Saturday 15 February 2020

Not One To Remember

It looked like a horrible afternoon to play football; it was certainly a grim one to watch it. You try and take positives from any game but I can’t think of any right now, we ended up well beaten having put in a disjointed, confused performance. Try and learn a few lessons (and there were some) then forget the match as quickly as possible, hope it was a bad day at the office, keep in mind we just won away at Forest, blame the conditions or the curse of ‘football for a fiver’, and move on.

We lined up in a 5-3-2 with Doughty and Matthews the wing-backs and Lockyer, Pearce and Sarr lining up in front of Phillips, as against Forest. The midfield trio saw Cullen and Davis retained from midweek but with McGeady starting instead of Oztumer. Taylor and Hemed were again paired up front. The bench was pretty similar to the Forest game too, with Green taking a place rather than Aneke and no sign again of either Pratley or Williams.

We started the game brightly and undoubtedly bossed the first 10 minutes or so as both teams got accustomed to the swirling wind. Didn’t fashion a serious chance (we did have a couple of shots) but moved the ball around well. We weren’t to know that was about as good as it got. Blackburn slowly worked themselves more into the game and started to look dangerous, keeping the ball on the deck.

Indeed, the first major incident of the game could have seen them take the lead. A clipped ball seemed to put their guy in behind Pearce, who appeared to wrestle him to the ground from behind. My first reaction was a penalty and to wonder whether Pearce would be given a red. But the ref may have seen something before his contact as he gave us a free kick. He may have been right, would have to see it again; undoubtedly we were very relieved.

Before long we did commit the cardinal sin in such conditions by going behind, giving away a soft goal. Their guy was allowed to run across the edge of our box without a serious challenge going in and was given the time to line up a shot. Still didn’t look that worrying but seems the strike took a deflection to leave Phillips and everyone else wrong-footed. From the East Stand we were all surprised that what looked like a rather tame effort had ended up in the net.

It got worse. A few decisions in quick succession went against us and fans and players were getting riled. A Blackburn player went over rather easily and another free-kick was awarded on the left side. Not an especially dangerous position but when the ball came in nobody rose to head it clear. Perhaps it was taken by the wind but it dropped easily to their guy in the middle of a cluster of players and he turned it into the net. As with the first goal, there had been no sense of imminent real danger, but there it was. And we’re 0-2 down.

Perhaps the real turning point of the game came just after and before the break. We floated a ball to the far post and Taylor read it best and peeled away. He was able to nod it goalwards but their keeper stretched to turn it over the bar. Get one back then and the second half might be a different story, would have been a different mood going into the break. But not to be. It was tough on us to be two behind, but after that bright start our midfield had failed to function, the front two were starved, and our defence had coughed up two soft goals.

Bowyer changed the formation at half-time to a 4-4-2 with Pearce sacrificed and Smith coming on to play on the right. The feeling was just get one back and we can still get something out of the match, but we struggled to get out of first gear. Blackburn were not surprisingly content to knock it around and probe, retaining possession much better than us and not having to chase the game. It all went rather flat as far as we were concerned.

On the hour mark Bowyer tried to freshen it up by bringing Green on for the ineffective Hemed, to play alongside Taylor. Perhaps this would give us some cohesion. But nothing really changed. And after 10 minutes or so of this set-up Bonne was introduced for McGeady, with Green dropping deeper having had a very short spell as a second striker. Again nothing really changed and by now Blackburn were looking very comfortable. We had a shot or two but so did they, one from a decent position which was perhaps surprisingly put wide.

With about five minutes left of the 90 we finally made their keeper work, with a free-kick just outside the box curled in by Taylor, who had previously put one from a similar position over the bar. That goes in and despite all that has gone before we have a barnstorming finish. Not to be and the game, for us, ended tamely.

This report seems pretty downbeat because that was the game, from our perspective at least. A formation and an almost identical line-up to that which had secured three points at Forest today just didn’t work, nor did the changes made make much difference. For that you have to give Blackburn some credit and take account of the conditions. It was an easy day to look bad (manager as well as players as his substitutions really didn’t work). Equally, you’re at home, 0-2 down at the break, make three substitutions, and it’s five minutes from the end before their keeper has to make a save. That wasn’t good enough.

So far in February we’ve had the joy of beating Barnsley at The Valley followed by what by all accounts was a poor display at Stoke. We beat Forest on their patch only to come back and get turned over by Blackburn. Perhaps we just have to live with the inconsistent performances, but we clearly can’t afford another poor one next time out against Luton. You’d hope that both Pratley and Williams are available for that one as we missed them today.

Player Ratings:

Phillips -  7/10. First goal was a deflection, second he seemed to have no chance for. Otherwise really didn’t have much to do.

Matthews – 6/10. Was caught out one by their winger but generally fine. Still that problem that with a back five you hope to see the wing-backs bombing forward and we didn’t get that.

Doughty – 6/10. Stuck to his task well enough. Still prefer to see him in the opposition half as an outright winger.

Lockyer – 6/10. Two soft goals for which the defence has to take collective responsibility.

Pearce – 5/10. Caught out a couple of times and might easily have conceded a penalty (possibly with a red card to go with it). Sacrificed at the break to change the formation.

Sarr – 6/10. Perhaps deserves a slightly higher mark as he did well enough, just that like others may have to take some responsibility for their goals.

Cullen – 6/10. Struggled to have an impact in a midfield three which at least today didn’t look effective.

Davis – 5/10. Tidy but generally ineffective, not really sure what he brought to the party.

McGeady – 6/10. Some good touches, a shot or two, nothing decisive.

Taylor – 6/10. Not his best game but kept at it to the end. A header in the first half and the free-kick might have ended in the net.

Hemed – 5/10. Thought this was a big game for him, given Bonne and Aneke coming back. He didn’t make a case today for keeping his place.

Subs – Smith (5/10 – not really in the game); Green (6/10 – on as a second striker then moved after 10 minutes for another substitute); Bonne (5/10 – had around 20 minutes on the pitch but failed to make an impact).

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