Connor McBride’s deflected free-kick helped Rovers to a draw against Leeds United as fans made their long-awaited return to Ewood Park.
Absent from stadiums for the last 515 days, the supporters returned to Ewood and were given plenty to cheer about as Rovers matched their Premier League opposition.
Rovers named a relatively strong starting eleven, with the bench made up of all Under-23s, barring Chile’s very own Ben Brereton Diaz.
Young midfielder Jake Garrett, who signed a deal through to the summer of 2025 earlier this summer, started alongside John Buckley and Jacob Davenport, and the young trio impressed the returning fans.
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Buckley, in particular, was lively in the first half, finding Adam Armstrong with a neat pass early on, only for the forward to be well denied by Jamie Shackleton.
The young midfielder then had a chance of his own as he weaved through several Leeds players, but his strike was too close to Illan Meslier.
Leeds caused issues for the Rovers defence as well, with Raphina having an effort tipped over the bar by Thomas Kaminski in the Belgian’s first performance in front of the Rovers faithful.
The match came alive following the half-time break as Armstrong went close from the halfway line for Rovers, before Raphina was well denied by Kaminski once more.
The introduction of Ben Brereton – or Brereton Diaz to give him his full name – saw the hosts spark back into life as he skipped past a couple of challenges and struck towards goal, but his effort was tame.
Rovers got their breakthrough with eighteen minutes remaining as substitute Connor McBride – who had only been on the pitch a couple of minutes – stepped up for a free-kick which deflected off the wall and into the goal.
The visitors responded well and after Tyler Roberts was denied by Kaminski, fellow Belgian Patrik Struijk finished past the Rovers keeper to secure a draw.Rv
Rovers will take plenty of positives from the match, with seven academy products ending the match on the pitch, all showing their potential ahead of a season that could see many of them get a first-team chance.
Football is back, fans are back. Roll on the opening day.