Talking Points: Consistency in defence is bringing results

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Mark Whittle discusses the talking points as Rovers end January without a league defeat after being Luton Town…

Armstrong’s late strike secures a huge three points leaving the Hatters in Tatters!

My prediction before the game for our Rovers Chat prediction league was a 1-0 Rovers win and that proved to be the case in this tight game against a resolute and well drilled Luton Town.

I never expected this match to be a pretty affair and for me, it was all about getting the three points on the back of a particularly good away win at Middlesbrough last Sunday. Rovers started very brightly and if we had scored an early goal, I feel as though we would have gone on to win by a bigger margin.

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However, as the game wore on, Luton made life more and more difficult for Rovers and it appeared as though they might well have held on for a 0-0 draw. The match was seemingly petering out, but the four substitutions Mowbray made on the hour mark sprung Rovers back into life, especially with the lively Tyrhys Dolan.

In the final 15 minutes, the home side looked increasingly likely to find the winner, which Armstrong did just that with five minutes remaining. There was a late scare when Luton had the ball in the back of the Blackburn End net, with the referee assistant’s flag coming to Rovers’ aid, but thankfully, Rovers held out for the win to record back-to-back 1-0 victories.

Branthwaite and the new defensive look

It has been an incredibly good January for Rovers picking up 10 points from a possible 12, conceding just the one league goal in that time.

Jarrad Branthwaite has played in the last three of those matches, keeping two clean sheets in the last two games and I do not think it is any coincidence that since the Everton loanee arrived at Ewood a couple of days before the Stoke game, that Rovers have notably been more solid defensively.

The Lenihan/Branthwaite partnership looks to be blossoming, with the ever reassured and reliable Kaminski behind them. Due to horrendous luck with injuries and Covid related absences, Lenihan has so far had no fewer than five central defender partnerships in the 2020/21 season, and Mowbray has made no secret that he is the market for another central defender, which we do need extra cover.

But, if the Lenihan and Branthwaite partnership keeps together with some continuity between now and the end of the season, Rovers will have a great chance of achieving their goal of a top six finish. It is a big if though of course, and a lot of things must go in our favour.

For large parts of this season many supporters, including myself, have been left frustrated of the fact that Rovers have not been able to keep enough clean sheets and have conceded far too many cheap and sloppy goals – a trend that had to be addressed. For me, it is all about results rather than performances at this stage of the season. I would take a 1-0 victory every week! 

All eyes now on Monday

With transfer deadline day looming on Monday, all eyes will be on the comings and goings at Ewood. Mowbray has already alluded to the fact Rovers are looking to get business done before Monday night’s 11pm deadline and has confirmed the club are looking to bring in a left back and another centre half.

That left back target is more than likely to be Harry Pickering who Rovers had a bid turned down for earlier in the window. If Rovers do land Pickering, then that would be an excellent piece of business by Mowbray for the long-term future of the left back position, and one that I am sure all us supporters will be excited with.

As for outgoings, I expect a couple of the U23’s to be loaned out such as Jack Vale. I would also not be surprised to see Amari’i Bell depart Ewood as he is out of contract in the summer and his days seemingly look to be at an end with the club.

Hopefully, Rovers can get the Pickering deal done. Things seem to be much brighter than before the new year and suddenly there is new hope. There appears to be renewed optimism going forward.

As always, stay safe and thanks for reading.

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