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    Sunday 13th September 2015 – Football League Championship
    Fulham 2 v 1 Blackburn Rovers - by Parsonblue
    Fulham (2) 2
    McCormack 4, Dembélé 30
    Andrew Lonergan; Ashley Richards, Tim Ream, Richard Stearman, James Husband (Dan Burn 89); Tom Cairney, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Jamie O’Hara, Ben Pringle (Ryan Fredericks 62); Moussa Dembélé, Ross McCormack.
    Subs not used: Joe Lewis (gk), Alexander KaÄaniklić, Sakari Mattila, Cauley Woodrow, Lasse Vigen Christensen.
    Manager: Kit Symons
    Blackburn Rovers (0) 1
    Rhodes (penalty) 69
    Jason Steele; Adam Henley, Grant Hanley, Shane Duffy, Tommy Spurr; Ben Marshall, Danny Guthrie, Corry Evans (Hope Akpan 83), Craig Conway (Tom Lawrence 89); Jordan Rhodes, Nathan Delfouneso (Fodé Koita 46)
    Subs not used: David Raya (gk), Matt Kilgallon, Marcus Olsson, Lee Williamson.
    Manager: Gary Bowyer
    Referee: Mr. T. Harrington
    Bookings: Fulham – Jamie O’Hara
    Blackburn Rovers – Grant Hanley, Fodé Koita, Shane Duffy
    It was Napoleon who said, “I know he's a good general, but is he lucky?â€, and thus far this season Gary Bowyer has had little or no luck whatsoever.  Once again, this was a game that the Rovers could, indeed, should have won.  They created enough chances to have won the game with ease but spurned them.  Ultimately, teams who concede goals and struggle to score them usually end up in a relegation battle and this Rovers team is no different.  All of the relegation seasons I’ve witnessed, going back to 1965-66, have been dogged by ill fortune but at the end of the day it’s been the performance – or lack of performance – of the players that has ultimately decided the club’s fate.  This game, in many ways, perfectly summed up the present state that the club find itself in.  The first forty-five minutes found a team in turmoil who conceded two sloppy goals and then wasted opportunities to dig themselves out of a hole they had dug for themselves.  The second half saw a team filled with self-belief and total commitment and yet one that lacked that little bit of quality to turn possession into goals.  Whilst one felt nothing but sympathy for the manager after the game, particularly over the “goal†that wasn’t, the fact remains that in a results driven business the Rovers are struggling to find the level of consistency required to deliver the results that are needed.  The longer this winless run continues the more precarious the manager’s position will become.
    Bowyer sprang a surprise in opting for Jason Steele in goal as opposed to David Raya who dropped down to the bench.   With Jason Lowe on the sidelines with injury Danny Guthrie partnered Corry Evans in the centre of midfield whilst Nathan Delfouneso and Jordan Rhodes continued their partnership in attack.
    Sadly, the Rovers could not have made a worse start when they conceded a sloppy goal after just four minutes.  When Delfouneso lost possession the ball was played to Ryan Tunnicliffe in the centre of the park and he slipped the perfect through ball between Adam Henley and Grant Hanley for Moussa Dembélé to run onto.  The former Tottenham Hotspur forward ran on with Hanley getting himself on the wrong side of the striker before slipping as he tried to catch him.  With Shane Duffy and Tommy Spurr nowhere to be seen it was left to Henley to come across to try to challenge Dembélé as he entered the penalty area.  However, Dembélé quickly pulled the ball back across goal for Ross McCormack, who was completely unmarked, and the former Leeds man wasted no time in controlling the ball and then beating Steele from close range.  It was a simply awful goal to concede and merely underlined the inept defending that the Rovers show on an almost weekly basis these days.
    The Rovers tried to get back into the game right away but Craig Conway’s cross was headed over by Rhodes.  Spurr, whose main function seems to be taking throw-ins, fired in another long throw but Fulham won possession and broke quickly with the Rovers defence all at sea again and Steele was forced to save from McCormack.
    Within minutes Fulham were exposing the weaknesses in the Rovers defence yet again with Cairney finding McCormack, who had drifted to the wing, and with Spurr again conspicuous by his absence, the ball was whipped across the face of the goal.  Fortunately, for the Rovers, Dembélé was unable to reach it although a linesman’s flag signalled a goal would have been ruled out for offside.  Nonetheless, the Rovers defending was again shown to be totally inept and that became a feature of the first half.
    On fifteen minutes the Rovers had the opportunity to get back in the game when Ben Marshall found Delfouneso and he took the ball round Richard Stearman before firing a low shot which Lonergan did well to get down to his right and keep out.
    Fulham immediately came back and Dembélé showed wonderful skills to hold the ball up and then do a quick turn and play the ball into the path of McCormack who then fizzed a shot narrowly wide across Steele and the face of the goal.
    On twenty-six minutes Marshall collected the ball and fired in a shot which beat Lonergan but, sadly, flew narrowly wide of the far post.
    On the half-hour mark the Rovers conceded a second goal when the ball was fed to McCormack down the left and his cross was met by an unmarked Tunnicliffe whose powerful diving header was saved by Steele.  The ball rebounded to Tom Cairney who shot first time only for Steele to block the effort but the ball fell at the feet of Dembélé who, unmarked in front of goal, blasted it into the net with Hanley and Duffy standing helplessly on the line.  Quite why the Rovers defenders allowed Cairney and Dembélé free shots at goal only they know but, once again, it was inept defending.
    A Conway free-kick was comfortably held by Lonergan but on thirty-nine minutes he was fully tested when a long ball was headed clear by Stearman straight to Corry Evans and the midfielder’s first time shot was pushed around the post by the ‘keeper.  From the resultant corner, Hanley stooped to meet the ball but headed over.  The former Preston ‘keeper was then called upon to make a tremendous save to keep out a Marshall header.
    At half-time Bowyer made a switch up front with Fodé Koita replacing Delfouneso.  The Rovers should have been level virtually from the re-start.  Marshall crossed from the left which beat Lonergan and with the ball virtually on the goal line, Rhodes and a defender slid in and as both went for the ball, Rhodes got there first but, instead of scoring, he managed to screw the ball virtually at right-angles so that that it hit the post before being cleared.  It was an incredible miss truth be told.
    Undeterred the Rovers continued to press forward and good work from Koita saw him break free down the right but when he crossed the ball Rhodes couldn’t get over it and headed the ball high over the crossbar.
    Another excellent move on fifty-four minutes ended with Rhodes meeting Conway’s cross but heading straight at Lonergan.  Marshall then had a shot blocked after some superb build up play by the Rovers.
    At this point it was all Rovers as Fulham simply dropped deeper and deeper trying to protect their two goal lead.  Duffy headed over, Conway had a shot saved and the Duffy headed over again all within a matter of minutes.
    However, on sixty-nine minutes the Rovers finally found the back of the net from the penalty spot.  Conway crossed from the left and as Rhodes went for the ball Husband pushed him in the back and the referee immediately pointed to the spot.  Rhodes stepped up and opened his account for the season by sending Lonergan the wrong way.
    Fulham offered little in attack although Ryan Fredericks whipped in a decent cross from the right that had Steele clutching thin air as he dived full length to try to catch it.  Fortunately, there were no Fulham players in the area when the ball arrived.
    The Rovers had an excellent chance to equalise on seventy-eight minutes when a long throw from Spurr caused confusion in the Fulham area but when the ball fell to Conway he fired high and wide when really ought to have found the back of the net.
    On eighty-three minutes the Rovers did get the ball over the line but, unfortunately, the officials simply didn’t see it and allowed play to continue.  Once again, a Conway corner had been met by Duffy and his header was blocked on the line and the ball came out at pace, hit Hanley on the shoulder and then rebounded over the goal line before Jamie O’Hara could hook the ball clear.  Sadly, once again, the officials got the big decision wrong.
    Duffy went up front in the closing minutes and when his shot was blocked Koita picked up the ball and fired in a fierce effort which shook the woodwork before rebounding off the post to safety.
    Steele made a save from Dembélé in the added time and the home side were able to see out of closing minutes and claim the three points.
    There was much to admire about the Rovers second half performance and they received a good reception from the travelling fans when they left the pitch.  However, the defensive lapses in the first half proved costly and in the second half the Rovers simply wasted too many golden opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net.
    Jason Steele performed well on his return to the team but the performances of some of those in front of him left much to be desired.  Adam Henley had a difficult afternoon but improved in the second half.  Tommy Spurr had an afternoon to forget.  He looked slow and cumbersome and apart from a long throw it’s not quite clear what he brings to the team.
    Grant Hanley had his poorest game of the season and was badly at fault for the first goal but improved after the break.  Shane Duffy, like Hanley, struggled at times and was badly caught out of position on more than one occasion.
    In midfield the combination of Corry Evans and Danny Guthrie struggled in the first half to get any sort of control in the middle of the park.  They improved after the break with Evans getting forward more than usual.  Craig Conway and Ben Marshall offered the main threat from the wings.  Conway was again in the thick of the action and provided numerous crosses which ought to have brought some reward.  Marshall had a much better game than of late and in the second half, in particular, was a constant threat to the home defence.
    Nathan Delfouneso worked hard and caused Fulham problems with his running but ought to have taken a very good chance in the first half.  Jordan Rhodes missed a bagful of chances despite netting from the penalty spot.  Fodé Koita certainly offered more of a threat in the second half with his sheer physical power.
    The Rovers are now in the relegation places and a trip to Loftus Road on Wednesday night is another tough fixture for a team which seems to have failings at both ends of the pitch.  The pressure, one feels, is mounting on the manager and whilst there have been hard luck stories aplenty this season the fact remains that the Rovers have taken a meagre three points from a possible eighteen.  That is relegation form and needs to be addressed sooner rather than later or a change at the top will be inevitable.
    vdb
    Tuesday 8th September 2015 Lancashire Senior Cup 1st Round
    Barrow 3 v 3 Blackburn Rovers Under-21
    (Blackburn Rovers Under-21 won 5-4 on penalties)
    Barrow (2) 3
    Cook 13, Livesey 41, Pilkington 57
    (Pens: Symington, Alex Newby, Walker, Ashton)
    Aaran Taylor; Brad Carroll, Danny Livesey (Ben van den Broek 46), Niall Cowperthwaite, Neil Ashton; Mo Fofana, David Mellor; Dave Symington, Elliot Newby, Dan Pilkington (Alex Newby 66); Andy Cook (Jason Walker 72).
    Subs not used: Danny Eccles (gk), Andy Haworth.
    Manager: Darren Edmondson
    Blackburn Rovers Under-21 (2) 3
    O’Sullivan 18, Mahoney 37, Mahoney 53
    (Pens: Rittenberg, Carson, Lavelle, Thomson, O’Sullivan)
    Luke Simpson; Ryan Nyambe, Sam Lavelle, Scott Wharton, Jack Doyle; Sacha Petshi (Connor Thomson 79), David Carson; Connor Mahoney, John O’Sullivan, Luke Wall (Modou Cham 90); Lewis Mansell (Dean Rittenberg 46)
    Subs not used: Ryan Crump (gk), Mark Edgar.
    Coach: John Filan
    Referee: Mr. K. Evans
    Bookings: None
    Attendance: 346
    The last time the Rovers and Barrow met in this competition was way back in April 1967, when Barrow beat the Rovers Reserve team 1-0 at Holker Street at the semi-final stage.  The Barrow team that day contained a couple of well-known faces to Rovers fans in the form of the late Fred Else and Tony Field whilst the Rovers included the likes of Andy McEvoy and Mike Harrison in their starting line-up.  Forty-odd years later – where does the time go?- the Rovers were back at Holker Street, or the Furness Building Society Stadium as it is now called, for a 1st round tie and under the rules of the competition fielded their Under-21 side against Barrow’s senior squad.
    The Rovers boosted their usual Under-21 squad with John O’Sullivan whilst Luke Simpson was given his first outing in goal after spending the past few weeks on trial at the club.  Simpson featured with Accrington Stanley last season and has, more recently been with the development squad at Crystal Palace.  With Damien Johnson away on international duty, it was left to John Filan to look after things whilst former Rover Andy Haworth was on the bench for the home side.
    The Rovers started brightly with O’Sullivan seeing plenty of the ball but not being able to open up a well organised defence.  However, after thirteen minutes the Rovers suffered an early setback when they fell behind to a well worked goal by the home side.  Elliott Newby and Andy Cook exchanged passes down the right and when Newby played the ball across the six yard box, Cook was on hand to sweep the ball home with Simpson having no chance of making a save.
    The Rovers responded with a shot from Connor Mahoney which was blocked but, in truth, were struggling to make many clear cut chances despite some good distribution from Sacha Petshi.
    On fifteen minutes the home side might well have increased their lead when Simpson did well to push away a long range effort from Cook.
    The Rovers drew level on eighteen minutes when O’Sullivan picked up the ball in midfield, took it forward and then struck a powerful effort which took a deflection off Mo Fofana and beat Aaron Taylor.
    Petshi then found Mahoney with a wonderful sweeping pass which enabled the winger to get in a cross which was blocked.  A similar cross at the other end saw Simpson having to punch the ball away despite being under heavy pressure from a Barrow forward.
    The Rovers had a glorious chance to edge ahead on the half hour mark when a corner from Mahoney went across the face of the goal with nobody able get a telling touch on the ball.
    Simpson was again called into action to make a good save, at the foot of the post, from Dan Pilkington, whose shot skipped off the surface at pace and could well have embarrassed the ‘keeper.
    The Rovers took the lead on thirty-seven minutes and, once again, a wonderful pass from Petshi started the move.  Deep in his own half he swept an inch perfect ball out to the right wing for Mahoney to run onto.  As the winger began to cut inside, O’Sullivan made a move to the wing which dragged the centre-back out of position and Mahoney moved into the newly created space and beat Taylor from around 25-yards out.  It was a very well worked team goal.
    However, on forty-one minutes the home side drew level following a shot Newby which was blocked for a corner.  A short corner resulted in Ryan Nyambe being turned rather too easily and when Newby sent the ball into the near post, Danny Livesey was on hand to force it over the line.
    If the football in the first forty-five minutes had not always been of the highest quality it had certainly produced an entertaining game with both sides looking to attack at every opportunity.
    After the break both sides made a change.  Lewis Mansell, who had been very subdued during the first half  was replaced by Dean Rittenberg whilst Livesey, who had left the field with an injury or possible cut just before the interval was replaced by Ben van den Broek for Barrow.
    Simpson had to be on his toes at the opening of the second half when a ball played back to him bounced badly and he did well to make a clearance under pressure.  The home side certainly looked quicker off the mark after the interval and yet, it was the Rovers who edged ahead thanks to a fine individual goal from Mahoney after fifty-three minutes.  The winger moved down the right flank before cutting inside once he got to the byline.   However, instead of crossing at this point, he skipped past a defender and then found the net from the tightest of angles with a well struck shot.
    To their credit the Vanarama National League side hit back after fifty-seven minutes when Pilkington fired a cross-cum-shot into the area and Sam Lavelle totally missed his attempted clearance with the result that the ball flew into the bottom corner of the net with Simpson completely wrong-footed by Lavelle’s error.
    Both sides made changes as they pressed for a winner.  Mahoney’s perfectly placed free-kick was just missed by Lavelle whilst a good run by Neil Ashton resulted in the full-back’s cross being blocked.  Petshi then found O’Sullivan on the left but when he cut inside to shoot his effort was blocked by some brave defending.  Mahoney then gave the ball away in midfield but fortunately, the Barrow forwards were unable to profit from the error and Simpson was then forced to dive at the feet of an oncoming forward to collect the ball.
    Simpson was then called upon to make another good save at the near post from Walker but Alex Newby really ought to have scored when he cut inside and pulled his shot narrowly wide with Simpson completely wrong-footed and unable to move towards the ball.
    Barrow’s New Zealand international, van den Broek, then found the side-netting when he really might had done better whilst at the other end Modou Cham forced a finger-tip save from Taylor with an intelligent lob which almost caught the home ‘keeper out.
    With the game moving straight to penalties it proved a fairly nervous affair for the supporters of both sides and yet, the first eight penalties were all perfectly struck.  Symington, Alex Newby, Walker, and Ashton all beat Simpson with ease whilst Rittenberg, Carson, Lavelle and Thomson gave Taylor no chance with any of their spot kicks.  The decisive penalty proved to be the fifth one for home side when Simpson guessed correctly and dived to his right to beat away the effort from Niall Cowperthwaite.  Despite some barracking from behind the goal, O’Sullivan stepped up and calmly slotted home his penalty to put the Rovers through to the next round.
    Luke Simpson had an impressive debut and couldn’t be faulted for any of the goals.  His handling was sound and his kicking good and, of course, he made the vital penalty save.
    The back four looked rather uncomfortable at times with Ryan Nyambe and Sam Lavelle not performing as well as they can do.  Scott Wharton did well in the centre and Jack Doyle was steady at left-back.
    David Carson and Sacha Petshi did well as the holding midfield pair.  Carson worked hard but wasn’t quite as effective as he can be in going forward.  Petshi impressed with the range of his passing although at times he was caught out with passes which went astray and put the Rovers in trouble.  Like Koita, Petshi is raw but looks to have more than enough about him to develop into a useful acquisition given time to adjust to English football.
    Connor Mahoney had some good spells on the right wing but at times let himself down with some indifferent passing.  He took both his goals extremely well and at this stage of his career one can’t help but feel that a loan spell in the lower divisions would help the development of his game.
    John O’Sullivan, as the attacking midfield player behind the main striker, had a mixed evening.  At times he looked a real threat and at others faded out of the game.  Kept his nerve to score the vital important penalty.
    Luke Wall had a difficult night on the left and struggled to make any impression against a very good full-back.
    Lewis Mansell made little impression in the first half before being replaced by Dean Rittenberg at half-time.  One cannot help but feel that Mansell needs a full season with the Under-18’s at this stage of his fledgling career.
    vdb

    By vdb, in Players,

    Rovers have confirmed this morning that Swansea City have recalled Modou Barrow due to injuries to their first team squad, under the terms of the loan agreement they are allowed to terminate the loan within 28 days of the player joining Rovers.
    Barrow joined Rovers last month and made 5 appearances.
     
    vdb
    Friday 28th August 2015 – Football League Championship
    Blackburn Rovers 0 v 0 Bolton Wanderers - By Parsonblue
    Blackburn Rovers (0) 0
    David Raya; Adam Henley, Shane Duffy, Grant Hanley, Tommy Spurr; Craig Conway, Jason Lowe, Corry Evans (Danny Guthrie 68), Ben Marshall (Fodé Koita 59); Jordan Rhodes, Nathan Delfouneso (Modou Barrow 78).
    Subs not used: Jason Steele (gk), Matt Kilgallon, Marcus Olsson, Tom Lawrence.
    Manager: Gary Bowyer
    Bolton Wanderers (0) 0
    Ben Amos; Lawrie Wilson, Dorian Dervite (sent off 93), Prince Desire-Gouano, Dean Moxey; Liam Feeney, Neil Danns, Mark Davies, Wellington Silva (Emile Heskey 79); Zach Clough, Gary Madine.
    Subs not used: Ross Fitzsimons (gk), Josh Vela, Jay Spearing, Jose Casado, Stephen Dobbie, Alex Finney.
    Manager: Neil Lennon
    Referee: Mr. P. Tierney
    Bookings: Blackburn Rovers – Shane Duffy, Corry Evans, Grant Hanley
    Bolton Wanderers – Dean Moxey, Wellington Silva, Mark Davies, Neil Danns, Dorian Dervite
    Sending off: Bolton Wanderers – Dorian Dervite
    Attendance: 14,632
    The financial realities of life outside the Premier League have, to all intents and purposes, crippled both of these clubs to the point where it’s hard to see how either will be restored to their former glories for years to come.  Both are hamstrung by debt on a gigantic scale, both are shopping in the bargain bin of football’s pound shop and both are likely to be embroiled in a battle for survival in more ways than one.  The fact that less than 15,000 turned up on a pleasant, late summer’s evening suggests that many supporters of both clubs have grown weary with it all and have had enough.  Those who did turn up were treated to a spectacle in which there was plenty of effort but precious little in the way of genuine quality between two teams who look destined for a season in mid-table at best or avoiding being dragged into a relegation dogfight at worst.
    After last week’s narrow defeat at Brighton, Gary Bowyer made a number of changes to the starting eleven.  A late injury in training robbed him of Hope Akpan but Jordan Rhodes returned after his recent injury problems.  Adam Henley, Jason Lowe and Corry Evans were also recalled whilst Tom Lawrence, Danny Guthrie and Fodé Koita all dropped to the bench.
    Like last week at Brighton, the Rovers started brightly and as early as the second minute a Tommy Spurr free-kick found the head of Shane Duffy who rose above the defenders but headed over.
    Ben Marshall then tried to find Jordan Rhodes with a long diagonal ball but misjudged the pass which went straight into the arms of Ben Amos.
    On eleven minutes Spurr’s long throw was cleared as far as Craig Conway who whipped the ball back into the area where Duffy headed wide.
    Another Conway corner caused Bolton problems and when the ball came out to Marshall his shot was blocked by Prince.
    At this point the visitors had barely been able to get out of their own half but on the quarter hour mark they had two shouts for a penalty which the referee waved away.  Firstly a tackle by Duffy on Zach Clough saw the Bolton man go down but bounce back up fairly quickly to retain possession.  The ball was then only partially cleared and when Mark Davies picked it up and charged into the area he seemed to fall rather easily over the leg of Conway.  Both were close calls but on this occasion the Rovers were given the benefit of the doubt.
    On twenty-one minutes Jason Lowe was caught into possession by Clough and the ball was fed out to Liam Feeney on the right wing.  He whipped in a dangerous cross which forced Duffy to throw himself at the ball to head away for a corner.
    The Rovers responded with a long free-kick from David Raya which was headed on by Nathan Delfouneso into the area but, sadly, the ball wouldn’t fall for Rhodes and the danger was cleared.
    However, a minute later Delfouneso found Conway and from his cross Rhodes got in front of the defender at the near post but headed wide.  Conway then delivered another cross which just evaded but Rhodes and Marshall as the Rovers continued to press Bolton back.
    Just past the half-hour mark Rhodes ought to have done better when an excellent cross from Marshall saw the Scottish international climb above two defenders but although he met the ball cleanly he couldn’t get it on target and headed wide.
    Wellington Silva was then booked for a wild kick at Adam Henley which some referees might well have seen as a red card offence.
    Delfouneso made an excellent run down the right, cut inside and tried to curl a shot into the far top corner but the ball flew well wide.  With men waiting in the area, better placed, for the cross it was a very poor piece of decision making on the former Villa man’s part.
    Bolton too, suffered from poor decision making when Gary Madine suddenly found himself free on the right of the Rovers’ area but opted to pull the ball back – to no-one as it turned out – rather than going for goal.
    In many ways the first half merely reflected the lack of confidence that both teams showed whenever they got near goal.
    Two minutes into the second half and Marshall had another effort blocked from the edge of the penalty area and then Duffy sent another effort over the bar when presented with a heading chance which again, ought to have found the target.
    On one of the visitors rare excursions into the Rovers half, Davies pulled the ball back for Dean Moxey to hit a carefully placed shot which might have caused problems for Raya but for a deflection which took it away for a corner.
    Has the half developed the visitors started to come into the game far more as an attacking force and Moxey again escaped the clutches of Lowe before he fired wide.
    The Rovers might well have taken the lead on sixty-nine minutes when Conway’s corner was met by Spurr and his goalbound header was cleared off the line by Davies.  The ball fell kindly for Fodé Koita – who had replaced Marshall – but he pulled his shot well wide when he really ought to have found the net.
    Koita then headed a Conway corner well over the bar but did better when he laid off a ball from Henley into the path of Conway who raced into the area before Moxey was able to get in a challenge and knock the ball away for yet another corner.
    The Rovers had struggled to create much and Bowyer had reacted during the half with changes to try to provide more spark in attack.
    On eighty-six minutes the Rovers had the ball in the net but it was rightly ruled out for offside.  A long ball from Raya was headed down by Koita to Guthrie and he, in turn, fed Conway on the right.  Conway’s cross fell between Rhodes and a defender before it broke to Koita who swept it into the net from an offside position.
    A minute later and it was the visitors who were left to rue a missed opportunity when Raya could only palm a dangerous cross into the path of Emile Heskey.  The Bolton man wasted no time in getting away a shot which appeared goal bound until Duffy made an excellent clearance from on the line.
    In truth the game had been a niggling affair from the start and with cards being shown freely by Mr. Tierney it came as no surprise when a red card was finally shown after ninety-three minutes.  Dorian Dervite came through the back of Modou Barrow and the referee showed a second yellow and then a red to the Bolton centre-back.
    So after five games, both teams remain winless and, in truth, the nerves were clearly on show in both camps.  Too many needless fouls, too many ‘safe’ passes and a distinct lack of a cutting edge in both teams.  Perhaps under the circumstances, not losing after such a poor start to the campaign was vital for both managers.  Nonetheless, if this season is not to mirror the 1970-71 campaign, when both clubs plunged into the Third Division for the first time in their history, certain issues to be added in the Rovers camp.
    Defensively, whilst there are signs of improvement between Grant Hanley and Shane Duffy, the continually exclusion of Marcus Olsson seems to have robbed the team of extra pace down the left.  Tommy Spurr is clearly included for his ability with a long throw but defensively he has looked for from sound thus far.
    However, it is in midfield that the real issues seem to rest.  In pre-season Lee Williamson was the pick of the midfielders but has hardly had a look in since.  Clearly with the arrival of Danny Guthrie and Hope Akpan that is understandable.  However, with Guthrie on the bench and Akpan out injured it was a surprise that Williamson didn’t make it to the bench.  The pairing of Jason Lowe and Corry Evans offered nothing to the team as an attacking force and, to put it bluntly, Lowe has been simply shocking this season.  Quite what he brings to the team at the moment is a mystery that clearly only the manager and coaching staff know the answer to.  We are not blessed with creative talent in this area of the field, although Akpan looks by far and away the best of the bunch.
    Craig Conway was the standout performer on the night, as he has been in virtually every game so far this season.  Sadly, Ben Marshall continues to struggle to find the form he showed during the early part of last season.
    With midfield misfiring it is difficult for the front men to make much impact.  Nathan Delfouneso works hard and carries the ball forward but at the moment has a tendency to overdo things.  Jordan Rhodes looks rusty, as one would expect, but needs far better service than was on show in this game.  Fodé Koita has raw potential but is a long way from the finished article.
    The international break gives the manager and the coaching staff the opportunity to try to bed all the new arrivals in and hopefully decide on a settled formation and settled starting eleven.
    Whilst it is still very early days the fact remains that three points from a possible fifteen is hardly the sort of start that is going to inspire confidence.  September and October bring a particularly difficult run of fixtures which will no doubt go some way to not only define the season but also the future of the manager.
    vdb
    Monday 24th August 2015 – Barclays Under-21 Premier League Division Two
    West Bromwich Albion Under-21 1 v 0 Blackburn Rovers Under-21
    West Bromwich Albion Under-21 (1) 1
    Nabi (penalty) 39
    Ethan Ross; Josh Ezewele, Jack Fitzwater, Shaun Donnellan, Robbie McCourt; Joe Ward; Tyler Roberts (James Smith 90), Samir Nabi, Kyle Edwards, Andre Wright (George Cleet 56); Tahvon Campbell (Zack Elbouzedi 65).
    Subs not used: Matthew Hall (gk), Sam Field.
    Manager: James Shan
    Blackburn Rovers Under-21 (0) 0
    Ryan Crump; Connor Thomson, Sam Lavelle, Scott Wharton, Mark Edgar; Willem Tomlinson, Joe Grayson; Connor Mahoney, David Carson, Jack Doyle (Lewis Mansell 67); Devarn Green.
    Subs not used: Andrew Fisher (gk), Luke Wall, Lewis Hardcastle, Modou Cham.
    Manager: Damien Johnson
    Referee: Mr. A. Dallison
    Bookings: West Bromwich Albion Under-21 – Andre Wright, Joe Ward, Shaun Donnellan
    Blackburn Rovers Under-21 – Willem Tomlinson
    Attendance:
    The meetings between these two teams at The Lamb Ground, Tamworth produced a very entertaining game which was only decided by a highly debatable penalty late in the first half.
    Within the first three minutes Andre Wright showed speed down the left wing but his attempt to centre was cleared for a corner which came to nothing.
    The Rovers responded with a cross of their own but Connor Mahoney’s centre was easily claimed Ethan Ross.
    Mahoney then ran at the home defence before passing inside to David Carson who pulled his shot narrowly wide from just inside the penalty area.  Mahoney then tried to go on another run down the right but having beat one defender he tried to beat a second and was robbed of the ball.
    Ten minutes into the game the ball fell to Carson in the area who took it to the side of one defender before he blasted a powerful shot which Ross did well to save.
    The Rovers had dominated the game up to this point and looked threatening whenever they moved forward.  However, on thirteen minutes the home side had their first really dangerous move which ended when Sami Nabi blasted the ball high over the goal when in an excellent position to find the back of the net.  Six minutes later Nabi was played through by Kyle Edwards but Ryan Crump was quick off his line to claim the ball at the feet of Nabi.
    The Rovers broke quickly down the right on twenty-four minutes and Devarn Green had to literally push the linesman out of the way as raced past a defender and cut inside into the area.  Sadly, his final touch proved a little strong and a defender was able to hit the ball back against Green and out for a goal kick.  Nonetheless, it had been a very encouraging opening by the youngsters who had dominated most of the first half up to that point.
    Wright became the first name in the book when he felled Carson with a crude challenge when the Rovers were attempting to mount yet another attack.
    On thirty-three minutes a sweeping move down the right saw Connor Thomson and Mahoney exchange a number of passes before the ball was cleared for a corner.  Ross struggled to deal with the corner and moments later he was stranded when a ball to the back post was headed wide by Mahoney.
    The Rovers almost gifted the home side a chance when Crump played the ball out to Willem Tomlinson and the Rovers midfield man played it back to the ‘keeper but over hit the back pass and Crump was relieved to see the ball go out for a corner.  However, when the ball was played in from the corner it fell to Nabi who was unmarked in front of an open goal and inexplicably he sliced his shot well wide of the target.
    However, within minutes he had the opportunity to make amends when Mr. Dallison awarded Albion a penalty after thirty-nine minutes.  Tahvon Campbell chased a ball into the area with Mark Edgar in hot pursuit.  The Albion forward appeared to lose his footing just as Edgar made a challenge for the ball and the referee, after a moment’s hesitation, pointed to the spot.  From the spot kick Nabi placed the ball in the bottom right hand corner of the net with Crump diving in the opposite direction.
    It was a tough break for the Rovers’ youngsters as they certainly didn’t deserve to be behind at this point.  However, the goal seemed to energise the home side and the impressive Edwards left Tomlinson in his wake with a neat turn and change of pace before he played an inch perfect pass into the path of Tyler Roberts.  Crump came out to meet the Albion man but as he dived for the ball Roberts merely took it around Crump, but from an acute angle his cross came to nothing.
    The Rovers attacked down the right with Thomson charging forward from right-back and he then found Tomlinson with a neat pass but the midfield man fired wide.
    West Brom started the second half on the front foot and pressed the Rovers back deep into their own half.  Edwards was orchestrating the best attacking moves with a series of passes which continually opened up the Rovers defence.  Nine minutes after the restart Albion really ought to have doubled their lead when Crump did well to save a shot from Nabi only to see the ball fall to the feet of Jack Fitzwater.  With an open goal gaping in front on him the centre back blasted the ball high over the bar.  It was an unbelievable miss from such short range.
    Albion continued to look dangerous going forward and another cross from Roberts was headed clear by Scott Wharton.  Mahoney then had another shot which flew wide of the target whilst Tomlinson, on one of his rare forays forward hit a decent effort from outside of the area which was saved.
    Albion were then awarded a free-kick on the edge of the area after Wharton brought down Roberts.  Fortunately, Nabi’s shot was blocked by the wall.
    On seventy-six minutes the Rovers had a shout for a penalty when Carson went down under a heavy challenge in the area but the referee was unmoved by the appeals of Rovers players.
    The Rovers were now looking more dangerous as an attacking force as the Albion started to sit deeper and deeper to protect their lead.  However, they simply couldn’t find the key to unlock a packed defence.  Mahoney had another shot blocked and Carson put the ‘keeper under pressure when he challenged for a cross which was eventually put out for yet another corner.  Green fired wide as the Rovers continued to press in search of an equaliser.
    In the first minute of added time Mahoney struck of free-kick which beat the wall but was straight at Ross.
    Quite how the Rovers youngsters failed to get something from the game is a mystery.  At times they dominated the game, particularly in the first half, but simply couldn’t find the finishing touch to some excellent football.
    Carson again caught the eye playing just behind Green.  His busy style and non-stop running caused problems for the home side throughout the game.  Mahoney showed flashes of what he can do but all too often his final ball was lacking.  Tomlinson worked hard as one of the holding midfield players alongside Joe Grayson who also delivered another decent performance.  Lewis Mansell had a decent thirty minutes or so when he replaced Jack Doyle – a player who doesn’t look as comfortable playing on the left of midfield as he does at left-back but, in Mark Edgar, the Rovers seem to have found another excellent young defender.
     
    vdb
    Saturday 22nd August 2015 – Football League Championship
    Brighton & Hove Albion 1 v 0 Blackburn Rovers
    Brighton & Hove Albion (1) 1
    LuaLua 35
    David Stockdale; Bruno Saltor, Gordon Greer, Uwe Hyuenemeier, Gaetan Bong; Jamie Murphy (Solly March 78), Dale Stephens, Beram Kayal, Kazenga LuaLua; Sam Baldock (Rohan Ince  84), Tomer Hemed (Chris O’Grady 88).
    Subs not used: Niki Maenpaa (gk); Lewis Dunk, Jake Forster-Caskey, Liam Rosenior.
    Manager: Chris Hughton
    Blackburn Rovers (0) 0
    David Raya; Ben Marshall, Grant Hanley, Shane Duffy, Tommy Spurr; Craig Conway, Danny Guthrie, Hope Akpan, Tom Lawrence (Matt Kilgallon 83); Nathan Delfouneso,  Fodé Koita (Modou Barrow 69).
    Subs not used: Jason Steele (gk), Marcus Olsson, Lee Williamson, Corry Evans.
    Manager: Gary Bowyer
    Referee: Mr. A. Madley (West Yorkshire)
    Bookings:
    Brighton & Hove Albion – Gordon Greer, Beram Kayal, Uwe Huenemeier, Kazenga LuaLua
    Blackburn Rovers – Shane Duffy, Ben Marshall, Danny Guthrie
    Attendance: 22,659
    The one element that any manager, player or club ultimately needs to be successful is one that cannot be bought in the transfer market or honed on the training ground.  Luck, as the saying goes is a “fickle mistress†and certainly one who seems to have turned her back on Blackburn Rovers this season.   Ultimately, a deflected goal was the difference between a Brighton side who now find themselves joint top of the Championship and the Rovers who are now third from bottom.
    The team that started at The American Express Stadium, contained five of the summer arrivals – of which four were freebies and one a loanee – with another loanee on the bench.  At a time when our near neighbours can spend £9 million on a relatively unproven Championship striker it merely underlines the impact which FFP is now having upon the club.
    Two points from a possible twelve is not a crisis, certainly not in August, but it is a start we could have done without and one which needs to change and change quickly.  There is no doubt that Gary Bowyer’s hands have been handcuffed by FFP over the summer but the bottom line is that this club cannot afford to drop out of the Championship like Wigan Athletic and Blackpool.  Whilst promotion may never have been a realistic target for this season there is no question that relegation is unthinkable.  Bowyer, whilst relatively new to management, has been in the game long enough to know that it is a results driven business.  Ditching the high earners and revamping the squad whilst in the comfort of mid-table is one thing but slipping into a relegation dogfight is something completely different and the pressure will ultimately build on the manager as with the rumours that circulated after this game.
    With Jason Lowe and Adam Henley being ruled out by illness and Jordan Rhodes still on the injured list Bowyer was again forced to reshuffle his resources for this game.  Ben Marshall dropped to right-back which allowed Tom Lawrence to make his debut on the left of midfield.  Tommy Spurr retained his place at left-back and Bowyer kept faith with young David Raya in goal.  Once again he went with a two man strike force in Fodé Koita and Nathan Delfouneso.  However, with the sudden withdrawal of Henley and Lowe the Rovers only had enough available players to have six men on the bench.  In the past Bowyer has always taken a couple of the kids to away games for experience and it seems strange that on this occasion, when they might actually have been needed, we were left short-handed.
    The kick-off was delayed due to the tragic events surrounding the nearby air show – events which put the result of a football match in true perspective and render it meaningless.
    When the game began the Rovers started brightly and within the first minute Koite worked the ball out wide and from Marshall’s cross the ball was eventually cleared for a goal kick.
    A couple of minutes later Koite was in the thick of the action again when he took a long ball from Grant Hanley and moved into the right channel before cutting inside, beating a couple of defenders and then blasting a fierce shot which David Stockdale did well to hold.
    The home side struggled to make any meaningful progress in this opening period as the Rovers dominated possession and took the game to the opposition.
    Delfouneso and Koite combined to get the ball out to Lawrence who, in turn, found Craig Conway whose shot on goal was deflected by a defender just past the post.  From the resultant corner there was a scramble in the goalmouth which ended when Stockdale collected a header from Koita.
    The Rovers came again when Hope Akpan slipped the ball to Danny Guthrie and he hit a defence splitting pass which enabled Conway to get behind the defence and face Stockdale in a one-on-one situation.  Conway shot hard and low and the ‘keeper saved with his legs.
    It wasn’t until the twenty-sixth minute that Brighton mustered an attack that carried any real threat and this ended with Dale Stephen skipped past a defender and then fired wide.
    Koita was brought down on the edge of the area but nothing was given whist at the other end Raya had to be on his toes to race out to dive at the feet of Tomer Hemed.
    Brighton finally started to exert a little pressure and Shane Duffy was forced to head clear but the Rovers were still a threat and on one break Conway was again able to cut inside and hit a decent shot which Stockdale held.
    However, despite all the pressing and making all the running it was the Rovers who fell behind after thirty-five minutes.  Whilst there was more than a touch of good fortune about the goal there was also, once again, some slack defending on view.
    Stephens mishit a pass Sam Baldrock which completely took Hanley and Duffy out of the equation, he then rolled it across the edge of the area for Kazenga LuaLua, who had totally evaded the clutches of Marshall.  The Brighton man ran onto the ball and struck a fierce shot which seemed to be covered by Raya.  However, Hanley had raced into the area and threw himself to try to block the shot only to see the ball deflect off him and away from Raya and into the back of the net.
    The Rovers began the second-half on the front foot and Marshall almost caught out Stockdale with a long range effort which just flew over the bar.
    However, Brighton looked a far more positive outfit after the break and Hemed in particular began to find gaps to exploit in and around the penalty area.   A corner to the near post was just headed wide by Hemed as, once again, he escaped his marker.
    However, on fifty-two minutes the Rovers had a glorious chance to pull level when Koita showed an adroit piece of footwork to play in Delfouneso on the left of the penalty area.  The former Villa man found himself on a one-on-one situation with Stockdale and tried to beat the keeper by hitting a low shot between the ‘keeper’s legs.  However, Stockdale, who was quick to come out and meet Delfouneso and blocked the shot with his legs.
    Within a minute Raya was called upon to make a spectacular one-handed save when LuaLua found Hemed with a cross and his clever flick seemed goal bound until Raya leapt to get fingertips to the ball.  However, Brighton kept the ball alive and when the it was played back into the box Stephens found himself in space to shoot for goal but, once again, Raya pulled off a superb save.
    The game began to open up and the chances came thick and fast as both sides looked to attack at every opportunity.  The lively Hemed sent another effort over the bar with a spectacular overhead kick whilst on sixty-one minutes Duffy met Conway’s corner and saw his powerful header cleared of the line by Jamie Murphy.
    Seven minutes later and again it was Hemed who caused problems for the Rovers with a neat turn and shot which flew just over the bar.
    Bowyer made a switch with Barrow coming on to replace Koita who had started to tire in the unrelenting heat.  However, the Rovers were unable to make use of the Swansea man’s speed and struggled to find him with the right quality of pass.
    Whilst Akpan continued to drive the midfield forward, Guthrie started to show signs of tiring and for the last ten minutes of so, Bowyer changed the tactics by pushing Duffy up front and playing more long balls to the head of the former Everton man.  To keep the balance of the team, Matt Kilgallon came on to replace Lawrence and Marshall moved further forward.
    Right at the end the Rovers might well have snatched a well-deserved equaliser when Conway’s cross was met by Duffy but his header just flashed over the bar.
    Whilst the performance had been encouraging it was another disappointing result for the Rovers.  On the positive side, David Raya again showed impressive form to reinforce his claim to be the number one ‘keeper at the club.  His handling was safe throughout and his natural athleticism enabled him to make a couple of truly outstanding saves.
    Hope Akpan again impressed in midfield with a tireless display.  On an incredibly hot afternoon he never stopped working and covered every blade of grass in the middle of the park.  Danny Guthrie was less impressive despite one or two intelligent balls which opened up the home defence.  However, he tired in the second half and struggled to maintain his first half performance.
    Up front Nathan Delfouneso and Fodé Koita worked incredibly hard and appear to be developing a good understanding.  Both are starting to look fitter and complement each other well.
    Whilst there is no doubt that the Rovers aren’t enjoying the best of luck at the moment the fact remains that a win is badly needed for the sake of everyone at the club.  As it is the pressure is building on the manager and the post-match rumours of his sacking, later withdrawn, do nothing to help morale within the camp.  These are definitely challenging times for all concerned at Ewood Park.
    vdb

    By vdb, in Transfers,

    Rovers have announced that Leicester City midfielder Tom Lawrence has signed on loan until 3rd January 2016.
    The former Manchester United youngster signed for Leicester last year but was restricted to just 4 appearences for the foxes.  He has previously enjoyed loan spells at Yeovil Town and Rotherham United.
    Lawrence becomes Gary Bowyer's 7th signing of this current transfer window.  Rovers are under a transfer embargo and under the the terms of the embargo the squad is limited to 24 "established" players, any new signings are automatically classed as "established" players, the signing of Lawrence takes Rovers squad size to 23.  It remains to be seen if manager Gary Bowyer uses his final space before the transfer window closes or keeps it free so that he has the option of bringing in an emergency loan signing should Rovers require it after the transfer window has closed.
    Lawrence goes straight into the squad for the game at high flying Brighton tomorrow.
    vdb
    Tuesday 18th August 2015 – Football League Championship
    Blackburn Rovers 1 v 1 Cardiff City - by Parsonblue
    Blackburn Rovers (0) 1
    Hanley 88
    David Raya; Adam Henley (Danny Guthrie 63), Shane Duffy, Grant Hanley, Tommy Spurr; Craig Conway, Jason Lowe, Hope Akpan, Ben Marshall; Fodé Koita (Modou Barrow 46), Nathan Delfouneso. Subs not used: Jason Steele (gk), Matt Kilgallon, Marcus Olsson, Lee Williamson, John O’Sullivan.
    Manager: Gary Bowyer
    Cardiff City (1) 1
    Mason 5
    David Marshall; Lee Peltier, Sean Morrison, Matthew Connolly, Scott Malone; Anthony Pilkington, Kagisho Dikgacoi (Aran Gunnarsson 74), Peter Whittingham, Joe Ralls; Joe Mason (Craig Noone 86), Alex Revell (Kenwyne Jones 65).
    Subs not used: Simon Moore (gk), Fabio Da Silva, Eoin Doyle, Sammy Ameobi.
    Manager: Russell Slade
    Referee: Mr. S. Duncan
    Bookings: Blackburn Rovers – Hope Akpan, Shane Duffy
    Cardiff City – Matthew Connolly, Lee Peltier, Sean Morrison
     
    Attendance: 12,025
    The first win of the season is proving frustratingly elusive to find and the quest is not helped by the Rovers penchant for shooting themselves in the foot.  Just five minutes into the game and the Rovers found themselves a goal behind after young David Raya made a catastrophic error in trying to play the ball out of defence rather than adopting the long punt that was required at that point.  The setback seemed to set the tone for the rest of the first half, a half which saw the Rovers huff and puff but fail to break down the massed ranks of the Cardiff defence.  When they did get the ball into the net a linesman’s flag was raised for offside and the “goal†was chalked off.  The second-half produced a more sustained bout of pressure which eventually told and produced a late, late equaliser from Grant Hanley.  As with the defeat against Wolves, there were positives to take from the match but until the Rovers stop conceding soft goals those positives will count for nothing.
    With Jordan Rhodes ruled out with injury Gary Bowyer opted to stick with the 4-4-2 formation which had worked so well at Huddersfield.  Hope Akpan came in for his first start whilst Danny Guthrie dropped to the bench.  Another change resulted in Tommy Spurr replacing Marcus Olsson at left-back, with the young Swede dropping to the bench.
    On a night when the club and its supporters remembered the passing of Jack Walker, with a pre-match video and a minute’s applause, it was fitting that four products of the Academy – David Raya, Adam Henley, Grant Hanley and Jason Lowe – should be in the starting eleven.  Jack’s legacy is very much still alive with two superb training complexes at Brockhall and a modern stadium at Ewood Park.
    Sadly, after just five minutes the pre-match atmosphere surrounding the celebration for Jack evaporated in an instant.  Raya attempted to play the ball out with a short pass to Lowe.  The midfielder was quickly closed down and so put the ball back to Raya who, under pressure, kicked the ball out towards Spurr.  However, the left-back was robbed by Lee Peltier who, via Anthony Pilkington, played in Joe Mason and he, in turn, wasted no time in putting the ball past Raya and into the back of the net.  After the home defeats to Wolves and Shrewsbury Town, the last thing the manager needed was another individual error of that magnitude.
    The Rovers hit back with a couple of free-kicks, from Tommy Spurr and Craig Conway which created half-chances which couldn’t be converted.  Fodé Koita met Conway’s free-kick with his head but the ball was directed straight at David Marshall and the ‘keeper gratefully collected the ball.
    The goal visibly sapped the confidence of Raya and this was reflected in some shocking clearances whenever he attempted to kick the ball long.
    On fifteen minutes, Shane Duffy suddenly found the opposition defence open up in front of him and the young defender took the ball forward before he dragged his shot well wide of the target.
    Cardiff were happy to flood midfield and then drop back towards the edge of their own area to deny the Rovers the space to operate behind them.  The Rovers best moves tended to involve Nathan Delfouneso who again impressed with his movement and ability to work the channels.
    Whilst the visitors had less attacks than the Rovers their forays forward appeared to have more of a cutting edge than that employed by the men in ‘Blue & White’.
    On seventeen minutes the Rovers almost got themselves in trouble again when a moment of hesitation between Duffy and Raya ended with the centre-back playing the ball back to the goalkeeper and leaving it somewhat short.  Fortunately, the young Spaniard was quick to rush out and clear the ball.
    Fodé Koite then found himself in a good position and raced into the area but then produced a moment of comedy when he completely missed his kick as he was about to shoot for goal and fell over.  It rather summed up the opening twenty minutes for the Rovers – plenty of enthusiasm but a dearth of quality at the key moment.
    On twenty-one minutes Craig Conway produced a neat piece of skill which enabled him to cut in from the wing and hit a long range effort which Marshall collected with relative ease.
    Four minutes later the comedy appeared to be catching when Pilkington wasted a good opportunity with another mishit shot.
    Jason Lowe, in a rare foray forward, had a long range effort which forced Marshall into action.
    A corner to the visitors was eventually cleared as far as Joe Ralls who found himself in acres of space and he fired a fierce shot goalwards which Raya fumbled badly before Hanley stepped in to clear the danger.
    On thirty-two minutes Kigasho Dikgacoi struck a powerful effort from some twenty-five yards out and it whistled just inches past the post with Raya clutching at air as he dived full length to cover his post.
    Up to this point the Rovers were struggling to impose themselves on the game and although they enjoyed plenty of possession it tended to be in areas which wouldn’t hurt the opposition.  Indeed, Cardiff stood off and allowed the Rovers to keep possession by moving it around their back line without ever really looking like moving forward with a purpose.  Long balls played forward delivered little reward as Sean Morrison and Matthew Connolly had the beating of Koita in the air whilst Delfouneso was making intelligent runs in the channels but not always being found with Lowe being particularly guilty of being incapable of passing the ball forward.
    On forty minutes Adam Henley made an excellent run down the right wing which resulted in a corner.  This set piece was flicked on at the near post by Duffy and the ball eventually found Akpan on the far side of the area.  He came inside to find a more central shooting position but from the edge of the area he fired wide.
    The Rovers ended the half on the front foot and on forty-three minutes they had the ball in the back of the net when Spurr’s free-kick on the right was headed home by Koita only to be ruled out by a linesman’s flag.  Right on half-time, Spurr’s long throw was flicked on by Duffy and met by the head of Akpan but his header was blocked on the line as Marshall managed to claw the ball away with defenders covering the ‘keeper.  The Rovers kept the ball in and around the area and a cross from Conway came to Duffy, via Koita and Defounseo, but with a seemingly open goal in front of him he took a wild kick at the ball and it flew well wide of the target.
    It was a frustrating end to what had been forty-five minutes of frustration.  Having gifted the visitors an early goal the Rovers had had opportunities to draw level but simply hadn’t taken them whilst Cardiff had continued to pose a threat on the break.
    At the break, Bowyer made a change with Koita being replaced by Modou Barrow – the manager later explained that the Frenchman had felt a slight niggle with his knee and he was sensibly replaced as a precaution.
    With the introduction of Barrow the Rovers adapted their tactics and looked to play balls behind the defence to utilise the Swansea man’s turn of pace.  Sadly, too many passes were played far too short and defenders intercepted them before Barrow had the opportunity to gain possession.  However, when he did get the ball he looked a real threat.
    Despite enjoying the early possession at the start of the second period Raya was forced to charge from his goal to clear a long ball which had beaten the Rovers back line.
    The Rovers continued to come forward and the pace of Barrow and Akpan almost caught the visiting defence out until the move broke down on the edge of the box.
    On fifty-seven minutes Delfouneso produced a superb moment of skill when he controlled the ball on his chest, turned and struck a powerful volley which rattled the crossbar after it took a deflection.  The corner that followed was again met by the head of Duffy but the defender was unable to keep his header down and the ball flew over the bar.
    The Rovers really ought to have drawn level when a Conway free-kick came off the head of Marshall, wrong footed the Cardiff defence and found Hanley on the back post.  With the goal at his mercy he put his header the wrong side of the upright to the consternation of the Ewood faithful.
    Undeterred, the Rovers continued to dominate possession as they looked for an equaliser and always looked threatening with set-pieces.  On 61 minutes, Hanley rose to meet another Spurr free-kick but the defender was unable to get over the ball and his header flew high over the bar.
    Bowyer then made another switch with Danny Guthrie being brought on to add more guile to the midfield with Lowe dropping to right-back to replace Adam Henley.
    In a bid to stem the tide Russell Slade made his own switch with Kenwyne Jones being brought on to try to provide more punch to a Cardiff attack that had virtually disappeared after the break.
    As the game entered the final twenty minutes it was still the Rovers who were doing all the pressing and another goalmouth scramble from a Spurr throw enabled Hanley to do a quick turn and fire in a shot which Marshall held.
    On 76 minutes, on one of Cardiff’s rare attacking moves, there was almost a mix up between Lowe and Raya before the goalkeeper took charge and cleared the ball.
    The visitors were restricted to breakaways and on one such break, Akpan showed his “Aaron Mokoena†qualities when he stopped one raid with a robust challenge that earned him a booking.
    As the game moved into the final five minutes, Bowyer pushed Duffy upfield to play as another striker as the Rovers continued to put Cardiff under pressure but simply couldn’t find the key to unlock the stubborn resistance put up by the Welsh side.
    However, on eighty-eight minutes the Rovers got the breakthrough that their efforts thoroughly deserved and once again it was a set-piece that initiated the goal.  A corner was cleared but only as far as Conway and when the former Cardiff man delivered a perfect cross to the back post Hanley arrived and scored with a neat left foot finish.
    With four minutes of added time the Rovers continued to put pressure on the Cardiff goal with Hanley again going close with a header before a frantic scramble in the goalmouth ended with the ball being cleared off the line by a desperate Cardiff defence.
    Ultimately the Rovers had to settle for a point but, as in the previous two League games, there were positives and negatives to take from the performance.  On the positive side the improved defending of Grant Hanley and Shane Duffy was more than welcome.  Hanley, in particularly, looked to have rediscovered the form he showed a couple of years back and was immense in both penalty areas.  In midfield the performance of Hope Akpan was hugely encouraging.  Akpan looks to have good technique and is both mobile and forward looking in his approach.  He could well develop into the box to box midfield player that the Rovers have lacked for so long whilst at the same time he looked very accomplished defensively.
    Another positive was the performance of Nathan Delfouneso who, once again, caught the eye with his movement and ability to run at defenders.  Modou Barrow too, in the second half, did more than enough to suggest that he has the pace to trouble defences and create chances.
    Rovers’ set-pieces were good throughout and free-kicks, corners and Spurr’s long throw, created a number of very promising situations in front of goal.
    On the negative side young David Raya had a night to forget.  The youngster’s early error seemed to visibly sap his confidence, particularly with his kicking.  Youngster’s make mistakes and this is all part of the learning curve and, of course, there is usually no place to hide when a ‘keeper makes an error.  In midfield, Jason Lowe had another disappointing game with too many passes going astray or, more frustratingly, going backwards.  With the crowd on his back one can’t help but think that the time has come to either move him to right-back, a position in which he seems more comfortable, or leave him out altogether.  Akpan demonstrated that he can do the same job as Lowe defensively in midfield but seems more forward looking and attack minded.
    Whilst two points from nine is hardly great it merely reflects a newly, and hurriedly, assembled team that is in the early stages of coming together.  Clearly there are areas that the manager needs to address but the three League performances haven’t been as poor as the points total would suggest.
    Whilst this may not, at this moment in time, be a squad that looks geared to mount a promotion challenge, it certainly doesn’t resemble an outfit that should be threatened with relegation.  However, on the day that Bristol City made a £9 million bid for a striker it merely underlines how difficult it will be for the Rovers to compete whilst the embargo restricts them to loans and free-transfers.  Sadly, the days of Jack Walker are long gone and the old economic realities that we thought had gone for good have returned with a vengeance.
    vdb
    Saturday 15th August 2015 – Football League Championship
    Huddersfield Town 1 v 1 Blackburn Rovers - By Parsonblue.
    Huddersfield Town (1) 1
    Wells 9
    Joe Murphy; Joel Lynch, Mark Hudson, Tommy Smith; Jason Davidson, Jonathan Hogg, Dean Whitehead, Jacob Butterfield, Sean Scannell; Ishmael Miller (Harry Bunn, 72), Nahki Wells.
    Subs not used: Lloyd Allinson (gk), Martin Cranie, Murray Wallace, Jordy Hiwula, Kyle Dempsey, Adam Hammill.
    Manager: Chris Powell
    Blackburn Rovers (0) 1
    Delfouneso 60
    David Raya; Adam Henley, Grant Hanley, Shane Duffy, Marcus Olsson; Jason Lowe, Danny Guthrie (Hope Akpan 59); Modou Barrow (Nathan Delfouneso 59), Ben Marshall, Craig Conway; Jordan Rhodes (Fodé Koita 49).
    Subs not used: Jason Steele (gk), Tommy Spurr, Matt Kilgallon, Lee Williamson.
    Manager: Gary Bowyer
    Referee: Mr. P. Bankes
    Bookings: Huddersfield Town – Mark Hudson, Dean Whitehead
    Blackburn Rovers – None
    This game turned on a brave double substitution by Gary Bowyer on the hour mark. Having just used his first substitute, Fodé Koita to replace the injured Jordan Rhodes, the manager threw caution to the wind with the introduction of Nathan Delfouneso and Hope Akpan and a switch to a 4-4-2 system. His bravery was rewarded with an equaliser and a much improved second half performance and, above all, the first point on the board.
    After the poor performance on Tuesday night it was no surprise that Bowyer should revert to the team which started against Wolves, the only change being Modou Barrow replacing Delfouneso on the right wing. Delfouneso was on the bench along with other new signings Koite and Akpan.
    The Rovers started the game in lively fashion and within the opening minute had forced a corner. After five minutes, Rhodes blasted a free-kick against the Huddersfield wall and the ball flew over the bar for another corner.
    However, Huddersfield’s first real attack, on seven minutes, produced a corner after Marcus Olsson appeared to have been fouled in the build-up. From the corner there was complete chaos in the area as the Rovers threw bodies in the way of shots to block the ball but it was desperate stuff. However, as the ball was played out to Sean Scannell, the Huddersfield winger quickly crossed the ball and found the head of Ishmael Miller who produced a bullet like header from point blank range which David Raya did well to keep out with a spectacular piece of goalkeeping. Sadly, Nahki Wells was the first to react and he picked up the rebound and fired home from close range.
    The goal seemed to rock the Rovers and within minutes Danny Guthrie had been caught in possession and when the ball was played forward Grant Hanley headed clear as Raya was about to catch the ball.
    At this point the Rovers looked extremely vulnerable in defence with Hanley and Shane Duffy seemingly on different wavelengths in terms of where to hold the line – Duffy looking to push up and play a high line whilst Hanley was dropping back to man mark. Whenever a ball was thrown into the Rovers area there seemed utter confusion between the two centre backs.
    After their bright start, the Rovers were well and truly on the back foot although Barrow produced a sparkling run after fifteen minutes which resulted in him putting a low ball across the edge of the penalty area for Craig Conway to whip in a shot which curled just inches wide of the post.
    Miller, who was being given a fair bit of leeway by a very lenient referee, was played through by Jacob Butterfield after he intercepted a poor pass from Guthrie. However, the former Manchester City striker fired wide when he really ought to have at least got a shot on target.
    The Rovers responded with a rare attack which resulted in Conway getting another cross into the box which was punched away by Joe Murphy.
    The Rovers produced their best move of the half on thirty-five minutes when Guthrie picked out Rhodes with a peach of a pass that set the former Huddersfield striker free in the penalty area. As he struck his shot, Murphy was quick off his line to block the ball which then rebounded against Rhodes for a goalkick.
    Miller had another effort off target before the referee ended with half with the Rovers being fortunate to be just one behind. The defending had, at times, been simply chaotic with the midfield doing little to support a back four that had come under increasing pressure and had shown all the signs of cracking.
    The Rovers suffered a major blow within minutes of the restart when Rhodes was felled by a hefty and late challenge by Dean Whitehead. After lengthy treatment Rhodes was unable to continue and was replaced by Koita. From the resultant free-kick Duffy headed over.
    The Rovers were struggling to find any rhythm to their passing with far too many passes going astray. It was at this point, on fifty-nine minutes, that Bowyer made the move to add more impetus to the Rovers attack with the introduction of Delfouneso and Akpan and a switch to 4-4-2 with Marshall reverting to the right wing. It produced instant results and within a minute the Rovers were level.
    Marshall crossed a ball into the box from the right and Koita rose to head the ball down to Delfouneso who, in an instant, hammered the ball into the back of the net.
    The goal seemed to rejuvenate the Rovers and suddenly they started to move the ball around at speed as Delfouneso worked the channels and Koita dominated in more central positions. Indeed, the two almost opened up the home defence again with good link up play before the ball was cleared.
    However, on sixty-seven minutes Raya was called into action to palm away a terrific effort from Butterfield and was then forced to save a follow up shot from Scannell before the ball was finally cleared by Olsson.
    Wells then had a chance to work the goalkeeper but pulled his effort wide.
    Despite these chances it was the Rovers who looked the more likely side as they moved the ball about with confidence and in Conway they had a constant threat down the left flank. On seventy-two minutes Koita played a lovely ball out to Conway on the wing who showed a fair turn of speed to race past the full-back but, unfortunately, just as he moved into the area to deliver his pass he slipped and the ball went harmlessly out of play.
    A minute later and Conway flashed another ball across the goalmouth but no one could get on the end of it.
    During the final ten minutes it had become a really entertaining game with both sides looking for a winner without really overcommitting as neither side wanted to let anything slip at the last minute. Ultimately a draw was a very fair result and probably satisfied both managers after both had suffered a difficult first week of the season.
    For the Rovers it was something of a curate’s egg performance. The defending in the first half was poor, not just the back four but from the midfield in front of them. David Raya did everything that could be expected of him in goal and continues to look the part. He was very unfortunate with the goal, having made a brilliant save only to be let down by the sluggish reaction of the defenders to the loose ball. Both Adam Henley and Marcus Olsson had their hands full with Huddersfield’s speedy wide players and neither was able to really get forward and add much to the attack. However, the real worry was the centre-back pairing which continues to live on a knife-edge. There appears little understanding between the two and both seemed at odds with each other at times. In fairness, Hanley performed exceptionally well in the second half and looked the far more dominant figure of the two.
    Whilst the Rovers always looked dangerous down the flanks with Modou Barrow and Craig Conway impressing with their speed and ability to get behind the defence, the Rovers didn’t quite fire on all cylinders in the centre of the park. Ben Marshall drifted in and out of the game playing just behind Rhodes whilst neither Jason Lowe nor Danny Guthrie were able to get forward to provide sufficient service to Rhodes. Guthrie looked the more likely to open up the defence, and did so on one occasion, but a number of his passes were short and easily intercepted. Lowe, as usual, was athletic and covered a lot of ground and won a few tackles. However, there were times when the game simply passed him by and too many passes simply didn’t lead anywhere other than back.
    Jordan Rhodes was restricted to one chance in the first half and struggled to get into the game because of a lack of service.
    The introduction of the three substitutes completely changed the game for the Rovers, together with a change in tactics to suit the new arrivals. Nathan Delfouneso won the approval of the fans with his goal and movement. He works the channels, is quick and looks to make runs behind the defence. Fodé Koita, although admittedly raw, has a real presence about him and puts defenders under physical pressure. Like Rudy Gestede, he is good in the air and can shield the ball and hold it up before laying it off to those around him. As he finds his feet in English football he could become a very shrewd signing on behalf of the manager. Hope Akpan added movement, pace and some welcome power in the centre of park. He appears to have all the attributes required for the holding player but has the ability to get forward and take the play to the opposition rather than simply looking for the easy pass backwards.
    Perhaps one of the most surprising aspects of this performance was the fact that Gary Bowyer, a seemingly intrinsically cautious manager at heart, should embrace the gamble he did in a bid to alter the destiny of the game and the points. Bowyer often gets stick for his substitutions, which are often seen as negative and reactive, but today he was positive and proactive and got the reward he and the team deserved.