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Old Blackburnian's View - Pt 30 - Rehabilitated Rovers' Rapid Rise

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This week's slightly extended "Accrington Observer" column...

Rehabilitated Rovers' Rapid Rise 

Cast your mind back to the opening day of the season, newly-promoted Charlton visited Ewood as one of the pre-season favourites for relegation and Rovers were expected, unusually, to record an opening day win. It didn’t happen as we know of course. The first instance, but certainly not the last this season, of a poor result leading to expectations being lowered and the manager’s ability and acumen questioned.

The atmosphere leading up to the return fixture on Saturday was heavily influenced by the respective run of results of the two teams. Charlton arrived on the back of a topsy-turvy sequence of form DLDWLW; that last W impressively coming away at Forest in midweek, whilst Rovers’ run of just one defeat in the last six seemed to indicate that this would be a tough encounter for each team. Charlton to their credit experimented with an innovative pricing experiment of £5 admission and were rewarded with an attendance of more than 25,000 (including more than 2,000 visiting fans), an increase of more than 25% on the previous home fixture.  

The opening exchanges pointed to the home team being inspired by the swelled ranks of their support. Their passing was sharper and more incisive than Rovers and the visitors had to work hard to establish a foothold in the opening quarter. Slowly but surely however, Rovers started to take greater control of possession and moved the ball around with increasing confidence and accuracy.  

The ever-lengthening injury toll has to an extent forced Tony Mowbray’s hand when selecting the team, reducing his options and preventing Bristol City (a) style reorganisation. One can only imagine that the WhatsApp group messages owe more to a Sunday league pub team than a professional football club:-

Big T: “Who can make it Saturday then lads?”

Dacky: “I’ll be there..but only to cheer you on...”

JoRo: “Hammy still a bit tight boss...count me out”

Bucko: *waving emoji, smiley face*

Cornelius: “No boss...just no...*attached photo of Quasimodo*”

DomSam: *waving emoji with clasped hands in prayer emoji*


Mowbray’s shrewd signing of Stewart Downing allied to the youthful exuberance of Lewis Travis has certainly reinvented the midfield, Travis in particular has blossomed this season, whilst Saturday pleasingly saw the successful rehabilitation of Johnson and Buckley as his midfield compadrés. Johnson and Travis prowled and snarled, hunting like a pair of starving dogs to close down, win the ball and move it quickly to exploit space. Downing though continues to defy the ageing process, much like a footballing Dorian Gray. Somewhere in an album, there is a Panini sticker of a visibly grey, wrinkled and weary former Middlesbrough winger.

It was great to see Buckley back in the team and looking lively, skipping around challenges, threading passes and doing his share of tracking and tackling.The Huddersfield tribulations seemingly a distant, if painful memory. His run and shot to open the scoring was due reward for his endeavours, albeit it took a fairly heavy deflection to wrong-foot Charlton keeper Philips. It reminded me a little of Scott Sellars, another lightweight but skilful player capable of teasing, evading then punishing the opponent.

Another returnee to the starting XI after a long injury rehabilitation was Dominic Samuel. His pace and strength proved problematic for Charlton throughout. One run in particular led to strong calls for a penalty as Pearce was outmuscled and out sprinted and brought down Samuel with a combination of arms round the waist combined with falling on Samuel’s ankle that would have been rightly praised by Eddie Jones, but the referee had seen a foul by Samuel earlier in the move as the two were jostling for supremacy. Let’s be charitable and say it’s one of those that if you get away with it as a defender, you are mighty relieved. Rovers felt like they were very much the wronged party.

At the back, Tosin Adarabioyo and Darragh Lenihan seem to have gelled, the City man demonstrating an eye for a pass that betrays his Guardiola heritage although his tendency to try an elaborate flick or to dwell under pressure causes the occasional palpitation. Sadly, any lingering hopes of keeping him beyond this season seem now to have worsened following Uefa's punishment, City now significantly less likely to be able to buy expensive alternatives may need to blood a few more of their academy graduates.

Adarabioyo's threat from attacking positions though is constant and it was his thigh that brought the second from a free kick swung in by Downing. “To err is human, Tosin is divine” you might say. The foul leading up to the Rovers free kick was at best marginal; but as is often said – these things even themselves out, but rarely in the same game. Two-nil up away from home and of course the words “Brentford” and “Preston” were mentioned in despatches but Rovers were to prove themselves up to the task this time around.

That’s not to say that there weren’t any scares, Christian Walton had made a couple of decent saves early on in the game whilst Charlton were in the ascendency but he saved the best till last with a fabulous stretching, finger-tip save that required all his height to reach. Walton also falls into the category of rehabilitated Rovers players. His form in recent weeks you hope, is the benchmark for the remainder of the season.

Another tidy away win, another clean sheet, a six-point week and once more, those pesky play-offs hove into view. At 5pm, it became apparent that only Rovers and Leeds in the top ten had won and the gap to sixth was now back to a tantalising three points. Rovers seem to be following the plot of a Warner Bros cartoon, the Wile E Coyote to the Road Runner's Top Six finish if you like. Shirt sponsorship from Acme can only be a matter of time.

In order to climb into those places, cement the position and send a warning message to their rivals, Rovers will have to start beating the teams above and around them. Of the current top six teams, Rovers have so far only managed to beat one of them – Brentford, at Ewood, back in November.

Who’s next up? That’s right, Brentford; though this time, away from home, in a farewell to Griffin Park. If Rovers truly believe and want to establish credibility as genuine play-off candidates, winning a difficult lunchtime fixture on Saturday would be a terrific place to start. 


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1 hour ago, windymiller7 said:

Cheers Herbie.

Great read as always, although I have to confess I had to Google what the Dorain Gray reference was all about & immediately felt very uneducated! No such problems with Roadrunner & Wile E Coyote though! ?

Educational & entertaining...all I hoped for...thank you ??

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