The Ewood Effect

After Rovers’ loss last Saturday, @barryshoz82 looks the effect that playing at Ewood could be having on the team.


How quickly the Earth can come crashing around you…

On the back of four league victories in a row for Rovers, going into a home game against 5th from bottom AFC Wimbledon, who had only scored four goals all season – this game was seen as a banker for the Blue and Whites to make it five in a row for the first time in 17 years.

What proceeded, was a nightmare for everyone, except Neal Ardley and his players.

AFC Wimbledon came to Rovers with a plan. It is a simple plan that we probably see 90% of all League One teams who are coming to Ewood deploy this year. Sit back in numbers, play with pace in attack as well as a striker that can hold up the ball, as well as being good in the air. Catch out Rovers with pace, as well as moving the ball quickly to the front end of the pitch.

Ask anyone with League One experience how lower teams will play away from home and they will tell you the same. It is the blueprint for most managers at this level and Tony Mowbray will know this. How did Rovers deal with it? Well, the short answer is they didn’t.

Wimbledon defending admirably, and most importantly, as a team. They defended from the front and defended in numbers. Their goal was typical of this, defending high up the pitch and forcing the season’s stand out performer so far, Richie Smallwood, into a pass in his own half putting Craig Conway in trouble.

Once they got that ball, they broke in numbers, and yes with a bit of luck, put the ball away. They took their chance, and so it ended, this is the only chance they needed to take. Simple lower league football. But what worries me is that this isn’t the main problem.

Ewood Park is becoming a difficult place to play… for the team in Blue & White.

A massive negativity in the stands towards the players, officials and managers has reignited, and reminds me of the protests against Steve Kean and Venky’s. The reason is obvious; a large section of fans believed that this season was going to easy, and that Rovers are too good for this division and will hammer every team coming to Bolton Road. The reality is that Rovers are in this division for a reason, and the fans need to understand this.

We, if you haven’t already seen on here, talk to opposition fans before games about the game and publish them on here – like we will tomorrow. Before the Wimbledon game, we spoke to the 9yrspodcast guys, and then spoke after the game. One of the first things they said to us was, “Your fans don’t half moan which made it easier for us as I felt it unsettled your team”.

And I don’t think he was wrong.

How many times I have heard this week ‘the referee was awful’. Was he really that bad? Or was it frustration from the fans that Rovers couldn’t break down a very average, well run lower league team?

Yes, the referee made mistakes, no more than a Premier League or Championship referee would do. He did not have a vendetta against Rovers, he wasn’t purposely making bad decisions, he made decisions that he thought that was right. The fact that a team with good League One players couldn’t break down a team that has only been in existence less than 15 years is what the fans should be frustrated with.

It is no coincidence that after every away game this year, Mowbray has priased the fans and thanked them for their support, but this has been omitted after each of the three home games. The away support has been fantasic, selling close to or the full allocation in every game so far, singing from the first minute until the last whether in victory or defeat. The players and manager have risen to this, and has given them the famous 12th man which Rovers need right now.

The home support on the other hand is affecting the way the team play. The players are scared of making mistakes, and unless Rovers score early, they play within themselves.

The home crowd is affecting the team in the way that, when Mowbray makes changes and tries different options than normal, it seems to be to try and appease the crowd.

More importantly, the home crowd is affecting OTHER members of the crowd. It is creating a split support at home, those that want to lambaste the players and management for not being good enough, and those that get frustrated that the others are not getting behind the team.

Gone are the days of a jubilant Blackburn End bouncing to the sound of the drum, watching a Dalglish, Souness or Hughes team and feeling part of the club in adoration. This is League One and the negative fans need to understand this; and quick. As a Rovers fan, I am frustrated and at times embarrassed to take my 8 year old son to the game for him to listen to some of the abuse and language. To the point that he is hesitant to go to the game. Is this right?

Of course I understand swearing and that happens at football grounds, but some abuse is uncalled for.

The atmosphere at Ewood needs to change before the players start to resent playing at home. This all tends to come from negativity towards the club’s hierarchy. The same thing has been happening at Newcastle United over the past few years, and this was highlighted with a poor start at the beginning of their promotion season. But one thing changed the mood of the crowd, winning games and figuring out how to break down stubborn, well organised teams.

Changes to the team at home need to be made by Mowbray. Downing, Wharton or when fit Lenihan need to play at centre half. Teams try to catch Rovers on the break, and Ward and Mulgrew aren’t quick enough to cope with this. The introduction of Harry Chapman has created excitement for the crowd, and this is something that can change mood. Start him and give him the ball. Flair players are loved at Ewood.

The fans need this football club, but the football club – especially the players and management – need the fans.

Lets bring back our 12th man…YOUR CLUB NEEDS YOU!!

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