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[Archived] News Article -> 2013/14 Match Report: Rovers 1 Watford 0

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Blackburn Rovers (0) 1 – 0 (0) Watford
Rhodes 65
Referee: S. Duncan Attendance: 12,981

After the encouraging performance at Bournemouth on Saturday the Rovers followed it up with another impressive ninety minutes against Gianfranco Zola's highly-rated Watford at Ewood Park. A 1–0 win was no less than the Rovers deserved from a highly entertaining game in which both sides created chances.

As expected, Gary Bowyer retained the starting eleven that had done so well at Bournemouth but was able to welcome Alan Judge and Ben Marshall back to the bench. Zola, on the other hand, made five changes from the team which beat Wigan Athletic at the weekend.

The game started at a decent pace with both sides looking to get forward at every opportunity. Like Bournemouth, Watford employed three centre-backs and two wing-backs but, unlike the Cherries, Watford look to have perfected the system with Scottish international Ikechi Anya looking particularly dangerous down the left wing.

The Rovers' first opportunity to break the deadlock came on the quarter-hour mark when Tom Cairney played the ball out to Josh King on the left wing. The Norwegian international's low cross was cleared as far as Corry Evans, who was lurking on the edge of the penalty area. Evans wasted no time in slipping a delicate little pass through to Jordan Rhodes. The Rovers striker beat the offside trap and, although in the clear, he dragged his shot wide of the far post.

The first half developed into something of a game of cat and mouse. Watford were happy to sit deep and flood the midfield areas and then look to hit the Rovers on the break.

The visitors always presented a threat with their pace in attack. However, apart from a Lewis McGugan volley that went wide they had few genuine opportunities in front of goal. Similarly, the Rovers enjoyed plenty of possession but were unable to create any clear-cut chances.

As half-time approached, both sides came close to breaking the deadlock. A cross from Davide Faraoni found Javier Acuna, but his headed attempt was blocked by Todd Kane. At the other end, Josh King fired wide before a Tommy Spurr cross was headed back across goal by Leon Best towards Rhodes. As the Rovers player went for the ball, he appeared to be pushed to the ground, but the referee waved play on and the ball broke for Evans, who fired just inches wide from about 18 yards out. The claim for a penalty seemed a strong one as the Watford defender seemed to climb all over Rhodes in his quest for the ball.

The second half saw Watford make a change with Diego Fabbrini replacing Acuna, whilst the Rovers remained as they were in the first half.

Watford had an early opportunity to take the lead, but Anya wasted it. McGugan then had an effort on goal which took a deflection before being claimed by Jake Kean.

The Rovers started to get their attacking game together and King began to show his pace down the left. One such run ended with Manuel Almunia having to make a save and moments earlier the former Arsenal 'keeper had been on hand to save an effort from Rhodes.

The Rovers gradually built up a head of steam and after 65 minutes they gained their reward with a goal which was straight from the training ground. As Spurr waited to take a long throw, Scott Dann moved up towards the near post. Spurr's throw found the head of Dann, who flicked the ball across goal for Rhodes to rise above the defence and head home.

On the hour mark Gary Bowyer substituted Best, who is clearly still finding his way back to full fitness, with Ben Marshall and the former Leicester man took up a position just behind Rhodes. Marshall was soon in the thick of the action and after evading two challenges he sent in a fierce effort which flew just wide.

Marshall then almost turned provider when he drifted to the left wing and after a neat piece of footwork to escape his marker he sent over a dangerous-looking cross only to see Rhodes flick it away from the head of the oncoming Tom Cairney.

Watford continued to try to force their way back into the match, but efforts from Anya and Forestieri were off target. As the game drew to a conclusion, Markus Olsson replaced King, who had clearly run himself to a standstill. However, more worryingly, as the game moved into the five minutes of added time, Dann left the field with what looked like a thigh strain. He was replaced by Matt Kilgallon, who was making his senior debut for the club.

After one or two anxious moments the Rovers actually saw out the game quite comfortably and were able to keep the ball in the corners at the Watford end as the visitors desperately tried to get possession.

The last two games have been hugely encouraging, but more importantly it has been the manner in which those wins were achieved that has been so impressive. Gary Bowyer has got the side playing some quick, incisive football which is a joy to watch. The defence looks reasonably solid, the midfield is far more creative than twelve months ago and Rhodes is now enjoying better support from King and Best.

Jake Kean didn't have much to do, but what he did he did quietly and efficiently with no mistakes.

Todd Kane made an important block in the first half and got forward throughout the game. Unfortunately, his final ball was disappointing and all too often possession was lost.

Tommy Spurr didn't get forward too much, but he was solid enough at left-back and, of course, his long throw led to the goal.

Scott Dann had an outstanding game and continues to grow as a leader on the pitch. He was imperious throughout until injury forced him from the field in the closing minutes. His role in the set-piece which led to the goal was crucial.

Grant Hanley had another solid game and completely snuffed out the threat of Troy Deeney. At the end of last season Deeney had led Hanley a merry dance, but on this occasion the Watford striker never got a kick.

Although Tom Cairney was nominally given the role on the right of midfield, he tended to wander infield at every opportunity to look at ways of unlocking the visiting defence. It was another impressive performance from the Hull City midfielder and his partnership with Evans and Lowe is becoming increasingly impressive.

Jason Lowe enjoyed another excellent game following on from his impressive performance at Bournemouth. He covered the ground in front of the back four and closed the gaps that Watford tried to exploit. He was voted man of the match at Ewood on the night.

Corry Evans again showed that there is more to his game than just defensive qualities. Time and time again he got forward and found gaps in and around the Watford penalty area. Although his passing wasn't always perfect, he is quickly becoming a key member of this side.

Josh King again demonstrated that his pace will trouble any defence in this league. In the second half the visitors simply had no answer to his electric runs down the left. At times his final ball could have been better, but he continues to remain a constant threat.

Although Leon Best had a quieter game than against Bournemouth, there is no doubt that his inclusion brings extra qualities to the Rovers' attacking options. He won the majority of aerial battles that he was involved in and he provided the sort of support which Rhodes has lacked for so long. Once he is fully fit, one feels that he will be a major asset leading the line and taking some of the pressure off Rhodes.

Jordan Rhodes, although not as clinical as usual, was on hand to score the vital goal. He showed a much better appetite for working defenders and his link-up play with Best, King and Marshall was highly encouraging. Cairney and Evans are beginning to spot his runs, which will hopefully see him enjoy more chances in the opposition area.

Ben Marshall gave a brief cameo and looked better than in any of his earlier appearances. Supporting Rhodes in the middle he looked quite tricky and when he wandered onto the left he delivered one or two dangerous crosses.

With ten games gone the Rovers find themselves in eighth position in the table and looking up at the play-off places rather than worrying about the bottom three. It is, of course, too early to say if they can turn what looks a solid mid-table side into a play-off chasing one, but on the evidence of what we have seen so far there looks to be no danger of last season's flirtation with relegation being repeated.


Blackburn Rovers

Jake Kean; Todd Kane, Scott Dann (Matt Kilgallon 90), Grant Hanley, Tommy Spurr; Tom Cairney, Jason Lowe, Corry Evans, Josh King (Markus Olsson 83); Leon Best (Ben Marshall 61), Jordan Rhodes
Subs not used: Simon Eastwood (gk), Lee Williamson, Alex Marrow, Alan Judge
Manager: Gary Bowyer


Manuel Almunia; Essaid Belkalem, Gabriele Angella, Marco Cassetti; Iriney (Josh McEachran 61); Davide Faraoni, Cristian Battocchio (Fernando Forestieri 72), Lewis McGugan, Ikechi Anya; Troy Deeney, Javier Acuna (Diego Fabbrini 46)
Subs not used: Jonathan Bond (gk), Lloyd Doyley, Sean Murray, Daniel Pudil
Manager: Gianfranco Zola


Blackburn Rovers – Leon Best, Corry Evans

Watford – Lewis McGugan, Davide Faraoni

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