We Should Simply Not Be Worrying About Playing Ipswich at Home - Notes for Blackburn Rovers
Friday, 18th Jan 2019 10:15 by HarryFromBath
HarryFromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Saturday’s game at Ewood Park by delving into their forums.
“Mid-table is the harsh truth of where we are”, “No way are we going down, there are too many really poor teams down there”, “Things got a bit wobbly in December but I’m confident that we’re a better team than at least the bottom four”, “We’re a long way off being ready to go up and stay up.”
Rovers head into Saturday’s game sitting in a comfortably mid-table 14th in the table and also 14 points clear of third-bottom Reading. Fans’ fears were calmed when a five-game winless run in December was halted with victories at home to West Brom on New Year’s Day and at Millwall last Saturday.
“December was horrible, but our last two wins were against teams on nine and four-game unbeaten runs. We’re not ready yet but there is clearly something showing in this set up”, “We were unlucky to lose to Newcastle [in a FA Cup third round replay on Tuesday night] and our season is over now.”
“This team isn’t ready for a promotion push yet but there are signs that several of our players could be given time and a few of the right additions”, “I think this squad has reached its ceiling by being mid-table. We need a fair few out and a fair few in if we are really going to push for a top-six place.”
Some fans are urging patience and perspective. “People have completely forgotten the past few years. We’re doing well and will be knocking on the play-off door or at least safely in mid-table”, “Let’s not forget where we have come from, nor the progress we have made in the last 18 months.”
“We may have won away at Millwall and may well get to mid-table by the end of the season, but if this is the sum total of Tony Mowbray’s football philosophy after two years, it’s pretty shocking”, “I laugh when he gets credit as a footballing manager”, “In the main, the football has been very poor”.
The 55-year-old former Town defender replaced Owen Coyle as boss in February 2017. Although he was unable to prevent the club’s relegation into League One that season, he guided Rovers back to the Championship at the first time of asking last season with a second-place finish behind Wigan.
“Mowbray has done a decent job so far. My only gripe with him is to be a bit braver”, “He wants to win every game but at times it is impeded by him worrying about being over-cautious”, “His way of thinking is to keep it tight and not to make any errors, but this comes at a price of us creating little.”
“This Rovers team couldn’t be further from his attractive passing Middlesbrough side.” He has been criticised for playing a cautious brand of football and also of his transfer work. “There’s a lost of solid debate and criticism of two of his signings [Ben Brereton and Amari’i Bell] who have been so poor.”
“Trust in Tony.” Many fans can see the patient long-term team building he is undertaking. “He’s not a revolutionary but is the right man for me”, “He has fostered a terrific team spirit and is putting a nice balance together. He’s building a young squad capable of sustaining us for the next few years.”
Playing Solid, Well-Drilled Football
“Under Mowbray we try to counter and we play well in patches”, “I’m sick of watching this long-ball nonsense in every match. We must be capable of better than this as an attacking force”, “The only time we have more than two players in the opposition penalty area is when we have a set piece.”
“We’re a team in evolution with several players growing into their roles”, “We don’t have the quality to play the ball through the thirds of the pitch”, “We haven’t got the players to consistently pass the ball out. We lack pace on and off the ball and we don’t seem able to get around the side of teams.”
“We always seem to be closing down and chasing without dictating play.” Rovers have overcome the lack of quality and width in their team by being well-organised and scoring from both set pieces and direct football, relying on the quality of strikers Bradley Dack, Adam Armstrong and Danny Graham.
“This is not a style of football that is going to bring the missing thousands back to Ewood Park”, “We could do with playing some old-school one-touch football in training. Taking that extra touch on the attack allows attempted crosses to be charged down and gives defenders time to set themselves.”
“We have to stop crumbling at the end”, “We might become famous for always conceding in the last five minutes”, “We lack a lot of quality but make up for that in passion and energy but when energy levels dip, we collapse and our poor quality is exposed, hence why we concede so many late goals.”
The starting XI (above) at Millwall last weekend was set out with Mowbray’s preferred back four and Bradley Dack playing as a second striker off a frontman. Injuries and illnesses have seen the line-up heavily rotated in recent games, with several players only fit enough to make cameo appearances.
David Raya is seen as fine shot-stopper who is capable of occasional blunders, while Darragh Lenihan is the most consistent centre-half. Jack Rodwell’s quality and composure has impressed in his recent appearances while Charlie Mulgrew’s eight set-piece goals have been vitally important this season.
“The biggest weakness in the team is the full-backs. It is our soft underbelly”, “I can’t remember a time when we have been so badly served at full-back”, “We all know we are weak in both full-back positions, apart from the genius who blew all that cash on Ben Brereton, our reserve forward.”
Elliott Bennett has played at right-back but is widely seen as more effective further upfield and Ryan Nyambe is an athletic if raw alternative. The left-back slot is more concerning where Amari’i Bell has been defensively highly suspect, while his understudy Derrick Williams is even more of a liability.
“Harrison Reed and Lewis Travis should be our centre midfield partnership going forward. They are far more dynamic and progressive than Richard Smallwood and Corry Evans who will never take us to the next level.” The blossoming of Reed and Travis is seen as a real highlight of this season.
“Out wide is possibly the weakest area in terms of having players who can score and assist”, “We really need to find a young, fast winger as we only have the ageing Craig Conway.” Rovers also lack width further upfield with central midfielders and strikers regularly having to cover out of position.
Danny Graham and Joe Nuttall are both praised for their industry leading the line while the pace of Adam Armstrong is also an effective weapon. Bradley Dack is the most naturally creative striker but has been below par lately through illness and Ben Brereton is too lightweight to be a regular starter.
Blackburn 2 – 4 Newcastle (FA Cup Third Round Replay – After Extra Time)
“Well, at least it was a fun game”, “We did well to get back to 2-2 but once we were level, we were extremely disappointing. We never showed the drive or desire to win the game”, “We never really got going although we were the better team. Our makeshift defence couldn’t organise themselves.”
“We had bags of effort but little quality.” Sean Longstaff put Newcastle ahead after a minute with a deflected shot before Callum Roberts then volleyed in a second on 22 minutes. Armstrong pulled a goal back on 33 and then Lenihan powerfully headed home an equaliser in first-half stoppage time.
There was no further scoring inside 90 minutes, but extra-time saw Joselu net from Raya’s spilled save before Ayoze Perez's powerful strike sealed the Magpies’ victory. “I’m a big fan of Raya but that was shocking. It was a missed opportunity as Newcastle were shocking but still scored four goals.”
“We were seven or eight players down.” Illness and injuries saw Mowbray play an improvised line-up (above) in an unfamiliar shape with all of their six wide outfield players playing out of position. “The 3-4-3 shape hit our fluency. We didn’t need three up front. An extra defender would have helped.”
Millwall 0 – 2 Blackburn
“Well, how about that. The game was atrocious for 85 minutes but then the chips fell in our favour”, “An absolutely terrible match and something of a smash and grab, but a win’s a win”, “It was never going to be a football exhibition. For the neutral it was dire”, “At least Dick Turpin wore a mask.”
Rovers scored twice in just over a minute to end Millwall’s four-game winning run. Joe Nuttall grabbed his first Championship goal from substitute Armstrong's cross to put the visitors ahead on 86, while Armstrong wrapped up victory shortly after the restart when he finished off a swift counter-attack.
“It was an eyesore of a game”, “We doubled up on Millwall with their head-tennis game, kept it tight and hit them late on”, “Millwall were as dull and route one as we were”, “We have served up some dross this season and this was far and away the worst. That said, Millwall looked equally as bad.”
“Two minutes decided everything.” Tony Mowbray was praised for the game-winning introductions of Armstrong and Graham from the bench (above), while Ryan Nyambe’s appearance allowed also Bennett switch to the left midfield to better protect the wayward Bell.
Newcastle 1 – 1 Blackburn (FA Cup Third Round)
“One-one then, replay”, “An encouraging showing against a Premier League side away from home. It is sad that we just can’t hold on to a lead”, “We would have taken a replay before the kick-off, but it could have been more”, “It was never a penalty to Newcastle, but that’s modern football for you.”
“A decent result away from home.” Dack put Rovers ahead on 56 when he headed home Bennett’s cross, but Matt Ritchie levelled for the Magpies on 84 from the penalty spot after a foul given against Corry Evans, although many travelling fans weren’t convinced about the decision.
Fans welcomed what was a strong starting XI (above) for a cup tie. “We approached the game with guile, bravery and effort, and made Newcastle look toothless and disjointed”, “Jonjo Shelvey came on for Newcastle just before the hour and changed the game. He gave them such a dangerous look.”
Blackburn 2 – 1 West Brom
“Phew, what a good win”, “The win didn’t affect our league position but psychologically hanging on was huge”, “It was the same old story for much of the first half. We were doing everything right but the final ball was lacking”, “Today is the day I’m pretty sure which confirmed we won’t go down.”
Mulgrew scored direct from a corner for the second time this season to put Rovers ahead on 53 before Dack rifled home five minutes later on the counter. Jay Rodriguez pulled one back from the penalty spot on 63 before Jake Livermore was sent off on 87 after a clash with Lewis Travis.
The starting XI (above) was as strong as Mowbray could select, with midfielder Reed and striker Armstrong in the wide midfield roles. “Both left wingers had the beating of their full-backs, but West Brom’s Harvey Barnes seemed to make the right decisions more than Armstrong.”
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“We won’t be successful at this level with Raya in goal.” The 23-year-old Barcelona-born youth product “makes outrageous saves that he has no right to get to, but flaps at hard shots hit straight at him”, “You need a calmness about you in goal or everyone in front of you will be playing on edge.”
“Raya is in danger of becoming an enigma for us. His reflexes are as good as any anyone’s but he’s very prone to basic errors”, “If it’s instinctive he is decent, but he’s poor if he has to stop and think about it”, “He never looks commanding coming for crosses and his kicking often puts us under pressure.”
“I have personally given up on Amari’i Bell.” The 24-year-old ex-Fleetwood left-back “is awful on the ball and I have never seen a full-back letting his man get a free cross into the box so consistently”, “He jumps half-heartedly for headers and puts us under pressure giving the ball away in our third.”
“One positive about Bell is that he is a threat going forward, but he needs to use his pace better”, “He needs to be tougher and trust his physicality and pace which he has in abundance”, “He can’t defend. His passing is technically poor but his worst offence is failing to block crosses that come in.”
“Derrick Williams is League One personified.” The 25-year-old ex-Bristol City left-back “wins the ball but then gives it away with clueless half-clipped balls into nowhere. His concentration and passing are so bad for this level”, “He’s a dreadful full-back in one-on-ones and has a fatal mistake in him.”
“Ryan Nyambe needs to play at right-back.” The 21-year-old youth product “has pace to use but he can also sit deep and hold the line solidly”, “His reading of the game is so much better and he uses his athleticism well”, “He needs to drastically improve his crossing but he has the rest in his locker.”
“Nyambe is quick, strong and good on the ball, but he’s not remotely a threat going forward. He gets so far and then seems to get a nosebleed before turning back around”, “He’s powerful and quick and his positioning and reading of the game are better but he’s too weak in the air to play centre-half.”
“Charlie Mulgrew is a rock in defence and he puts in some superb set-piece deliveries.” The 32-year-old ex-Celtic centre-half “doesn’t rely on his pace so he could play on until his mid-thirties. You can constantly hear him organising things, going around and telling people to keep on concentrating.”
“With Mulgrew having scored two goals directly from corners, the opposition will be way of this”, “Every time he steps up for a freekick in a shooting position I feel like he’s going to slot it home”, “He is excellent in defence but he lets opponents get free headers and has been caught under the ball.”
Jack Rodwell (Sunderland)
“Jack Rodwell adds a bit of craft to the backline.” The 27-year-old one-time England international was signed as a free agent on August having parted company with Sunderland. He has not played in the side regularly but his 90 minutes display in their win at the Den impressed Rovers last Saturday.
“I thought Rodwell would struggle in a physical challenge but he coped well”, “You could tell he was not fully in synch with the backline but he was the only defender who successfully passed the ball around”, “He’s very comfortable in possession and he has that bit of composure when it is needed.”
“Lenihan is a man-mountain at the back.” The 24-year-old youth product “has been disappointing at centre-half this season. He needs to sort himself out in the air at the back, it should be a strength of his”, “He has been rash and inconsistent at times this season but he never flinched once at Millwall.”
Darragh Lenihan (L), Tommy Spurr (R) and Mirco Antenucci
“Mowbray likes Lenihan for his aggression and pace but he’s also prone to impetuosity”, “He can be guilty of punting the ball in the air with little height, composure or ability”, “He’s the worst offender for aimless hoofing but it’s due to his technical limitations rather than playing to any tactical plan.”
“Richard Smallwood is a great grafter but for a side aiming to be top half in the Championship he is too limited.” The 28-year-old former Rotherham man was suspended for three games after being sent off for a “high, late and out-of-control” challenge in a December defeat away to Sheffield United.
“Smallwood busts a gut to break up play, he’s literally the engine of the team”, “You can’t question his heart even if he’s not one of our better players”, “He can’t pass, shoot or keep up with play. He can throw himself into tackles but much more is needed to be a good quality Championship player.”
“Joe Rothwell reminds me of Tugay Kerimo?lu with his ability to spot and execute a pass.” The 23-year-old June purchase from Oxford “is technically outstanding and looks comfortable at this level”, “His end product is still lacking consistency, but he’s very dynamic and effective up to that point.”
“What a difference Lewis Travis makes with his forward runs.” The 21-year-old youth product “has been our best midfielder lately. He sets up goals with his forward play and he has found the correct balance in not overcommitting in tackles as well”, “He gets far enough forward to play killer passes.”
“Another lovely ball from Travis to Dack”, “He is running the midfield. He’s so composed on the ball and always looking to go forward with it”, “The good thing about him is his command of the ball and his range of passing. When he’s in possession there’s a calmness about the rest of his team-mates.”
“Harrison Reed seems to make the whole team tick.” The 23-year-old is on a season-long loan from Southampton having been similarly loaned to the Canaries last season. “He’s an improved version of Smallwood. He’s a high-octane in-your-face midfielder who will simply run himself into the ground.”
“I feel sorry for Reed at times. He’s our most creative midfielder playing on the wing and struggling to have any real impact”, “He ends up giving it away or playing it backwards out wide. We play much better when he’s situated in the middle”, “He’s technically tidy and urgent but is not a wide player.”
“Evans is a bit pedestrian at times but he’s good at what he does.” The 28-year-old former Hull man “is a solid holding midfielder. But he will never be one you look to for goals or creativity. He breaks up play and intercepts passes”, “He’s a fighter who goes into 50/50 tackles others happily avoid.”
Corry Evans v Jonathan Douglas
“There have been too many bad times with Evans for me to be completely happy with him there”, “He is degenerating into the child of David Andrews, marking space and doing a lot of pointing while the game passes him by completely”, “He’s an average player who does a job against lesser teams.”
Wide Midfielders and Wingers
“Elliott Bennett’s energy and ability to run with the ball make such a difference.” The 30-year-old ex-Norwich man “is Mr Dependable. He makes runs and challenges further forward which play to his strengths”, “He’s a player all sides need. In terms of graft and desire, it’s hard to look beyond him.”
“Bennett’s spirit and desire have been phenomenal. He scuffs a cross or two but his commitment, energy, drive and determination to play where asked are superb”, “He is a liability at full-back and quite simply can’t play that position”, “Harvey Barnes just had him on toast in the West Brom game.”
“Conway is neat and tidy. He doesn’t make any mistakes but is no real threat.” The 33-year-old ex-Cardiff winger “works hard and shores up the wing defensively, but when he gets a bit of freedom to attack, he’s a completely busted flush. He’s composed on the ball but it’s sad that his legs are going.”
“We could do with a younger Conway in his prime. He’s good at patrolling up and down the line”, “He is obviously being kept around for his experience and leadership. He doesn’t skin full-backs on the outside but his nous is great defending, holding the ball, drawing fouls and passing incisively.”
“Ben Brereton is not ready yet and we can’t afford passengers in the team.” The 19-year-old arrived initially on loan from Forest in August in a deal worth up to £7 million which saw him permanently switch in January. “He was way out his depth in the Newcastle replay. It was another pitiful display.”
“I am really annoyed with the Brereton situation”, “He gets the ball to his feet and is dispossessed each time. He is incredibly weak and it’s like playing with 10 men. The lad has no confidence at all”, “The lad ambles around like a tranquillised giraffe, he would get pushed off the ball by my grandma.”
“Joe Nuttall has plenty of endeavour but lacks quality.” The 21-year-old ex-Aberdeen striker “gives us mobility and the option to run in behind defences if they press us high”, “He has raw attributes but has a huge amount to work on. He doesn’t have the all-round game yet to start at this level.”
“How big is Nuttall? He looks a unit”, “He didn’t do much at Millwall but was there to score when we needed it”, “He looks like he might have the knack of scoring scruffy goals. He has a striker’s instinct in the box as well as decent height and a bit of pace, but he may be less effective outside the box.”
Adam Armstrong (Barnsley Loan)
“I am delighted to see Adam Armstrong hit some form.” The 21-year-old August acquisition from Newcastle “provided the hard-edged finish at Millwall that we know he’s capable of, but which has eluded him for much of the season”, “Subdue teams, wear them down and then release Armstrong.”
“Take Armstrong off and we have no pace on the pitch”, “Apart from him, we have nobody who can run on either flank at defenders with electric pace”, “He’s an option up front but is lightweight when leading the line”, “He has played one good game in four but now seems to be hitting decent form.”
“Bradley Dack always tries to make things happen but has not been at his best lately.” The 25-year-old ex-Gillingham man “has outgrown where we are. He would have been Newcastle’s star player in the two cup games”, “He’s a lethal finisher who finds space well, but may lack the pace to step up.”
“Dack is not a playmaking number 10, he’s a second striker and a brilliant one at that”, “He’s a great finisher, but he’s also a good passer of the ball. He’s like Kenny Dalglish in the way he rolls people. It takes him away from them in an instant”, “He’s our attacking talisman with his amazing quick feet.”
“Danny Graham is pivotal to how we play.” The 33-year-old ex-Sunderland man “holds up play well, bringing others into play and winning freekicks”, “He uses his experience and intelligence to take the pressure from our defence. He can turn the most aimless hoofs into some sort of dangerous attack.”
“Graham is probably our most important player given the way we set up and given the lack of a true alternative”, “He has never been about pace. He can settle things down when the game is becoming frantic and his nine goals are a healthy return halfway through the season, a proper centre-forward.”
Rovers Fans’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“The skin of the large banana has been peeled off and is sat on the already greasy floor”, “Losing this one would be extremely embarrassing, as Ipswich are by far the worst team in the division”, They have had some new arrivals recently but it's really rearranging deck chairs on the proverbial Titanic.”
“This must be a home banker.” There is a widespread expectation of victory among their supporters. “There can be no excuses. We are playing a very poor bottom of the league team, who are seven points adrift from safety, at home”, “This has to be a win and anything else would be intolerable.”
“James Collins is a good signing for them.” One of our January acquisitions has caught their eye. “He is a very good signing for Ipswich, but injuries have been an issue for him. It's the risk you take with older players and especially in the modern game. Look at what happened to Jonathan Walters.”
“It will be interesting to see how Lambert is received on his return to Ewood. In some ways you can’t blame him for walking after broken promises, but he clearly didn’t fancy his skills on a limited budget and felt he was better than us. We have now overtaken his stock, I would like to win to feel smug.”
Lambert managed Rovers from November 2015 to May 2016 leaving after activating a release clause in his contract. This still rankles with some fans. “He treated us as a six-month stepping stone to boost his bank balance and get himself off the managerial scrapheap and back into the job market.”
“Lambert prioritises himself, his reputation and his position. Given his recent history of only lasting a matter of months he's going to do things differently at Ipswich”, “He brought in a handful of players in next to no time here and they made an instant impact. Bennett and Graham are still mainstays.”
“Rovers will be looking at the league table and thinking it will be easy”, “I would be more confident playing a home game against Leeds than Ipswich. That's just how we are.”, “Our players were out on their feet against Newcastle and I have a funny feeling that Lambert is going to ‘do us’ on Saturday.”
The busiest Rovers’ forum is the friendly and knowledgeable BRFCS.com. Blackburn Rovers highlights are available on the Multimedia menu as well as Ipswich Town and for the whole of the Championship and other EFL leagues.
Photo: Action Images
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