Town Visit Blackburn Looking for October Revolution
Friday, 14th Oct 2016 06:00
Town visit Blackburn Rovers on Saturday looking for their first October victory under Mick McCarthy’s management as well as an end to a run of four games without a goal or a win.
The Blues, who fly to the North-West today, last won in October back in 2011 when Keith Andrews, coincidentally on loan from Blackburn, netted the only goal in a 1-0 win at home to Portsmouth.
Saturday’s game is the first of three in eight days, which McCarthy says are big matches.
“I’m looking forward to them,” he said. “Great games. Blackburn away, we’ve not had a lot there for as long as I can remember, so we need to get something, and then, of course, Burton here is going to be a huge game.
“Judging by the interest in the Newcastle match already, in terms of people wanting tickets and want to go and see it and even among the players, that’s creating a lot of excitement.”
McCarthy is right to say Town haven't won at Ewood Park in a while. Their last win there was the famous 1996 FA Cup replay victory over the then-Premier League champions, while their most recent win in the league came early in the 1991/92 season in which both teams were promoted from the old Second Division, the Blues as champions. Rovers have won the last five games between the teams at Ewood Park.
Owen Coyle’s men have proved less than unbeatable at home so far this season, however, with three of their five matches on their own turf ending in defeat and only one in victory, a 4-2 defeat of bottom side Rotherham.
Having sold Jordan Rhodes to Middlesbrough in January, McCarthy believes the Lancastrians are still adjusting to life without a key striker in much the way Town have been since Daryl Murphy’s departure for Newcastle in August.
“Strange that when you lose goalscorers, isn’t it?” he said. “It happens to us all, it’s the process of football and that’s just the way it is.
“It’s not been going particularly well for them as it hasn’t been for us, so it’s going to be a bit of a dogged scrap. We need to get something from Blackburn.”
He added: “They haven’t got bad players, that’s for certain. Danny Graham, Sam Gallagher, they took Marvin Emnes on loan from Swansea, so they’ve got a fair strike force.
“I guess they’ve been a bit like us, when they’ve lost it’s been by a single goal. They’re finding it a little bit tough at the minute. Both of us need a result, don’t we?”
Since losing Rhodes up front in January, Blackburn have also suffered from the sales of similarly important central defenders in the summer.
“They lost two of the best in the Championship really, Shane Duffy and Grant Hanley," the Town boss reflected.
“Replacing that settled pairing is really difficult. Let’s hope we can capitalise on that. I’m not feeling sorry for them, believe me.”
Given recent form McCarthy admits the Blues need to take at least a point away from Ewood Park: “I always set off with the intention that we’ve got to go and get something from the place.
“We’ve had poor results at Blackburn, but the position that we’re in and with the results we’ve just had it wouldn’t matter where we were playing, who we were playing, we really need to get something out of the game, and that’s what we’ll be trying to do.”
Bartosz Bialkowski will continue in goal for the Blues but McCarthy has a decision to make in his defence with Adam Webster fit after his hamstring injury.
The Town manager could opt to switch back to his more experienced back four with Webster returning to the right-sided central defensive role and skipper Luke Chambers moving out to right-back.
Alternatively, Josh Emmanuel, who has impressed his boss in the last two games, could keep his place with Chambers remaining at the heart of the defence and Webster taking a place among the subs.
Christophe Berra will be in the left-sided central defensive position with Jonas Knudsen at left-back.
In midfield, McCarthy seems likely to stick with Cole Skuse and Jonathan Douglas in the centre but may switch to the 4-4-2 system usually favoured by the home side.
This would see Grant Ward on the right and Freddie Sears, Tom Lawrence or Conor Grant on the left with Sears or Lawrence likely to play alongside or behind Leon Best.
If the Town boss decides to stick with the 4-3-3 formation utilised before the international break then Lawrence will probably be on the left of the front three, Ward on the right and Kevin Bru - with Teddy Bishop having broken his nose for a second time and Jonny Williams not yet ready to start - probably in the more advanced midfield position.
Blackburn will be without skipper Jason Lowe, who is suspended after reaching five bookings, but Marvin Emnes and Corry Evans are both fit despite having been forced off in Rovers’ 1-0 defeat at Birmingham before the international break.
However, striker Danny Graham is a big doubt with a groin strain, also suffered at St Andrew’s.
Anthony Stokes is back after a knee problem and will come into the side if Graham misses out, while Gordon Greer (groin) and Wes Brown are both expected to be OK to face the Blues despite minor niggles.
Charlie Mulgrew has returned to full training after a calf problem but isn’t yet ready for first-team involvement. Adam Henley (hamstring) and Elliott Ward (ankle) remain long-term absentees.
Rovers manager Coyle believes it is a game from which his side can claim their third Championship victory of the season.
"It is a game that we know that we can win," he told Rovers PlayerHD.
"It is a tough game, as they all are in the Championship, but we are back at Ewood and we want to start getting points under our belt at home.
"I think the last couple of performances have been decent, the Rotherham game when we won, and then against Sheffield Wednesday where we played well and should have had something from the game.
"It was certainly no consolation when the PGMOL rang me to tell me that we had scored a perfectly good goal against Sheffield Wednesday.
"So we know that we have got good players and we know that we are building a good team, and we know that we want to go and start getting points under out belt at Ewood, so it is up to us to make sure that we go and play well and give the fans something to sing about when they get behind the team."
Despite their poor record at Ewood Park, Town have had the upper hand on Rovers over the years, winning 18 games (15 in the league), losing 15 (14) and drawing 16 (15).
The teams met most recently at Portman Road in March when Daryl Murphy celebrated his 33rd birthday by scoring two second-half goals to see the Blues to a 2-0 victory.
The Irishman netted the first from the penalty spot in the 67th minute and added the second three minutes from the end of scheduled time.
In October last year at Ewood Park, Blues nemesis Rhodes scored two first-half goals to condemn Town to a 2-0 defeat.
The former Blues striker netted the first from the penalty spot in the 12th minute, then headed home the second four minutes later.
Town midfielder Jonathan Douglas joined Blackburn from hometown club Monaghan United as an 18-year-old in 2000 but spent much of his time with Rovers out on loan and made only 16 starts and eight sub appearances in six years at Ewood Park, scoring once.
Striker Luke Varney left Blackburn in the summer of 2015 having spent the end of the previous season on loan at Portman Road.
The 34-year-old had joined Rovers in July 2014 but made only one start and 13 sub appearances while at Ewood Park, without scoring.
Leon Best joined Blackburn from Newcastle for a fee of £3 million in July 2012 but made only 11 starts and five sub appearances, scoring twice, in a three-year spell, much of which was spent out on loan.
Tom Lawrence was on loan at Blackburn from Leicester for the first half of last season, making 15 starts and eight sub appearances, netting twice.
Rovers winger Liam Feeney spent the end of last season on loan with the Blues from Bolton Wanderers, making seven starts and two sub appearances, scoring one goal.
The 30-year-old came close to joining Town on a permanent basis in the summer before Rovers offered a very significantly more lucrative contract and he moved to Ewood Park, where he had previously been on loan during 2014.
Blackburn’s 23-year-old Irish defender Derrick Williams regularly trained with the Town Academy during the school holidays as a youngster but ultimately opted to join Aston Villa as a scholar. He moved to Ewood Park from Bristol City in the summer.
Rovers’ head of athletic performance is former Town keeper Chris Neville, who came through the Blues’ youth set-up and made one senior appearance in the 1989/90 season - a 3-1 win at West Brom - before a knee injury forced him to retire.
Winger Elliott Bennett and on-loan West Ham youngster Martin Samuelsen were both players who interested the Blues in the summer.
Blackburn are warning fans travelling by car that there will be roadworks around Ewood Park at the weekend.
Saturday’s referee is Geoff Eltringham, who has shown 35 yellow cards and two red in 11 games so far this season.
Eltringham’s most recent Town game was the 1-1 draw at Sheffield Wednesday in April 2013 when he kept his cards in his pockets throughout.
The County Durham-based official’s only other Blues match was the 3-1 defeat at Leeds in January 2012 in which he red-carded on-loan Town keeper Alex McCarthy for handling outside the area thereby denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity and booked Luke Hyam and one home player.
Squad from: Bialkowski, Gerken, Chambers (c), Emmanuel, Knudsen, Kenlock, Berra, Webster, Digby, Skuse, Douglas, Bru, Williams, Bishop, Grant, Dozzell, Ward, Lawrence, Sears, Best, Varney.
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