In the third part of these monthly articles, Luke Thornley looks back at the month. This time, October.
October saw Rovers lose in their only Checkatrade Trophy Group Stage game at home to Bury, and in terms of the league, they picked up 1 win, 3 draws and 1 loss. This gives a points total of 6 points for the month, and leaves Rovers in 6th in League One.
So, let’s look back at October.
Rovers 0-1 Bury – Checkatrade Trophy – 3rd October 2017
The month got off to a bad start as a youthful Rovers side lost out 0-1 at home to a more experienced Bury side in the Checkatrade Trophy, with Harry Bunn scoring the only goal to separate the sides on 78 minutes.
The team performance from Rovers was poor, however, it was pleasing to see Joe Rankin-Costello & Stefan Mols come off the substitutes bench to make their first team debuts & an encouraging performance from Matty Platt at centre-half suggesting that he could cope with the demands of first-team football given the chance.
This was the only bright point of the game, with the senior players such as Whittingham, Gladwin and Graham putting in very poor performances.
Oldham Athletic 1-0 Rovers – League One – 14th October 2017
Rovers resumed their league campaign after the international break as they took on Oldham Athletic at Boundary Park, a team that was in a rich vein of form under caretaker boss Richie Wellens.
More than 3,500 Rovers supporters turned out in mass in what was to prove yet another poor display for Tony Mowbray’s charges, as they went down to a second successive 1-0 defeat courtesy of a last-gasp Queensy Menig strike to secure a fourth successive win for the home side.
This was a game that Rovers purely just didn’t turn up, they were out-muscled, out thought & outplayed for most of this contest by a side that wanted the three points more than Rovers.
Rovers 1-1 Plymouth Argyle – League 1 – 17th October 2017
The second game in a matter of days offered Rovers the chance to get back to winning ways as they hosted a Plymouth Argyle team who sat bottom of the League 1 table and had just one win from their previous thirteen league games.
Rovers avoided a third successive 1-0 defeat as a Bradley Dack strike right on half-time rescued a point.
The visitors opened the scoring through Graham Carey somewhat against the run of play on 31 minutes after the hosts dominated the contest & created the best chances up until the goal. It looked as Rovers would trail going into halftime but Bradley Dack had other ideas as he raced onto a Danny Graham pass & fired through the legs of Kyle Letheren to level the scores at 1-1.
The second half started in a similar way to the first with Rovers creating the better chances & should have been 2-1 ahead on 55 minutes after Marcus Antonsson blazed a glorious chance over the bar & Danny Graham heading over not long after that.
In the end, Rovers had to settle for a point despite twenty-five attempts on goal it proved fruitless as Plymouth headed home with an unlikely share of the spoils.
Rovers got their first point of the month, their first goal of the month with Bradley Dack scoring this first goal at Ewood Park – his second for the club. Rovers created more than 25 attempts but only four were on target. If Rovers want to challenge for promotion, then they need to be more clinical when on top in games like this one & need to start winning games against the lesser teams.
Rovers 3-0 Portsmouth – League 1- 21st October 2017
The third game in a week & a second successive home game saw Rovers entertain a newly promoted Portsmouth side in tenth place, one place behind Rovers with both teams locked on 20 points prior to kick off.
Rovers recorded their first win in four games as they put Portsmouth to the sword with a convincing 3-0 home win at a windy & wet Ewood Park. Rovers started brightly but it took 21 minutes to register their first effort on goal as Danny Graham & Bradley Dack linked up well as Dack curled an effort wide of the post after a Graham layoff, and Richie Smallwood then had an effort tipped over by Luke McGee in the Pompey goal.
Aside from a period of Pompey pressure which saw David Raya tip away a volley from Elliott Bennett’s younger brother Kyle, Rovers finally got their reward as Dack put the host in front seven minutes before the interval a good work from Harry Chapman to play the ex-Gillingham man in to slot home.
The second half was a case of singing in the rain as Rovers controlled the contest & goals from Graham (58′) & substitute Craig Conway (90′) sealed an emphatic victory. The only sour note was the sending off of Dominic Samuel on 87 minutes for stupidly kicking out at Christian Burgess which put him out of the Wigan and Portsmouth game, and will put him out of the Barnet tie.
Overal, Rovers were full value for the victory despite the awful weather conditions which made the surface difficult to play on as the match wore on. The link-up play between Bradley Dack & Harry Chapman was impressive as they both wrecked havoc taking on defenders before both were substituted.
Dack is starting to show his best form with his link-up play between the midfield and the strikers, getting into goal scoring positions. He was deservedly man of the match.
Now onto two local derbies on the trot.
Wigan Athletic 0-0 Rovers – League 1 – 28th October 2017
The first of two successive local games saw Rovers make the short trip to the DW Stadium to take on Wigan Athletic, a team who at the start of play sat in second place in the Sky Bet League 1 table & were looking to go top with a victory.
After a slow opening twenty minutes, the hosts thought they had opened the scoring when Nick Powell played in Ivan Toney, but Derrick Williams produced a superb challenge to deny the on-loan Newcastle man, despite unsuccessful appeals from the home crowd for a penalty.
The best chance of the half came when Gavin Massey himself with just David Raya to beat but the Spaniard got down low to make the save, whilst Powell had his effort whistle just past the post as both teams headed into halftime level.
Rovers came out in the second half with more purpose & Bradley Dack could have given the visitors the lead on three occasions but couldn’t direct any of his efforts on target. The main talking point happened on 57 minutes just as Rovers were getting on top in the game. Elliott Bennett appeared to be fouled but instead of being awarded a free kick the Rovers #31 was sent off for simulation, much to the anger of the Rovers faithful.
Despite having a Callum Elder effort saved by David Raya and a Massey effort hitting the post, Rovers dealt with the Latics attacks. We still had a chance through Harry Chapman, and Danny Graham should have gone for goal instead of squaring for Paul Caddis, in the end, the game finished goalless.
Rovers did well to record a well-deserved point under the circumstances with the harsh red card given to Elliott Bennett & Harry Chapman going off with a hamstring injury. The wait to win at the DW goes on but this has given something to build on, especially with a home game on the following Tuesday.
Rovers 2-2 Fleetwood Town – League 1 – 31st October 2017
The final game of October saw Rovers take on a Fleetwood Town side who like Rovers are in contention for a playoff spot, sitting level on points & two places below Rovers in the Sky Bet League 1 table but having played a game more.
The first half saw Rovers create the better chances of a poor first half with Peter Whittingham and Derrick Williams having the first efforts on goal early on without testing Alex Cairns in the visitors’ goal.
The Cod Army responded on nine minutes with Bobby Grant forcing David Raya into a fine save before trying his luck again, this time the keeper held on more comfortably. Rovers ended the half strongly with Bradley Dack forcing the keeper into a save on 38 minutes after skipping past a few Town defenders.
60 seconds later, Dack teed up Marcus Antonsson only to see his shot saved by Cairns. The half ended on a sour note for Rovers as Richie Smallwood picked up his fifth booking of the season. The Rovers #6 will now miss the FA Cup tie with Barnet on Saturday.
The second half proved to be a more entertaining affair as Rovers made the breakthrough eight minutes after the interval. A pinpoint cross from Williams was met by Danny Graham whose volley was saved but Dack was able to head home the rebound. The Cod Army responded twelve minutes later with an equaliser as a hopeful punt up field by the keeper was flicked on to Ashley Hunter. His effort was saved but Aiden O’Neill, on loan from the Dingles, tucked away the rebound for his first goal in professional football.
Rovers responded by making a double change on 69 minutes with Richard Smallwood and Danny Graham were replaced by Corry Evans and Joe Nuttall, the latter making his league debut & eight minutes later his night was to become even better.
A deep cross from Craig Conway was headed across goal by Williams and Nuttall was on hand to poke the ball home to make it 2-1, his first league goal for Rovers as “Feed the Nutt & he will score” echoed from the Blackburn End.
Five minutes later, parity was restored as Wes Burns bundled home a second Fleetwood equaliser from a corner after Raya failed to deal with the corner. As both sides pressed for a winner, Rovers thought they should have had a penalty for handball but to no avail, as it finished all square.
This game will be seen as two points dropped having taken the lead twice only to be pegged back by conceding two very sloppy goals that could have been avoided. The automatic spots now look a long way off for Rovers but the point does put them back into the top six with the focus now turning to the FA Cup first round this weekend.
This month has seen plenty of missed opportunities for Rovers in both the league and Checkatrade Trophy.
The home form must be addressed with points dropped when Rovers should have taken the maximum available. Rovers need to be more clinical in front of their own supporters & start taking their chances in games.
The defence, however, has proved to be more difficult for opposing teams to breach, especially with the impact Paul Downing has had on the side as he seems to have formed a promising partnership with Charlie Mulgrew at the back. Rovers remain in playoff contention but automatic promotion is becoming more unrealistic by the week. Rovers need a run of wins not only to cement their playoff spot but to stay in touch with the top two if that’s possible.
Until next month.