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Raya’s reactions, failing to finish and squad depth – 3 things learnt from Gillingham

After Mowbray’s men picked up a 1-0 home victory over struggling Gillingham, @talkofewood discusses what we learnt from the game.

Rovers picked up a 1-0 victory courtesy of a first-half goal from Dominic Samuel, meaning the Blues head into the international break in 6th place.

So, what did we learn from the Gillingham game?


Raya’s reactions

5 clean sheets in the last 8 league starts is always a good sign, however recently, David Raya’s clean sheets have been special.

It hasn’t just been a case of a sound defensive performance, it’s been a case of the agile Spaniard pulling off 2 or 3 top class saves during the games to keep Rovers ahead and dishearten the opponents. And with Scottish international Charlie Mulgrew organising the defence, scoring past the Rovers defence is turning out to be a real challenge for the opposition, which can only improve when Scott Wharton, Ryan Nyambe and Darragh Lenihan return from injury.

Similarly to the Rotherham home tie, Rovers had got their first half goal and been comfortable from then on, however as the game grew, The Gills began to up their attacking prowess, first of all forcing Raya to his first reaction save then following up with hitting the side netting.

One of the Blues’ main issues last season was the fact Jason Steele was consistently inconsistent; one week abysmal, the next week amazing. However, Raya seems to be providing Tony Mowbray’s side with positive consistency between the sticks and at the age of just 22, the feeling is his number 1 spot at Ewood Park will be his for some time.

Failing to finish

Throughout the past 3 league games, Rovers have had a total of 50 shots…with only 17 of them being on target. If you have witnessed at least one of those last three fixtures, it would be no surprise that Mowbray’s side have lacked a finishing edge, notably Dack, Samuel and Antonsson being at the forefront of those missed chances, and with last season’s top goal scorer – Danny Graham – sat on the bench, it only seems a matter of time until the former Sunderland man gets his chance once again.

Relating to the previous paragraph, Saturday’s 1-0 win over Gillingham was a prime example of what costs missed chances can cause. Moments after Derrick Williams struck the post and Paul Downing’s goal bound effort was blocked inside the 6 yard box, The Gills began to gain some momentum, only denied by the excellent David Raya.

However, on any other day against any other team, we could have been punished by an equaliser, an undeserved equaliser which could have cost Rovers all three points. Three points that could have been secured in the first half.

Fortunately this wasn’t the case, however the repetitive missed chances and lucky escapes – including another top class save from Raya and an offside goal in the midweek game against Rotherham – will be known to Mowbray, who has since come out expressing his frustration that we did not put the game to bed earlier on.

Squad depth

2pm on Saturday (and 6:45pm on a Tuesday) and the most important pre match news is released. The team.

Which heroes will be pulling on the famous blue and white strip, and who will be making the impact from the bench. Saturday’s encounter at Ewood saw one key change; Evans out, Whittingham in. Questionable, understandably after Whittingham’s woeful start oppose to Evans’ excellent one, however a switch which shows the importance of squad depth and the quality we have in it as Whittingham proved a wise move as he offered an extra source of creativity in the middle of the park providing key passes throughout as Rovers play ran through him.

Rovers’ strength in depth was reinforced when Mowbray felt comfortable in removing star signing Bradley Dack around the 70th minute for two games running, even though the game had been all to play for, which to me shows the belief Mowbray has in the quality shown on the bench.

Any Championship side would be happy to have Danny Graham, Corry Evans and Harry Chapman on their bench, but a League One side? It’s an unbelievable asset to have, and one that has gained the Blues’  numerous points already this season, something Mowbray isn’t afraid to rely on.

Let’s hope this league form continues after the international break!

Come on you Blues!