The Rovers fans watching at home on their laptops, phones & tablets would be forgiven for thinking that their software had a glitch.
It seems as though we have been watching the same matches on repeat for quite a lot of the season. Rovers controlling the ball, looking technically proficient but ultimately failing to add three points to their tally.
In games against Notts Forest, Reading and Stoke City we were unable to emerge with anything at all so we do have to be thankful for Joe Rothwell’s unbelievable quality. However, unlike Rotherham, there was to be no last minute winner, despite Bradley Dack coming on to good effect late on.
We will come to Dack later but first let’s tackle the position we are left in. Rovers lie 11th, 7 points off the playoffs. In our last two seasons we have been closer to the playoffs and had more points at this stage. This has led to some supporters questioning the supposed progress of the team under Tony Mowbray.
If you are a supporter who bases their opinions solely on results then there is little to no evidence to suggest that we are a better side at this stage. Equally, I have sympathy those who I have heard say that this team needs to find a cutting edge, or that we can’t break defences down or that our defence needs working on. All of these things are true.
However, I cannot agree with those who take in the evidence and conclude that the answer is a change of manager. I cannot look at the evidence and believe that we are a poor side. Even if, if, we are a midtable side, then we have at least changed from a midtable side that I watch only through loyalty to a midtable side that I would happily pay to watch as a neutral (even though we always play crap on Sky!).
That is worst case scenario for me. There’s no danger of us going down (50/1 according to bookmakers). Mowbray deserves credit in changing our entire style of play, changing the majority of the eleven in that time, without us ever looking in danger of a slide into trouble.
Performance metrics (if you pay any attention to them or not) still project us as being one of the top six teams in the division. I won’t sit here and say everything is fine but there are so many reasons to believe that results will turn back in our favour and that over a greater sample size the changes that Mowbray has implemented over the course of the last year will improve our points haul and position.
Talking about changing personnel by the way, do people not look at the triple change yesterday and say, “Yes, that’s a sign of improvement.” Being able to call upon Downing, Brereton and, finally, Bradley Dack, changed the game for us and hopefully is a sign of things to come. Add Lewis Travis, Joe Rankin-Costello and, valued squad man & leader, Elliott Bennett, back to that squad and I defy any fan to say that isn’t one of the best squads in the division. Yes, we could have done better without them in terms of points won, but let’s see if we can manage a sustained period of time with a 90% fit squad and assess again then.
I would just like to finish by giving the final few words to our #23. The contract news was the shot in the arm we needed to see, hopefully that is only the beginning in terms of signing up our key men (Nyambe & Rothwell next please). But more than that, his impact in the half an hour on the Ewood Park “pitch” (half sand, half bobble) just demonstrated the class act that we had been coping without. It is like getting a multimillion pound transfer into the side and if Mowbray can use him correctly, we could be in for an exciting 2021.
Ultimately, the only thing that will clear questions about progress and the manager up are points on the board. We have two more winnable away games coming up. We are likely to face packed defences again, but now let’s see the answers and let’s turn these fine margins around.