No walk in the park, lacking firepower and quality – 3 things learnt from Southend

After Rovers lost their opening League One game, @tomrover looks at what we learnt from the defeat at Southend…

Dack v Southend
Dack struggled to make an impact in the game, and was taken off just past the hour mark for Liam Feeney. Photo credit: Lancashire Telegraph

League One won’t be a walk in the park.

Yesterday’s game proved that League One will be tough and anything but Rovers’ best, especially against teams who expect to have a shot of going up, won’t be good enough. Southend defended deep, were quick to close us down and didn’t let Rovers get into any type of flow, bar the first 15 minutes of the second half. Teams won’t afford Rovers the chance to play the game they want, Southend were testament to that.

Rovers’ defence seemed to lack physicality, Fortune was able to win most headers and muscle our centre paring off the ball far too easily. Our backline need to understand that League One is going to see more physical strikers and more physical teams, and they need to prepare themselves much better than they did on Saturday.

Most of us expect to be up the top end of the table come the end of the season, and I think all of us are slightly guilty – some more than others – at looking at some of the matches and expecting Rovers to steam roll opposition. This may happen at some point, but the time wasn’t yesterday. Rovers need to adjust to life in League One, and fast.

Greater attacking threat is needed

Danny Graham should be scoring bagfuls of goals this season, as he has the ability to put any League One defence to the sword, but that’s something we failed to see yesterday. Rovers ran out of ideas very fast, and seemed to be playing long ball for a lot of the match. Graham won very few headers from this, and was easily handled by the Southend centre halves.

Samuel, who didn’t impress, was utilised out wide for much of the match and was completely wasted. He looked uncomfortable and didn’t put in the sort of performance you would expect, especially considering we spent a fair bit of money on him for a League One side.

I hate to criticise Mowbray and I hate to put on my managers hat, but, I do feel he got it wrong yesterday. Rovers just didn’t carry any threat the way they set up. Chapman would have been much better starting out wide from the start, rather then starting with Samuel.

In my eyes, Mowbray should have gone with Graham as a lone man up top with Dack in support playing in the hole between the midfield and Graham. Whilst that is essentially what they did, I feel Samuel playing out wide didn’t work, and was a contributing reason to Rovers failing to find any flow.

Quality still shown despite loss

Despite the loss, Rovers still showed in glimpses the quality that they possess at this level. Mulgrew’s free kick was something special, and, if a player in the Premier League scores that, then it’s replayed for weeks. It may have been from a dead ball situation, but that quality really shone through and will hopefully be more prominent in the weeks to come.

Hats off to David Raya as well. There was little the Spaniard could have done to stop the 2 goals scored, and had already made a decent save in the build up to the second. If it wasn’t for the Spanish shot stopper, Rovers could have found themselves 3 down or in even more trouble.

Conclusion

All in all, this is 1 game of 46 and no one should be panicking just yet. Southend are a good side and I do expect them to get playoffs this season. I don’t think anyone was foolish enough to think we were going to go a full season without losing a game. We were going to lose a few over the course of the season, the first one came on the very first game, I say it’s better to get them out the way early. This loss can act as a reality check to any of the players that felt they were too good for League One. I am still confident that we will achieve automatic promotion this season and I think you should be aswell.