Rovers manager Tony Mowbray was delighted with the positive impact the substitutes made as his team came from a goal down to win 2-1 to make it three wins on the bounce. At his aftermatch press conference Mowbray said “It was one of those games where there was an expectation, it felt a bit like the AFC Wimbledon game (1-0 defeat) after the two wins at Rochdale and Scunthorpe and we fell flat. “But we got there in the end and hopefully that shows that the team is developing and getting stronger and hopefully we can find a way to win at Ewood. “I think we have to accept that the games at home are going to be a difficult proposition for us. “For 20 minutes we were very dominant and they grew in to the game and were a threat on the counter-attack and grew in confidence. “As we do sometimes away from home they played inside the shape and broke away but we decided in the second half to have less of the ball, go that bit more direct and keep our shape behind the ball. “Ultimately it paid dividends. We made the changes and I thought Danny (Graham) was fantastic the way he used his body and it was about finding a way to win.”
Rovers are back in action on Tuesday as they travel to Bloomfield to take on Blackpool who are managed by former Rovers boss Gary Bowyer.
After seeing his side win 4-2 against Oxford United Rovers boss Tony Mowbray was praised the players and fans at his after match press conference
“It’s about getting the points. We had a tough game away from home at the weekend and it was important to start fast and not be one of those teams that has a good day and a bad day. “It was important to put a marker down early and do that. “We got our rewards from some dead balls and our pressing. It was a positive start which was important because I knew they were a good team with the ball. “We dropped a bit off the intensity as the half wore on and you could see they started to pop it through the lines. “We knew how tough the game was going to be, we started bright, got the goals and managed to control it up to the end.”
Mowbray urged his team to build on the 2 consecutive away wins “We need to keep going, looking at the next hurdle infront of us which is Bristol Rovers and then we have another tough one at Blackpool so it’s none stop. “We have to make sure the intensity stays there and utilise everyone and they will all have a part to play. “We have to create a pressure on ourselves to get results and with the greatest of respect to Oxford and Bury we have to believe that we are going there to win those games and the players have to believe it."
The Rovers boss also had special praise for the travelling fans “The fans were amazing and I’m glad we’ve given them something to cheer about tonight. "I know how much they’ve suffered over the last few years. Away day victories are fantastic, they’ve paid hard-earned money and given up time to be here. "They’ll get home late tonight, so huge thanks to them."
Rovers are back in action on Saturday as they welcome Bristol Rovers to Ewood Park.
The always brilliant and entertaining Blackburn Roverseas is back after international week, previewing the upcoming away game at Bury:
Bury Match Preview
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At his pre-match press conference Tony Mowbray has heaped praise on the performances of the under 23's this season and is set to give them a chance in the Checkatrade Trophy match tonight at Rochdale.
The under 23's have been in fantastic form this season, Damien Johnson's side have lost just once this season. Mowbray said “I love watching our Under-23s, I think they’re a great football team with great camaraderie among themselves and I have no questions over their desire and heart, If they keep doing that then I do like to blood young players but we have to win football matches and to ask them to do that is difficult. But to drop one in every now and then it’s good and if they can grab their chance like Nuttall has then they will stay there.
“Let’s wait and see, I do feel that sometimes it’s a man’s game and needs a man to do the job and it can be difficult to ask an 18 or 19-year-old to get the job done but there’s a lot of quality at this club bubbling underneath."
Mowbray added: “I would like to play a lot of the Under-23s who have shown some scintillating football when I have been and watched them. Can they reproduce it against men and the pressure of playing against experienced pros? I won’t throw them all in, you can’t with the competition rules, but we would like to dip some in. We want to go to Rochdale and win but I will sit down with my staff and pick a team that we feel can be competitive and get a result.”
Rovers boss Tony Mowbray is relishing the visit to Wigan on Saturday. At his pre-match press conference Mowbray said
“I think based on the results Wigan have produced at home, it suggests it’s going to be pretty tough, They play as a team and they’re good with the ball. They’re controlled and ask questions of you. Wigan have some exceptional individual talent at this level, so it’s a game we have to really focus on. Let’s go there and enjoy it. We want to test ourselves. We have to play our game and let the match unfold in front of us, really. It’s difficult to predict how it’s going to be."
Mowbray added “We’ll make sure we carry a goal threat, make sure we know where the space is on the pitch and exploit it. If think they have very good technical players who can keep the ball well. They have a lot of quality in their team, but hopefully we have more athleticism. I think it will be a pretty tactical game, a good game with a lot of good players on the pitch. Let’s see how it goes. It would be nice to get the three points, however we might get them. Let’s go there and be positive and try to take the game to them if we can."
Mowbray also talked about the huge turnover of players at the club and the need for stability “The away game at Wigan last season, only Danny Graham started that game so that shows the turnover of players there has been at this club, We have had a huge turnover of players since then. I’m conscious that people think these are excuses but I genuinely think that on the training ground the players are still bedding in and the players are understanding the way that we play."
The Rovers boss is hoping to change the mentality at the club going forward "Those that have been here a while have to get out of the mentality of expecting another defeat and we have to change the mentality to a winning one rather than one of it being another tough game. It’s not easy to do, it will take time. You can’t just sprinkle magic dust on a team and they start winning, there’s a process you have to go through. Hopefully as quick as we can we can become a team that expects to win every week and we demand high standards of each other and you don’t play if you don’t reach it.”
Rovers have announced that Elliott Bennett has signed a contract extension which will keep him at the club until 2020. The popular midfielder has been one of the standout players in the early part of the season.
Talking to the club's official website Bennett said "We've been speaking about it for a little bit now and I'm just delighted that it's finally signed and I can commit my future to the club.
"Once I sat down with the gaffer and we had a chat, it was never my intention to leave at the end of the season. "I was part of the bad season we had last year and I want to be part of a great season this year, which hopefully culminates in us getting promoted".
There are few positives following a relegation to League 1, but if you are to search for some small consolation, then the prospect of an away day in this attractive Shropshire market town is perhaps one of them. Albeit, the old town centre Gay Meadow ground is now a stylish, modern housing estate, replaced some 10 years ago, by another of those purpose-built out of town, next to a retail park, 10,000 seat stadiums.
The last time Rovers visited Shrewsbury, was 1993, in what turned out to be an epic League Cup tie, eventually culminating in a 4-3 extra-time win for Kenny Dalglish’s embryonic Premier League side, the winner coming from a fine goal from a recently signed centre back, who took the field in a shirt with neither a name nor number, one Ian Pearce.
This version of Rovers found themselves cast as underdogs. Shrewsbury were riding high at kick off, on the back of 7 (SEVEN) wins and a draw. Older Rovers fans will recognise the SEVEN reference, (thanks largely to Town legend Alf Wood !). This start to a season is exactly what many Rovers fans expected their team to deliver, but the reality has proved somewhat different. A decent run of four wins on the bounce was rudely interrupted by last week’s shock home defeat by AFC Wimbledon and this game presented a chance to restore confidence, both in the team and on the terraces.
Here was a chance to right a wrong, to make a statement to the rest of the division that last week was merely a blip and that Blackburn Rovers were ready to impose themselves.
The team sheet revealed returns to the starting line-up for Bradley Dack and Danny Graham at the expense of the injured Craig Conway and dropped Marcus Antonsson. There was some trepidation in the crowd as to the “strength and stability” (thanks Theresa) of the back four but equally, some anticipation of creativity and guile up front.
Shrewsbury have a simple game plan, one that should resonate with Rovers fans of a certain vintage; namely, play on the floor where possible, attack directly, lay the ball off to the flanks as quickly as possible and create chances in the opposition penalty area for a strong centre forward. Their most impressive performer being Shaun Whalley, a pacy right winger who had a loan, then permanent spell at Accrington Stanley in 2007-8.
It’s a game plan they executed very efficiently. Rovers so often passing sideways and backwards; slowly, deliberately, patiently but unthreateningly; would lose possession only to see their opponents with three swift, incisive passes create a dangerous shooting opportunity.
Rovers rode their luck a little in the first half. An early Samuel header apart, there was not a great deal to get excited about. The Rovers back four still looks fragile. Ward & Raya seem now to compete almost on a weekly basis for their own “Mishap of the Month” competition. Here they combined on one memorable occasion to create a threatening free kick for Shrewsbury on the edge of the area out of a situation that had barely homeopathic levels of danger. The warning signs were there and the inevitable happened after 57 minutes, a Raya flap at a cross leading to a scrambled close range effort.
Disconcertingly, for almost 15 minutes, it seemed that Mowbray had no idea how to react. The Plan A had failed for over an hour but no substitutes were even warming up. The frustration reached the fans who chanted for Mowbray to “Sort it out”, the very least that should be expected.
A triple substitution, the sort made usually only when playing “Championship Manager” (or if you are Birmingham City era Barry Fry), transformed the Rovers’ approach. Harry Chapman introduced himself to his full back by racing past him twice in short order. Dack restored to a central role, now seemed keen to influence proceedings. He had looked nothing like as effective wide left.
Dack is something of an enigma. He clearly has talent & technique but allied to a fondness for over-elaboration and a reluctance to do defensive chores. When he doesn’t create or score, he naturally looks like a luxury we can ill afford. Here though, he eventually came good, following another rapid thrust from Chapman. The cross was attacked and defended with vigour with Dack eventually stabbing it home for an equaliser.
Rovers had therefore given themselves only 5 minutes to win the game and many observers around me expressed delight at parity, but also frustration that for the preceding 80 odd minutes, Rovers had seemed one-paced, pedestrian and lacking any guile or imagination.
Listening undercover to Shrewsbury fans on my walk back to the car park, they seemed genuinely concerned that they were going to lose in that last period, but they too were frustrated that when on top, they couldn’t find what would surely have been a killer second goal.
A fair result ? Perhaps not if you are Salopian but at least Rovers came back at the unbeaten league leaders on their own patch and rescued something. Consecutive defeats whilst not terminal, would surely have raised the stakes. This at least bought some breathing space.
If Rovers are the “Ikea team” that I have previously suggested – all the parts but no assembly instructions – the evidence of this encounter suggests that a vital nut & bolt or dowel might actually be missing. That or we need to learn how to use the Allen key properly to tighten things up.
Raya, whilst an excellent shot-stopper with fine reflexes repeatedly seems prone to a costly error and is vulnerable to crosses. The defence lacks pace on its flanks and with Elliott Ward in the middle makes the heart flutter at least once or twice a game.
The balance of the midfield remains elusive for Mowbray. Smallwood probably the one real success doesn’t seem to bring out the best in Evans, who frankly should be bossing games at this level. The lack of “proper” wingers when Conway is out and a lack of genuine pace (Chapman excepted) means opposition defenders can push forward with little concern from a ball over the top.
Mowbray seems uncertain as to the best combination of forwards. He has choice in abundance but as one seems to find form, a change in partner or an absence of a partner undermines the promise. This is the sort of dilemma that ought to have been resolved with pre-season friendlies against tough opponents. Tell me again what we learned in stuffing York City ?
The bright spot is that when the three subs were thrown on, we seized the initiative and could conceivably have stolen the 3 points. Chapman is a real prospect. He is so effective coming off the bench against tiring full backs. Can he keep that up as a starter ? Can he be trusted to treat possession with respect when we are under the cosh ? Will he do his share of helping the full back ? Well, I guess there’s a really good way to find out…
With two upcoming home games that are eminently winnable, this is a crucial week in Mowbray’s tenure. By next Saturday at 5pm, we will have played 10 league games – P8 W4 D1 L3 could become P10 W6 D1 L3 in other words, only just shy of the “2 point a game” average that would surely see automatic promotion (extrapolated over the season of course).
At time of writing, Rotherham are above us in the league table, a victory would overhaul them. Gillingham now shorn of the services of Bradley Dack are in the relegation spots. This is a crucial week. It’s an opportunity to make a statement to the rest of the division. Much like today’s game was. “Carpe diem” Rovers.