The Wild Blackburn Rover

23 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on The Wild Blackburn Rover

A balance at home that we’ve yet to get right

They say the league table never lies, and in the case of Blackburn Rovers’ Championship campaign so far it’d be hard to provide a reasonable argument against that.

Currently sitting in a comfortable if less than exciting mid-table spot, I’d say the table paints a very realistic portrait of what Gary Bowyer’s men have produced up to this point – 16 games in and we’ve been a veritable mixed bag of the good, the bad and the indifferent.

At Ewood Park this season, we’ve been a strange animal. After lighting a fire under our backsides with two excellent showings against Bolton and Barnsley, Rovers seemed to have settled into a steady pattern of solidity and safety, which itself carries it’s own matrix of pros and cons.

Saturday’s ultimately lifeless 0-0 draw at home Reading was the perfect illustration of this season’s Blackburn Rovers – the Ewood Park version.

For as good as we were at the back, we lacked any sort of variety and purpose up front. In the last five games at home, Rovers have plundered 2 goals, that’s TWO. That’s mediocre to say the very least.

It would make for all the more dismal reading if the other half of the story didn’t redeem the situation somewhat.

In those very same last five games we’ve conceded a solitary goal. Which for the increasingly audible bashing of our manager, is well worth a moment of praise. Defending is as much a skill in football as attacking is.

It’s absolutely not as exciting and headline grabbing as bagging a hat-trick would be and rightly so, but sorting out our, in recent times, awful defensive set up has long needed doing. it’s far from a finished article, especially away from home, but it’s better.

Gary Bowyer’s tactics at Ewood even indicate as much, playing with one up front is often frowned upon (more on that later) but it is very much a give yourself a foundation job at home under Bowyer.

The undeservedly slaughtered Jason Lowe and the often injured Lee Williamson are not in the side for their attacking prowess – they both have a remit to pick up the loose stuff that comes out of defence and to impose themselves on matters. With both of them in football’s proverbial engine room our shape is well maintained, we look strong when trouble is brewing and all the essential ground is covered with a minimum of fuss.

If you think I’m waffling and talking jibberish, take a stray look at that hour of action from Dickson Etuhu in the recent away game at Brighton. Then come back and observe the work of the tandem of Lee/Jason on Saturday. I know which I’d prefer, you’re frankly mad or have your super-strength Lowe bashing goggles on if you feel differently.

Maintaining possession under Bowyer is not the woeful chore and frustration it has been in previous campaigns and thank Christ on a bike for that. It will stand us in good stead in the long run, as being a dependable unit is always the first rung on the ladder to being a good unit.

The overriding problem comes when it’s time to turn on the charm and roam forward.

Right now we’re left without a plan B, C and anything not filed under A in attack. One up front suits us well defensively, the proof is in the pudding, but it leaves our main man, the walking wounded Jordan Rhodes where he is most vulnerable. With Leon Best on the club’s naughty step and fellow part-time gangster rapper DJ Campbell on the F.A. equivalent it leaves Jordan cutting a lonely figure.

There is nobody meaningful to throw on in the dying embers of game to change things about and it will continue to hurt us.

For all the good Rhodes’ can produce when facing goal, it’s when he’s got his back to it that he always comes up short. His hold up play on Saturday was borderline amateurish and his only solace came in hitting the turf looking to bag a set piece, it was a bad day at the office.

Rovers are screaming out for an alternative up front – a bigger presence or a player with pace to break the defensive line – anything just to make opposition defences use their brain rather than just stick to the required formula. At this moment in time our plan is to either find Josh King who goes on a heroic, ultra quick but equally clumsy fumble with minimal end product attached to it down the left or work in Tom Cairney on the right, who himself is a little wasted (as in misused not alcoholically challenged) out on the right and always needing to cut inside onto his much more accurate left foot.

It’s not the most inspiring and it won’t trouble the more organised defences that the Championship has to offer. Recent outings against Charlton and Huddersfield further back that up.

The return to (temporary) fitness of David Dunn will certainly help, he’s been sorely missed. As will the return of the often frustrating, occasionally inspiring Ruben Rochina who are sadly pretty much our only two flair players. But having a couple of useful alternatives to sit behind Rhodes only enhances the temptation to stick him up the business end all on his lonesome.

At this juncture, the problem lies in getting the right balance between attacking threat and defensive calm whilst also getting the best out of our star striker, it’s a balance we’re yet to get right in home games which is forever the bread and butter of any productive campaign. The Fam crew of Leon Best and DJ Campbell might not be the answers but they should at least provide Rovers with a bit of variety going forward. at least until we can get our murky hands into the loan and/or January market.

Sadly this is a footballing tactical conundrum that doesn’t have an obvious answer, but it’s one Gary Bowyer needs to solve if we’re going to stand a chance of troubling the right end of the table come crunch time.

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