Following a run of tough games against top 6 sides with, last weekend and at last, the collection of a single point from one of them, Town began their season run in against teams that are, for the time being, considered their peers.
Much was made pre match of Town’s record at Ewood Park, where they haven’t won in 30 years. Hardly ever playing there until recently rather dilutes the already pretty pointless statistic and our record since returning to the Championship has been a narrow defeat and 2 turgid goalless draws.
There is also the unmistakeable stench of decay about the famous old Lancastrians. Absentee Indian owners appear to be losing interest and Lambert’s lightly veiled ultimatums over transfer funds look likely to be ignored and it is far from inconceivable that the, ahem, chickens are coming home to roost for a club never far from FFP sanctions scrutiny.
Rovers’ team to face Town contained little to fear; the departures of Gestede and Rhodes and the arrival of the ageing and never prolific Danny Graham has significantly weakened a club who have never really convinced as potential promotion challengers since their demotion.
With the increasingly remote possibility of relegation receding to theoretical mathematics following last week’s results, all of the apparently invincible top 6 having been played and a better, if far from perfect display in the last game, Town could go in to this game with reasonable confidence.
A dire first half was intermittently brightened up by the skills of Van La Parra who tormented Blackburn’s defenders and midfielders without being able to penetrate what appeared to be a solid home back line. While Town took control of possession, their progress up the field was either too laboured or they were forced in to trying long balls to be comfortably dealt with by Hanley.
The best move of the half was the home team’s. A short corner was cleverly worked between Gomez and Marshall with the former being freed by the latter’s back heel to the byline, but the resilience Town’s defenders showed regularly against Hull came to the fore as Graham’s shot was charged down before the ensuing melee was cleared.
A free kick was also well blocked by the wall but the rest of Rovers’ attacks, which became increasingly sporadic, were easily dealt with.
For their part, Town created little of note and yet another foray forward appeared to fizzle out as a cross from Bunn was intercepted by Marshall only for the hapless Duffy to attempt a headed back pass to his keeper. Wells, creditably alert, latched on to the ill advised and slightly loopy attempt and cleverly diverted past Steele with an instinctive finish.
Duffy was also to provide a comedy moment beloved of all football followers when he was slammed from close range in the nuts in the second half. Horrible when it happens to you (ladies, you are just going to have to take our word for it), but a rare joy as a witness.
Shortly after Town’s opener, Steele presented the ball to Van La Parra when trying to find Marshall. The opportunity came to naught but betrayed a fragility in the home team which was to be exploited in a marginally better second half.
Having scored with their only attempt on target shortly before half time, Town’s recent Ewood Park drought had finally come to an end and a vital platform had been established. Somewhat fortuitous and a little more than a tepid first half had deserved, it was, never the less, a welcome advantage which had the added virtue of being well timed as the break loomed.
It had been a half where Town’s ability to keep possession better than their hosts became quickly apparent, even if there was virtually no potency in the final third. Whitehead – very fortunate not to be booked for a late challenge – and Huws dominated midfield and provided an effective shield for a largely comfortable defence ably marshalled by Hudson and Lynch.
Moving the ball more quickly must have been on the agenda for Wagner’s half time talk as Town took control of the early stages of the second period, and they were rewarded by a second goal before the hour.
Bunn swung in a near post corner which was met by Hudson and diverted in to his own goal by Killgallon. A welcome but scruffy goal, in keeping with a very ordinary game, gave Town a solid basis for victory but it preceded Rovers best spell of the game.
Sparked in to some sort of life, the home side finally began to add some crispness to their passing and exerted what should have been game changing pressure.
Ben Marshall, a quality player who had been quelled far too easily in the first half, put in a great ball after skipping past Davidson only for Graham to miscue his straightforward headed opportunity badly wide. It was difficult not to imagine what Rhodes would have done with the chance.
The same player was thwarted by a Tommy Smith block soon afterwards but alarm bells were ringing for the visitors – a goal at that stage could have drastically changed the nature of the game.
The temporarily lively Marshall then found the byline in the box and his cross was headed out by Davidson in to the path of Gomez whose goal bound strike hit Hudson and cannoned off him for a corner. Desperate appeals for a penalty were easily turned away – Hudson had no alternative but to let the ball hit him, made no movement to suggest an attempt to keep out the ball illegally and it had struck him from fairly short range.
A routine save down near his right hand post by Steer – the only save of note he had to make – signalled the end of the home side’s brief revival and they were never to look like getting a foothold in the contest again.
Re establishing control, Town kept the ball comfortably and looked more likely to add to their score, particularly with the lively Van La Parra drawing several fouls as he threatened to break, but they were largely content to run down the clock with a calm collectiveness which thwarted and frustrated their lethargic and unimaginative hosts.
The uncertain glory of an April day saw sunshine turn to dark clouds, winds and a little snow to add meteorological drama to a game largely bereft of excitement – a late penalty appeal when Wells was shoulder charged was rightly turned down, but the win had rarely been in doubt.
A good, if not particularly inspiring, win against opponents you suspect are in dangerous decline gives Town some impetus to finish the season strongly and further persuade Dean Hoyle – if such persuasion was needed – to back Wagner with summer signings to improve a side which has a decent philosophy in the making, if not enough quality to translate it in to significant movement up the table yet.
In case you were wondering, the additional hole to those noted by Lennon appeared in Blackburn’s back four, which leads us to the promised quiz;
There are 4 UK towns and cities named in Lennon/McCartney lyrics. Blackburn is the obvious one – what are the other two? No googling now! Answers below – need to scroll down a bit.
Southampton and London – The Ballad of John and Yoko (thanks to Pete Watson for pointing out that London appears late on)
Kirkcaldy – Cry Baby Cry.