Andy Watson gives his verdict as Rovers run out as comfortable winners over Peterborough United…
Since Rodrigo Muniz plundered his second in front of a thoroughly depressed Ewood crowd Blackburn Rovers have now picked up seven points from a possible nine, scored eight goals, conceded two, and are back on the tails of the play-offs. To be honest, I’d stomach getting smacked once a month if it meant that this was the reaction.
Tony Mowbray spoke of a “growth mindset” within a lot of the individuals in a group. I know from a career in teaching that if you manage to have one or two in the class/group that show a desire to take on challenges and learn from them in a positive way then this can spread across the group just the same way as a lack of confidence or nerves can.
I heard Reda Khadra and Harry Pickering interviewed on Rovers TV and both mentioned the age of the squad. These lads are in similar stages of their careers, all hungry to become better as individuals, both on and off the pitch. They may not be the same “lads” that we knew and understood when football was a different game way back when, but we all surely understand that this is a group of young men who are relishing the support of each other, the coaching staff and us as fans as well.
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The way that this Blackburn Rovers side were able to control the match tonight, both defensively and in possession spoke of a maturing process. The opposition wasn’t up to much, their confidence was clearly fragile and as soon as Pickering popped up and did his best Rudy Gestede/Alan Shearer/Simon Garner (delete as age appropriate) impression then, in truth, it was tough to see Posh coming back into it.
However, the players in Blue and White kept making positive decisions. It would’ve been easy for Tyrhys Dolan to just allow Thompson to take his time on the ball and play it out of defence. But he just can’t allow an opposition player a moment’s peace. He wasn’t rash, didn’t give a foul away, but nipped in at the right time and, equally impressively, without so much as a look, laid it on a plate for a teammate. Mowbray mentioned that they were giving Dolan a ‘mental break’ recently, who knows if that had an effect or not, but results are speaking for themselves when it comes to the way the club are managing the youngster’s career.
Brereton Diaz again got the goals, that shouldn’t be underestimated, but the whole team has become a well-functioning outfit. Even when we are poor, as we were at times against Bristol City, there is an element of faith that it won’t last for 90 minutes. A section of the support was no doubt rueing the look of the team sheet when it came out, three at the back. Blackburn Rovers can’t play three at the back.
This one can. A scout/coach friend of mine commented on Rovers’ impressive defensive structure tonight. That team selection seemed to be the best way to present our best (fit) eleven players in a cohesive manner. It actually allowed the midfield to play in an interesting way that was super effective and showed off their talents in different ways.
Lewis Travis is often referred to as a holding midfielder or a defensive midfielder. He can, of course, play that role if requested to. But for me he is far too dynamic and has too many skills to be limited to that role. His reception of the ball is one of the best in the team, his awareness of the game and where the space is marks him out as a special talent. My only criticism is that he doesn’t always take the best care or produce the technically correct pass at the end of his work but he is still only 24 years old and still developing.
Travis’ work in conjunction with our two other outstanding central midfielders Joe Rothwell and John Buckley in this match is in danger of being underrated. All three popped up all around the pitch but each brought a different skill set. If Rothwell isn’t breaking lines with his dribbles, then Buckley is doing so with his vision and passing range. All three are fit, quick (enough), tenacious and organised in their pressing. It is a formidable challenge for opposition managers to work out, and even if they do, Jacob Davenport, Leighton Clarkson and Dan Butterworth are capable of changing things in those central areas.
The victory leaves us in 7th, one point outside the playoff positions. Personally, I don’t mind that QPR got a late winner to prevent us from grabbing that sixth spot. It’s only November, we have plenty of time to get in there. Whilst I have been public in my belief that it is so so difficult to get out of this division, I also believe that these playoff positions are wide open.
Mowbray has said many times about being in the right position when the carousel music ends. I don’t know if he really believes that or not, but if we can continue to grow as a team, mentally, physically, socially, then perhaps we can develop a level of consistency that can slow the dizzying spin just slightly.
Thanks for reading.