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Old Blackburnian's View - Pt 14 - Is This Is A Crisis...a Large Crisis ?

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A slightly longer version of this week's Accrington Observer column

Is This Is A Crisis...a Large Crisis ?

It’s the crushing inevitability. The sense of foreboding that comes from fearing something going so well can’t possibly continue. The growing fear that fate is conspiring to snatch glory away from you in the cruellest possible way. However, England responded to the pressure, dug in at 13-7 and eventually added a further 6 points to record a handsome victory and book a place in the Rugby World Cup final, against the odds. A fast start, early scores, discipline, tenacity and team spirit all combining to make light of the fact that New Zealand had won 15 of the previous 16 encounters.

Now, let’s do that “A Level” arts staple of the compare and contrast exercise shall we ?

Deepdale, Saturday afternoon and a chastened Blackburn Rovers team facing a Preston team that they have failed to beat in any of the previous five meetings, comes out of the traps very much on the front foot, looking for all the world like a side re-born. Sam Gallagher is straining at the leash like an excitable Golden Retriever keen to chase squirrels in the park. Amari’i Bell is prowling down the left flank, probing for weaknesses, daring Preston players to even try and stop him. Adam Armstrong is the coiled spring, his raw pace a weapon to be unleashed on a Preston defence seemingly wearing leaden boots.

Just a minute in, Gallagher scores or if you are a killjoy of epic proportions, Gallagher powers a header off the inside of the post, the diving Declan Rudd flails and the ball touches his shoulder on the way into the goal and it’s apparently therefore an own goal (it really isn’t...). Roughly four & a half thousand Rovers fans housed behind the goal at the opposite end celebrate wildly, irrespective of the designated scorer.

The game continues in the same vein. Rovers are irresistible, attack after attack, Preston are much like the Led Zep classic, “Dazed and Confused”. Just ten minutes later, Gallagher strikes again, this time shaping a lovely left-footed curler inside the far post and on this occasion, he definitely has his first league goal of the season. Rovers are two ahead after just eleven minutes, on the “Stairway To Heaven” ?

How do Rovers fans react ? Well, jubilation obviously, but thoughts drift, memories of Brentford in February seep into the conscience. It’s the crushing inevitability.

After thirty minutes, Preston boss Alex Neil decides that enough is enough and he turns to his bench and deploys a six-foot, two-inch battering ram by the name of Jayden Stockley. A man with nine appearances and three goals on his CV whilst on loan at Accrington Stanley in 2011. The sacrificial lamb is former Rover and playmaker Paul Gallagher. The “Gallagher of the Match” award is to be Sam’s, not Paul’s.

For the rest of the half, Rovers try to work out how to handle Stockley and Preston work out how best to use him. Rovers reach half-time largely unscathed with the two-goal lead intact.

But Rovers fans just know. Nothing in life is achieved without a struggle, there has to be labore as well as arte

"Just keep it tight for 10-15 minutes at the start of the second half, put Adarabioyo on Stockley, sit a bit deeper, use Armstrong’s pace and Gallagher’s strength and a third breakaway goal seals the deal. Ten minutes, just keep it tight, because if we concede one, well that changes the dynamic". That’s the crushing inevitability, right there.

Rovers managed just eight minutes before Christian Walton decided to perform the goalkeeping equivalent of an opening batsman; not sure where his stumps begin and end, shouldering arms, only to see the ball nip back late and hit off stump three quarters of the way up. As a pretty harmless and aimless cross drifted over to the back post, Walton allowed it to pass clean over his head to where Sean Maguire was standing. Maguire who probably couldn’t believe his luck, nodded it back to Barkhuizen, one down. “Good Times, Bad Times” is added to the  "PNE Led Zep" playlist.

At that moment, Rovers on-field presence seemed to evaporate. All the first half energy evidently dissipated as a result of just one fatal error by Walton. From that moment on, the momentum was flowing in one direction; away from the Rovers fans in the Shankly End towards Walton’s goal, Stockley the North End focal point.

Elliott Bennett reprised his Huddersfield trick of conceding a clumsy penalty. Johnson took an eternity to take it but converted cleanly and Rovers’ lead had evaporated inside twenty minutes of the restart. From here on in, there was only one winner. Barkhuizen finally administered the mercy killing with a fine third with less than ten minutes to go and Rovers fans knew deep in their hearts that it was coming. You knew, I knew, we all knew, it’s the crushing inevitability.

The pressure on Rovers boss Tony Mowbray is obviously growing with each successive slip up. That comes with the territory. But this time, this sequence feels a bit different somehow. The terrible run of February and March was eventually turned around and promises were issued that lessons had been learned and that defenders were coming. One of those mooted defenders played on Saturday, just not in a Rovers shirt. This time it has a whiff of the last days of Souness, a generally well-respected, well-liked manager in danger of tarnishing his legacy. If Middlesbrough sack Woodgate and come in for Mowbray the parallels will be adding up.

That second half capitulation showed just how fragile the team’s confidence is currently. A relatively benign fixture list has yielded just two points from the last six games and now throws up matches at home against Sheffield Wednesday and away at Leeds United, two teams presently lording it in the top five. Tony Mowbray has to find a solution and quickly, or else the cries for his removal will grow yet louder. That too is a crushing inevitability.

We are not yet quite at Captain Blackadder levels of crisis definition, “...a twelve-storey crisis with a magnificent entrance hall, carpeting throughout, 24-hour portage, and an enormous sign on the roof, saying 'This Is a Large Crisis'..” but that run of “winnable” games seems to be well and truly over.

The key question now is "Does Tony have a Baldrick-style cunning plan ?" 

Six without a win.




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5 minutes ago, Herbie6590 said:

Thank you, much appreciated.

yes much more in tune with the situation than that clown writing in todays LT. Still, there is always the Bingo to look forward to when the football fails us!!


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Really enjoying these columns, well written and a fun read. 

Not sure for me this run feels different from last season's mega bad run other than the fact that there's more frustration because of the same blasted mistakes as last season, which is astounding. Both looked like we couldn't buy a win, looked relegation candidates and had deep lying issues that a win or two would only paper over. 

Worrying times. 

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1 hour ago, Blue blood said:

Really enjoying these columns, well written and a fun read. 

Not sure for me this run feels different from last season's mega bad run other than the fact that there's more frustration because of the same blasted mistakes as last season, which is astounding. Both looked like we couldn't buy a win, looked relegation candidates and had deep lying issues that a win or two would only paper over. 

Worrying times. 

Thanks for the feedback, appreciated

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On 01/11/2019 at 19:50, Herbie6590 said:

Thanks for the feedback, appreciated

" In fact, if you've got a moment, it's a 12 story Crisis, with a magnificent entrance hall, carpeting throughout, 24 hour porterage and an enormous sign on the roof saying " This is a large crisis " ! A large crisis calls for a large plan ! Get me 2 pencils and a pair of underpants.. "  

Very much enjoying your columns, " Herbie6590 ", I'm sure the 1970's English Department at your  " alma mata " would be purring in approval !!    

Edited by sympatheticclaret
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