Rovers take on Rochdale at Spotland on Tuesday night for a place in the knock out stages of the Checkatrade Trophy.
It’s a competition that hasn’t captured the imagination so far. Saying that it isn’t like Rovers are a club on their own in that respect. Up and down the country within this group stage format, crowds have dwindled. It’s a competition that supporters are choosing not to watch.
Away from that, there’s something at stake for all four teams in Rovers’ group. All can progress with the right result as its a level playing field going into the final round of group fixtures.
Rovers have recorded one win and one loss so far. An opening match win against Stoke’s U21’s before going down 0-1 at home to Bury. A win would take Mowbray’s men through whereas defeat would leave them looking over their shoulders.
When Rovers started out in this competition, the manager made it clear how he wanted to progress and give the club some exposure if the latter stages were to be reached. How he wanted everyone to take the Checkatrade Trophy seriously.
He’s not wrong, there’s a lot to be gained from this Trophy if the club are serious about progression. After all, a Wembley Cup Final could re-energise everyone at the football club. Much like Coventry City who took over thirty thousand down Wembley Way last season.
The opponents on Tuesday are Rochdale who Rovers memorably swept aside a couple of months back winning 0-3. They’re top of the pack going into this one. A point ahead of Rovers and favourites to qualify.
It may well be in Keith Hill’s remit to field a strong starting eleven. Rochdale’s form hasn’t been great and have flirted with the bottom four so far this year. So a realistic cup run in the Checkatrade Trophy might be what Rochdale look for.
It’s no secret that Tony Mowbray will field many of the ever impressive U23’s team on Tuesday night. With Charlie Mulgrew and Corry Evans on international duty as well as four more senior players out injured, its the perfect opportunity to blood some youth.
The manager has offered them the opportunity to take their chance, with injuries biting and suspensions mounting up. It’s natural that opportunities will come up when the second eleven are doing so well.
A brief acknowledgement here for the work that Damien Johnson and David Dunn are doing at youth level. The football Rovers are producing at that level is some of the best we’ve seen in recent memory. The results are mounting up and the development of these players is a joy to be a part of. How great it is to see two former Rovers players bringing these lads through too.
It will be difficult to predict how the game will play out on Tuesday night. Rochdale are a physical side whereas Rovers will prefer to get the ball down and play. It will be a contrast of playing styles that might clash for any neutral wanting to see a classic.
The intensity will be at a low level given there’ll be a number of changes and bringing in the factors of the occasion. A smaller crowd, a poor atmosphere and a laboured start seems to be the trend in the Checkatrade Trophy. After all, there haven’t been many goals scored in this group so far.
Despite the changes to the Rovers team, there’s an argument that the visitors will still be stronger on paper. As we all know it’s about how they can come together as a collective and see whether they can mix it up against a physical and determined Rochdale.
Ultimately progression would be a great thing for everyone at Blackburn Rovers. Obviously, it’s not the main aim for this season but the longer the club can last in this competition the better. As Rovers look to bow out going into this international break with winning form.
Enjoy the game.
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