Andy Watson gives his verdict as Rovers suffer a second consecutive defeat as they lose to Blackpool…
It feels really bad to lose two away games in a row. Not only that it harkens back to that unwanted record of losing when in and around the play-off positions. However, in my opinion, this defeat to Blackpool can’t be put down to the team ‘bottling it’.
Scrolling Twitter in the aftermath of a Rovers defeat can be a forlorn task if looking for sensible and analytical takes on the match. It’s all part of the fan experience, and Twitter experience, to have a good old moan and a forthright opinion and I would (rarely) criticise anyone for giving their tuppence worth. On Saturday evening, most people had the same sort of take, and it’s really difficult to disagree with the most part.
Obviously, the game was lost in the first half, and It may have even been lost on the treatment table earlier in the week – some would say it was lost in the summer. The back four that Rovers put out was shorn of captain Darragh Lenihan and long-standing right-back Ryan Nyambe. In their places, Academy graduates Hayden Carter and Tyler Magloire. The problem is that both of them are central defenders and neither of them have totally convinced at this level when having been given opportunities before.
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I wrote in the last verdict after the Huddersfield defeat that I thought we had come to the end of the road with Tyler. This was never meant to be a disparaging comment to the young man, and some of the vitriol coming his way this week has been out of line and personal. Surely it is a valid opinion though to suggest he isn’t ready for this level, he may well be someday (though I am of the opinion that he probably won’t.) He was also playing out of position on Saturday, a fact that became abundantly apparent very early on.
Despite the apparently smart move of placing Ayala at right centre back between Magloire and Carter, it actually exposed the more experienced defender more than at any time this season. Left one on one with free-scoring Shayne Lavery after a fairly poor clearing header and then Magloire going wandering he never looked like he was going to prevent the shot. Carter was very unlucky though as his block looped up and in.
It is at this point that I disagree with a lot of the takes by other fans though. I’ve seen most write off the whole first half as a travesty. I actually think that the next 15 minutes was very good from Rovers. We were in the ascendancy through midfield, using Pickering well and Brereton Diaz looking a constant threat. Even when Lavery went off, it seemed as though Rovers had a real opening to mount an effective comeback.
The fact that we didn’t again comes back to really sloppy work in defence. The highlights start too late to see it but the major problem comes as Magloire wanders up towards the halfway line to apparently apply pressure but soon realises the error of his ways as the ball goes over him and down his channel. Ayala clearly had no interest covering that and then, despite the fact that Magloire’s pace enabled him to recover he was on the back foot. The next calamity comes at the back post as Pickering attempts to pass Madine onto Carter, but Carter is pre-occupied with Yates and Ayala wants to cut the cross out. Pickering for some reason is looking at the player on the edge of the area that Travis actually has covered so the massive gap appears behind Carter. Kaminski’s save from that initial header is actually insanely good, but that will never get the credit it deserves because obviously it falls to Yates to tap in.
I apologise for the analysis in the verdict but I think it illustrates the big problem that comes when a settled back four is broken up. My general point is that this defeat is going to feel worse than it really is. To lose another local derby, to a newly promoted team, is not a good result. But the errors and general first half performance is explainable.
Thankfully, we did see a reaction from the team. If we had continued to limp on the way we did in the last 20 minutes of the first half then I would have more concern. But Travis, Rothwell and Tayo Edun, the latter being given the most playing time we have seen so far, really drove the team on in the second half. It was mostly attack vs defence and the quality displayed by John Buckley (again) was able to unlock the defence once for that man Brereton Diaz.
To get to 10 goals this early in the season is beyond anyone’s expectations. However, his performances and stats actually back his form up. Yes, he is running a little bit hot, but according to Wyscout, he has 7.96xG compared to his 10 Championship goals. So just two above but clearly he is getting a lot of chances (albeit three penalties are involved in those numbers.) At the moment, he only lags behind Aleksander Mitrovic (10.96xG) in the Championship lists.
If we get Lenihan, Wharton, van Hecke, Nyambe, Johnson and Joe Rankin-Costello back (sounds ridiculous but none of them are far off if we are led to believe the truth) then all of a sudden this situation gets much better. It would undoubtedly help if new players we signed were match fit when they arrived, but shopping in the shallow end of the dream pool means that sometimes these things do happen.
We sit in the top half, close to the playoffs, with a winning record (just) and a positive goal difference. There are clearly more reasons to be cheerful than there are to be concerned. Let’s have a break now, hopefully allow those players to return, and use the run up to Christmas to go along at 1.5 to 2 points a game and stay in contention. We don’t need a Mowbray death spiral this early in the season.
Thanks for reading.