Andy Watson gives his verdict on Rovers’ first away defeat of the season, a 3-2 loss to Huddersfield…
It had to happen at some stage. The start to the season in which our only league defeat came to a (probable) promotion-winning club meant that expectations had been rising. A defeat at Huddersfield though is no disgrace, and, indeed, something we have been used to in recent seasons.
Let’s open up with a clear statement, there is no need to panic. There’s not really any need to be angry either. Tuesday night’s defeat was one of those that things just didn’t pan out for the team. Undoubtedly, the key factors in this were injuries. Darragh Lenihan not making the game was, in retrospect, a huge blow. His partnership with Daniel Ayala looks even greater now off the back of this defensive performance.
However, whilst we already had looked shaky in the opening spells of the game we had recovered to probably being the team that was more comfortable. Then disaster struck. In fact, it struck Ryan Nyambe on the head. Hopefully, the Namibian will be fine but the right-back leaving the pitch after 20 minutes was probably the most decisive moment of the game.
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With Joe Rankin-Costello still not back from his most recent injury (where is he?) and Jan Paul van Hecke coming to us with a niggle and not available it meant that Tyler Magloire was summoned from the bench for another Championship appearance. We may touch on his individual performance later but I was surprised to see that Mowbray didn’t just use Magloire as a right-back or move Carter to right-back and have Magloire directly take Lenihan’s place in the centre. Instead, the entire system changed to 5-2-3/3-4-3 with John Buckley employed at RWB.
Again, this wasn’t immediately awful. We actually maintained a spell of possession in this system and looked fairly threatening, but it came down to individual errors, individual lack of quality and too many square pegs in round holes.
All three goals came down the Huddersfield right. Pickering could’ve done better versus Sorba Thomas for the first but the lack of numbers in midfield meant that Alex Vallejo had too much time and space on the edge of the box. The other two came down to a lack of authority on the back post from Tyler Magloire. Either communication or lack of experience was the main problem. His body position was all wrong for the second and then again a forward snuck in behind the youngster that he was unable to pick up. We didn’t help Tyler by not exactly putting the wide players under pressure on delivery though. Also, our naivety in not taking a foul in midfield ahead of the third was disappointing, but Clarkson & Magloire need to learn by playing.
It feels like we have come to the end of the road with Tyler Magloire. I am loathe to criticise a young man, he had a decent loan spell in Scotland last season and he has a future in the game. His physical attributes are excellent and they alone should be enough at a lower professional level. He needs lots of game time at that lower level though in order to develop the mental side of the defensive game. He rarely seems to be in the right position and definitely has lapses that allow forwards to make space around him. I don’t think that he is currently at Championship level and I’m sure that Tony Mowbray didn’t ideally want to use him this season.
Some will level the blame at the manager and the recruitment team for leaving the squad in such a position. The paper-thin state of some positions was borne out last night. The financial situation certainly leaves the club in a poor position when it comes to providing quality in-depth and this is probably the beginning of us seeing that. If we are lucky with injuries and suspensions then our first fifteen or so players are good enough to challenge the top six. If not, another mid-table finish is likely. This is still better than many predicted pre-season.
There is no doom and gloom. I have just heard that Lenihan is out for the weekend so some grand plan may need to come into place to stop the on-fire Shayne Lavery. But even in the difficult situation we were in last night, there was still the same commitment, the same fight and the same quality going forward. To have Ben Brereton Diaz top of the goalscoring charts now is a fantastic achievement by Ben, Mowbray and the team.
But it is Joe Rothwell that I would like to finish on. Rothwell’s assist for Diaz’s first was sublime. We have had the privilege to see it a few times now but that kind of driving run past the opposition’s midfield and defence is something almost unique in this division. The fact that he has added some defensive discipline and positional responsibility to his play in central midfield makes him a unicorn. So many clubs will look at Rothwell now and think they could use a player of his qualities. To think that he is likely to leave the club in January or the end of the season is heartbreaking. I’m sure the club have offered him their best deal, but in reality, even the £15k cap wouldn’t be enough to tempt him to stay. I think he could earn more elsewhere.
The Blackpool game is a great opportunity for us on Saturday. It will be our third consecutive game in sixth position and a win would cement us in those places going into the international break. That is far and above what was expected and what we can be sure of is that the team will be all out to perform and win the points.
The away support is going to be sizeable and likely to be vociferous so I can’t wait to see how the players respond to the fans at Bloomfield Road. We will have to be aware of their qualities because they do have some strong ones, but the playoff berth for the break is there for the taking for us. The more we get used to being in these positions the better it is for these young players.