|Pos. 18th (36 pts)||SATURDAY 1 FEBRUARY 2020||Pos. 10th (44 pts)|
SHOTS (on target)
Clash of the in-laws
Boro fans could be forgiven for being confused this afternoon as to which team to cheer on. There seemed to be almost as many Boro lads on the Blackburn team coach as on the Boro bus. The connections were almost endless, Mogga, Venus, Downing, Smallwood, Leutwiler, Chapman and Graham not to mention Gestede with Boro. Granted it was unlikely that either Chapman or Smallwood would be involved but before today’s encounter Rovers had a few impressive results of late beating QPR 2-1 and before that walloping fellow Play Off contenders and another ex Boro Manager Sheffield Wednesday 5-0.
Sitting just four points off the Play Offs the visitors certainly looked the more likely to come away with something from this afternoon and no doubt after a “Typical Boro” Downing inspired display. Emotions aside the bigger picture showed that Blackburn were sitting second in the form table for away games with Boro second on home form so this afternoon would probably be a tight affair.
Mogga had a few injury problems to contend with however as top scorer Bradley Dack, Corry Evans and Joe Rothwell would all be absent. For Boro it had been reported earlier in the week that Shotton and Friend were both back in training but not yet match fit. There was some positive speculation but no confirmation that Dael Fry’s hamstring perhaps wasn’t as bad as first feared and may make the game and that even Britt could be back. Patrick Roberts would definitely miss this one as the newly arrived loanee would now be out for the next two months with a hamstring problem. Hopefully Hayden Coulson will have shaken off the virus that saw him miss the Birmingham drama.
Come two o’clock and the team news was that there was only one Boro change with Tav in for the unfortunate Roberts. Coulson made the bench but not the starting eleven as Marvin Johnson retained his place. Britt made the bench along with Gestede and O’Neil making it look a little attack heavy with three strikers sat there whilst Fletcher and Nmecha both started. Mogga gave 20 year old Joe Rankin-Costello his first league start for Rovers.
The early minutes were fairly uneventful with both side weighing up their opponents until Downing brought down Nmecha to concede a free kick to Boro just outside the Rovers box. Ideal Lewis Wing territory, his shot was low down, hard but wide. A few minutes later Boro won a second free kick which came to nothing in an enterprising start for the home side.
Blackburn started to clear their heads and Howson had to be sharp in cutting out a ball from Gallagher with the visitors now entering a phase of domination. Boro broke away from that attack, Tavernier playing in Fletcher who left Lenihan in his wake but he had his shot saved from a tight angle by Walton. Saville had a follow up shot blocked and then it was Johnson whose effort had Walton athletically tipping it wide. Boro’s resultant first corner of the game was taken short but it was floated in and easily collected by Walton.
It was Pears’ turn next to collect from a Gallagher cross after Nyambe fed him with Holtby in close attendance. A minute later Armstrong went close and had a quickfire second effort and as the pressure grew Holtby was next to test Pears from the edge of the box. On twenty-two minutes Blackburn won their first corner but it was as hopeless as Boro’s previously, training ground routines being in short supply. The game was then held up as Pears and youngster Rankin-Costello clashed with the Blackburn player in some discomfort. Fortunately, the magic sponge wiped away the blood, one new shirt and bandaged head saw the lad stagger to his feet to bravely continue.
With the game approaching thirty minutes Nmecha was next to go down in pain after being on the receiving end of some feisty challenges. With Britt warming up the fear of losing yet another loanee was cleared when he gave the signal to the physio he could carry on. Travis then had to be quick to get back for Rovers and block a Nmecha shot on the edge of the box as Boro had broke forward with pace.
Howson once again cleared at the near post as a Travis’ effort was scrambled clear. Lewis Holtby then went down needing some attention and tried to carry on but had to succumb to his fate two minutes later for Elliot Bennett to replace him with seven minutes of the first half remaining.
Johnson won a corner off Nyambe but this time the Boro short corner came to McNair whose shot come cross came off the woodwork livening up proceedings after the injury scares had seemingly dampened the early promise of the game. Adarabioyo was caught in two minds and Fletcher was alert and nearly nicked in had it not been for a poor first touch. Travis then dragged back Saville with some gusto and was fortunate to only receive a talking to by Ref Donaghy like Downing had in the opening minutes.
Six minutes then came up from the fourth officials board but at this stage the game was in a bit of a languid state. Boro seemed to be laboured in their build up play with Blackburn equally uninspiring. The half ended 0-0 with neither team looking inspirational and from a Boro perspective it was frustratingly crying out for the injured Patrick Roberts to unlock things with some magic. A game that had started with promise slowly fizzled out after the opening twenty-five minutes.
No changes at half time for either side with Rovers having already being forced into one change with Elliott on for Holtby. Saville tried to get an early Boro attack going but it spluttered out and Blackburn were then equally wasteful with Fry cleaning up for Boro as the second half continued in the same manner as the first half had drained away. A clever bit of play from Fletcher presented Nmecha with a half chance, Tavernier then continued the Boro momentum as he twisted and turned in testing Walton. This was much better from Boro but still the scores remained nil apiece.
Johnson fired in a ball across Walton’s box but it evaded everyone going out for a Rovers throw in on the opposite side. As Bell lost possession Boro had Howson firing in a shot that went close but not close enough as frustration levels grew. Nmecha then hit a shot a minute later after Wing had found Saville but his shot was sliced wide. Blackburn then probed Boro’s defence with Downing and Armstrong and then Lewis Travis broke from the middle and finished a one two with Armstrong side footing it past Pears totally against the run of play. Boro had their chances but their finishing was woefully inept and now paid the price, one nil to Blackburn on fifty-seven minutes.
With annoyance to the fore Spence clattered into Bell and like the two Blackburn players earlier was fortunate to escape with just a firm lecture. Djed then fired in a cross to win a Boro corner with Tav departing the field for Assombalonga to return after his lay off. The corner was headed clear and Boro recycled the ball but the pace of it when finally played up had too much on it for Britt.
The sparse away following had suddenly found their voices as Boro started to show a lot more impetus trying to get back into the game with just over twenty-five minutes remaining. Wing went down in the Blackburn box but the Ref blew for a free kick to Lenihan. Mogga made a switch with Danny Graham coming on for the battered and bandaged Rankin-Costello. Johnson had to be strong to fend off Gallagher as Boro had again slumped back into neutral and in need of a spark from somewhere.
A long-range wayward Wing strike going wide brought an opportunity for Coulson to come on and Saville depart with twenty minutes remaining. Boro now switched to four at the back with Coulson operating more as an orthodox winger and McNair pushed into the middle. Coulson won a corner off Nyambe which McNair sent in from the left but it was low and easily headed clear in another example of a wasteful Boro set piece.
The breakthrough came when Nmecha found Lewis Wing and after a return ball from Britt his strike saw Walton parry it into the path of the advancing Coulson who drew Boro level at the far post, 1-1. As the cheers were still ringing around the Riverside, Rovers immediately went close to taking the lead immediately with Gallagher’s shot across Pears’ goal flying wide of the far post as the game suddenly erupted with a veritable frenzy of attacks. The game now looked like a real contest with both sides chasing a winner.
A cross from Coulson saw Fletcher come close for Boro and as the ball was delivered back in again from Nmecha Britt fired his shot over. Downing then went off to a round of applause from all four sides of the ground with Bradley Johnson coming on in his place. The frantic pace continued and a Rovers cross was defended by McNair requiring Johnson to hold off his namesake for the ball to go out for Boro and the opportunity for Gestede to come on for Nmecha with just under eight minutes remaining.
Travis then wiped out Coulson who had turned the game and earned a yellow card. The Free Kick came into the Blackburn box from Wing with Gestede going close but Rovers cleared. Coulson went down again with this time Lenihan taking a yellow for his troubles as Hayden tortured the Rovers defence since arriving. As the free Kick came in Gestede met it and his header was brilliantly saved by Walton for a corner. In it came in but cleared only as far as Wing who fired it back in to be met by Gestede who with the best chance of the game missed a sitter at the back post heading it wide.
Danny Graham then broke away and had Boro hearts in mouths as seconds literally remained of the ninety. Three minutes added time came up as Rovers had a free kick but they played it short and Howson cleared the impending danger. Britt then charged up the other end and as he played in McNair a toe from a despairing Travis stole Paddy’s big moment. A mistake by Spence almost allowed Armstrong to break in the dying seconds but the whistle sounded as the game ended all square.
Boro had their chances to win this with the best one falling to Gestede who done what has typified his time at Boro missing another sitter. That said as a side we haven’t been scoring enough goals all season and this was yet another game were the opportunities came but the finishing wasn’t clinical. The stats beforehand screamed a draw so we perhaps shouldn’t be too surprised or disappointed at today’s outcome as Boro now look destined to be halfway from somewhere and half way to nowhere which I guess is better than League One. For his brief cameo MOM was Coulson as he totally changed the game and was a real threat plus scoring the equaliser.