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Herbie6590

Old Blackburnian's View - Pt 5 - Cutting Edge & Creativity Continue to Elude Rovers 

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

 

On a day when the mercury rose to levels that broke records around the country, the scene was perfectly set for a keenly-fought contest. Visitors from another country venturing north, seemingly set to impose their will on the hosts and demonstrate their belief in their inherent superiority. Blue skies, glorious sun, the smell of freshly mown turf combining with the knowledge that with some rugged defiance and determination, the hosts, you hoped, could at the very least frustrate the visitors, if not chalk up an unlikely win. On this glorious Saturday, England’s middle order did for once show some grit and determination at Headingley, setting up what was to become a truly Superlative Sunday, but for now, let’s turn our attention to the events that unfolded at Ewood!

Cardiff are many people’s favourites to bounce straight back up to the Premier League. They have largely kept their squad together, adding Vaulks from Rotherham Utd, who only made it to the bench but under the canny and experienced Colin Anagram, only the foolish would under-estimate them. 

They have proved to be obdurate opponents in recent times, Rovers’ sole victory in over thirty years coming in an FA Cup replay in 2005. City showed their incisive attacking ability in the first half, hitting the post from their best opportunity, created down Rovers’ perennially troublesome right back channel and shortly afterwards, forcing a smart, low save from Walton.

Rovers too created chances, the estate agency of “Dack & Graham” (see Old Blackburnian passim) largely responsible; a number of viewings, a few exchanges but sadly no completions this time around. (That’s enough estate agency allusions- Ed). Downing looked lively throughout and the answer to the pre-season poser, so far at least, is that he is closer to Wagstaffe than Whittingham in the magic left peg stakes.

We need to talk about Amari’i Bell. He looked lively early on, encouraged to go forward, he seems to be suffering a crisis of confidence. His decision-making currently lets him down on too many occasions. He has had a tough year losing his father, but playing through it, which shows his commitment and strength of character. You can’t help but wonder if a spell with a sports psychologist might just unlock the fear that currently seems to grip him? You sense that Greg Cunningham’s primacy is not currently under threat, except in games against Cardiff City of course.

For once, Tony Mowbray’s second half substitutions seemed to re-energise the side. Adam Armstrong’s pace and tenacity in particular presented Cardiff with a different problem to solve. Dack & Graham had been well marshalled by Cardiff’s strong centre backs (Flint certainly exemplifying his nominative determinism) and if the Flint lock was to be picked, the sense was that subtlety or pace, rather than brute strength might prove crucial. Nyambe’s introduction allowed Bennett to move forward to a position in which he seems more suited and the side from then on, seemed more balanced and threatening.

Rovers best spell of the game was probably the last ten minutes. A reaction to some Cardiff pressure that had seen them hit Rovers’ post for a second time, saw the newly discovered potent attacking threat of *checks notes* Derrick Williams, (see…it’s not just Sheffield Utd that do overlapping centre-backs) responding in kind; same post, same outcome as Cardiff’s earlier. It was to be Rovers’ best chance of the game. Darragh Lenihan channelled his inner Roy Keane but his always rising shot on the turn flew into the Blackburn End. Gritty defiance on display at Ewood but a distinct lack of a cutting edge. The script at Headingley on the other hand…

One curious footnote, albeit from an entirely unscientific study conducted with my own, admittedly flawed, eyesight. During the entire match, I don’t recall Johnson ever passing to his midfield partner Travis. I shall watch out for this in future games to see if my evidence gathering is faulty or if there is some sort of a trend developing, but it seems unusual for two central midfielders to be disconnected in this way.

Tuesday night brought Carabao Cup action back to the menu with a trip to Bramall Lane and an encounter with the newly promoted Blades. Rovers came off second best twice in last season’s Championship encounters but until you see the team sheets in this competition, predicting any outcome is something of a fool’s errand.

As it turned out, both sides made significant changes; Rovers gave a start to Buckley and later introduced Rankin-Costello for his second appearance. An early spot kick from Armstrong was saved, no Charlie Mulgrew nor Danny Graham of course; Armstrong might just have dropped back to the bottom of the list. 

Deputy keeper Leutwiler looked shaky at a corner as Shearman nodded Utd in front. Whilst Walton seems to be slowly but surely building some confidence, Leutwiler does little to inspire confidence in his back four. For such a tall guy, he seems unable to capitalize on his physique. The goalkeeping position remains unresolved. Norwood made it two just before half time and that seemed to be that.

However, a second half fight back saw Gallagher notch the first of his second Rovers spell and it was suddenly game on. Rankin-Costello dribbled into the area and around the keeper but couldn't finish. The match ended with a couple of feisty encounters on and off the pitch, Tony Mowbray was sent to the stands after apparently offering an etiquette lecture to a ball boy…no really, but all to no avail. The Carabao Cup can be parked for another season.

Next up is The Hawthorns and a meeting with the Baggies that naturally evokes memories of last season’s quite extraordinary fixture. A match which saw the emergence of the #GingerNinja phenomenon, Smallwood going in goal following Raya’s clash with Jay Rodriguez and the sight of Charlie Mulgrew standing outside McDonalds on his phone right after the game, in full club tracksuit. 

The fact that none of those players will feature on Saturday shows how quickly the composition of football teams changes, but not so the fans. We’ll be there once more of course, around the country, supporting our teams…unless you are a Bury fan and cannot be sure whether you will have the chance ever again.

At the time of writing, the deadline from the EFL has passed and Bury have been expelled from the League; 72 become 71 and their fans now must hope for a phoenix club to rise from the ashes of this debacle. Learning that 43 of the 51 businesses that Steve Dale has been involved in have been liquidated, yet he was allowed to take control, truly beggars belief.

Hopefully the farcical events of this season will finally prompt some changes in regulations by the EFL, but I wouldn't reckon on it. A sorry state of affairs all round, which highlights some serious governance shortcomings in the clubs and within the League.

There but for the Grace of God…

 

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Good read as always, interesting that you made note of Downing not making a pass to Travis as I have a theory here that I think we might start to see come into place over the next month or two that could be part of this.

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2 hours ago, @UKLightCreation said:

Good read as always, interesting that you made note of Downing not making a pass to Travis as I have a theory here that I think we might start to see come into place over the next month or two that could be part of this.

Johnson not Downing pal. Tell us your theory?

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8 hours ago, old darwen blue said:

Johnson not Downing pal. Tell us your theory?

I’m struggling to rationalise it...still gathering evidence. 2nd half today, thought Travis was a lot better when Johnson went off. Be interested in other observations as I might be introducing confirmation bias. 

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45 minutes ago, Herbie6590 said:

I’m struggling to rationalise it...still gathering evidence. 2nd half today, thought Travis was a lot better when Johnson went off. Be interested in other observations as I might be introducing confirmation bias. 

Though you couldn’t have two accounts on here you naughty boy 😏

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1 hour ago, old darwen blue said:

Though you couldn’t have two accounts on here you naughty boy 😏

I haven’t...I thought you were asking me...

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1 hour ago, Herbie6590 said:

I haven’t...I thought you were asking me...

Ah that explains it I wondered why you were answering for the other poster! 👌

I really enjoy reading your articles by the way pal. 

Edited by old darwen blue

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8 hours ago, old darwen blue said:

Ah that explains it I wondered why you were answering for the other poster! 👌

I really enjoy reading your articles by the way pal. 

👍🏻 Thanks for the feedback...👌🏻

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