by a club legend. In the case of Derby County it was Roy McFarland, the centre-half who led the club to the title under Brian Clough, whilst the Rovers were led out by Bryan Douglas, undoubtedly the greatest player it has been my pleasure to watch in over half a century of following the Rovers.

The travelling Ewood faithful received something of a surprise with the first contribution of new signing Tommy Spurr. The former Doncaster Rovers full-back demonstrated an enormous long throw that caused consternation in the home defence as the ball flew into the penalty area like a missile. Within a minute Spurr demonstrated his ability on the ball when he delivered a cross into the area which came off Jordan Rhodes and landed at the feet of Ruben Rochina. Sadly, the young Spaniard snatched at the chance and managed to stab the ball wide of an inviting goal.

Rochina then sent another effort over the bar before Lee Grant raced from his line to prevent Rhodes from latching onto a dangerous looking ball played into the penalty area. Rochina then turned provider with a delightful ball that played in Alan Judge, who curled his effort just wide of the post.

At this stage the Rovers were dominant and playing some lovely football as they opened up the home side with some slick passing. Derby, by contrast, struggled to find a way through the Rovers defence and their first real opportunity didn't arrive until after 20 minutes when Will Hughes, Derby's highly talented midfielder, chipped the ball over the Rovers defence for Jamie Ward to run onto, but fortunately Jake Kean was quickly off his line and turned the shot wide.

Rovers quickly responded and Rhodes met a corner with his head only to see his attempt blocked on the line by Craig Forsyth. Rochina then blasted a free-kick straight into the wall as the Rovers continued to dominate.

Sadly, the young Spaniard then received a serious shoulder injury in what looked a rather innocuous aerial challenge. As Rochina was stretchered off, he was replaced by Leon Best, a player who had spent the majority of last season out of action due to a cruciate injury. With DJ Campbell, Matt Kilgallon, Adam Henley, Paul Robinson, Lee Williamson, Dickson Etuhu and John O'Sullivan already out of action with injuries the Rovers are certainly not enjoying the best of fortune at the moment.

The lengthy delay while Rochina received treatment seemed to knock the Rovers out of their stride. The half ended with Derby beginning to enjoy more possession and suddenly the Rovers defence found themselves coming under pressure for the first time in the game. Just as it looked as if the Rovers might reach the sanctuary of the dressing room at half-time to regroup, the flailing arm of Alex Marrow made contact with the ball as a Jamie Ward free-kick was played into the area. Referee Stuart Attwell had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Johnny Russell stepped up and sent Kean the wrong way as his drilled the ball into the bottom corner of the net.

Derby began the second half in much the same way as they ended the first period. The Rovers continued to struggle to find the rhythm that they had shown earlier in the game. However, on the hour mark they almost equalised when Alan Judge played a ball across the six-yard box, but Best could only lunge at the ball and divert it against the post rather than finding the back of the net.

Kean was then forced to make a good stop from a Richard Keogh drive as Derby continued to come forward in search of a second goal.

Bowyer shuffled the pack with the introduction of Chris Taylor and Tom Cairney and their arrival helped to allow the Rovers to take some control of proceedings. As the game entered the last ten minutes the Rovers seemed to have nullified Derby and were enjoying much better possession and causing the home defence an increasing number of problems.

A couple of shouts for a penalty, which could have gone either way, went against the Rovers and it looked as if they would run out of time as they desperately searched for an equaliser. However, after 89 minutes they finally found the goal that had eluded them for so long. Todd Kane played the ball into the area but it came out to Taylor who immediately whipped it back into the box and Best was on hand to volley the ball home despite having his back to goal. As Best went to celebrate with Dave Fevre, who had worked so hard to get him restored to full fitness, the travelling fans celebrated a result which the Rovers thoroughly deserved.

Jake Kean enjoyed another impressive afternoon and dealt with everything that came his way with a quiet confidence. Kean looks like becoming a top goalkeeper and it is easy to forget that, in goalkeeping terms, he is still exceptionally young.

A youngster who had a difficult afternoon was Todd Kane. The Chelsea youngster, who was so impressive during his loan spells last season, has struggled to find his form in pre-season and he received something of a chasing in this game. However, like all young players his form will dip from time to time and whilst there is no doubting his ability at the moment his touch and decision-making are yet to reach the same standard as last season.

On the opposite flank Tommy Spurr enjoyed an impressive debut. Tall, slim and quick, he showed a good touch and was quick in the tackle. Clearly his long throw will be a welcome addition to the Rovers' attacking options.

Scott Dann and Grant Hanley combined well in the centre of defence and one can only hope that the club can retain Dann so as not to disrupt this partnership.

Josh King got the nod on the right of midfield but was fairly disappointing in terms of what he produced. Whilst he has pace his end product is very erratic and defensively he is not the best at tracking back to help his full-back. On the opposite flank Alan Judge was far more effective and he delivered several dangerous looking crosses and also worked hard to help out defensively.

In the centre of midfield the much maligned duo of Jason Lowe and Alex Marrow did a workman-like, if unspectacular, job of defending in front of the two centre-backs. Neither produces much in the way of creativity but both worked hard at trying to close down the opposition. Lowe was caught in possession on a few occasions but was able to get back and retrieve the situation. Marrow was overly robust at times and conceded several free-kicks. Their work rate couldn't be faulted and clearly this is the reason they are in the team.

In attack, Ruben Rochina was his usual mixture of brilliance and exasperation until his injury. He looked capable of finding an opening and the injury is a blow as it would have been interesting to see if Gary Bowyer could have harnessed his undoubted skill and integrated it into the team dynamic.

Jordan Rhodes, who has been virtually anonymous during pre-season games, had another quiet afternoon. Perhaps one decent opportunity and one decent shout for a penalty were his main contributions. Leon Best, who was Rochina's replacement, gave the home defence rather more problems and ought to have done better with the effort which hit the post. However, his strike for the equalising goal was a wonderful effort.

Chris Taylor looked more than useful when he replaced King and although he might not have the same speed, his contribution was far more useful in terms of his distribution of the ball and ability to defend as well as attack. Tom Cairney didn't really get much time to catch the eye, but what he did was neat and tidy and he looks like a defensive midfield player who can distribute the ball with a good degree of accuracy.

All things considered it was a very promising start for Gary Bowyer. However, it is early days and the rebuilding of the club is going to take time — certainly more than a season or two — as there aren't the funds to buy the type of player who is likely to bring instant success. However, with the right coaching and gradual improvement the signs are there that the slow process of recovery might just have begun.


Derby County

Lee Grant; Kieron Freeman, Richard Keogh, Jake Buxton, Craig Forsyth; Jeff Hendrick, Craig Bryson, Will Hughes (John Eustace 81), Jamie Ward; Chris Martin (Conor Sammon 84), Johnny Russell (Paul Coutts 62)
Subs not used: Adam Legzdins (gk), Adam Smith, Michael Jacobs, Ben Davies
Manager: Nigel Clough

Blackburn Rovers

Jake Kean; Todd Kane, Scott Dann, Grant Hanley, Tommy Spurr; Josh King (Chris Taylor 64), Alex Marrow (Tom Cairney 77), Jason Lowe, Alan Judge; Ruben Rochina (Leon Best 39); Jordan Rhodes
Subs not used: Simon Eastwood (gk), Gael Givet, Markus Olsson, David Dunn
Manager: Gary Bowyer


Derby County – Paul Coutts

Blackburn Rovers – Leon Best, Todd Kane

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