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Old Blackburnian's View - Pt 40 - Reading Between The Lines

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An early column this week - due to print deadlines it has to be submitted before the Luton game...so here goes...

Reading Between The Lines

There is no doubt that season 2019/20 will always be associated with an asterisk. A season that started, as so many do, with optimism and hope has unfolded in a somewhat stilted fashion; with some highs and lows along the way, causes for optimism and pessimism, celebration and commiseration. Saturday’s fixture with Reading was almost the perfect microcosm of the season contained in two handy forty-five minute episodes, with barely time for refreshments in between.

Throughout this disjointed season, Rovers have managed to string together a number sequences which stoked the fires of optimism, only to follow up with self-inflicted trauma at inopportune moments. Right from the off, back to back defeats to start, succeeded by back to back victories; six games without a win in September/October, eight games without defeat in November/December; one defeat in ten during January/February, one win in six pre & post lockdown – with streaks like that, a sponsorship from Danish bacon must be a shoo-in.

Saturday afternoon started with Rovers vibrantly on the attack right from the whistle – Brereton as one Twitter wag put it, “keeping up his amazing sequence of scoring in every season he plays for Rovers...” followed by Armstrong, who doubled the lead from the edge of the area to give Rovers a two-goal head start in just six minutes. Reading seemingly mastering the happy knack of pinning Rovers back into Reading’s own penalty box. What could possibly go wrong? Reading introduced a plot twist to the script by pulling one back with a peach of a free-kick and an entertaining half closed at 2-1. All the goals scored with an economy of effort from the only three shots on target.

The second half saw the energetic and impressive Rothwell cut in, shoot from distance and via a deflection, restore the two-goal lead. Once more, what could possibly go wrong? Well let’s not fault Rovers for their creativity and ingenuity in playing Reading back into the game. Two goals in four minutes followed and parity had been restored in the time it takes to hard boil an egg. Young Carter was certainly being introduced to “the Rovers way”.

With time running out and all the substitutes used, inspiration was to come from two of them. A rare sighting of the lesser-spotted Harry Chapman yielded a superb cross to the far post, met with vim and vigour by Sam Gallagher and Rovers’ lead was restored. Thankfully with little time even for Rovers to concede once more, the Ewood season ended with a morale-enhancing home win. No post-game lap of appreciation was forthcoming sadly for the benefit of the appreciative cardboard cut-outs.

Rovers once more between 3pm and 5pm, revealing a heady mix of defensive frailties, midfield creativity and attacking potency that have in turn fuelled disappointment and excitement from August to July. The encouragement that resonated most of all was the sight of seven academy graduates on the field at full time and the oldest player in blue & white being the 26 year-old Darragh Lenihan. A glimpse into the future? Well perhaps, though there many potential pitfalls that aspiring professionals must avoid to have a successful and fulfilling career. One thing for sure, Rovers’ financial position means that their reliance on growing their own is substantial and this was an upbeat note upon which to sign off at Ewood.

Whether the likes of Buckley, Carter, Magloire, Rankin-Costello, Wharton and Vale can be the backbone of a successful Championship side is as yet open to debate but how wonderful would it be for a Rovers equivalent of the “Class of 92” to bring success home?

The season will close finally on Wednesday night with a visit to Kenilworth Road as Rovers take on Luton Town for the first time since 2007, when a Mark Hughes side containing debutant Chris Samba and double goal-scorer Matt Derbyshire, fired Rovers to a 4-0 victory. There is little riding on the midweek outcome for Rovers but pride, Luton though require the three points to keep alive their survival prospects. 

Such is the nature of modern-day football, the big matches that will determine the final placings will take place not on the pitch, but in the courts as the likes of Derby, Sheffield Wednesday and most pertinently, Wigan Athletic, are appealing the threat of points deductions by the EFL. I’m not sure that Rovers academy is yet producing the next generation of barristers, but perhaps it’s an avenue worthy of further investigation?


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