Sunday, 21 December 2014

Blackburn Rovers 2 v Charlton Athletic 0

Fourteen and half hours away from home and a tad over 600 mile round trip. It was a long way to go for a couple of Leavers pies (thanks for the recommendation Chris).

Three hundred hardy souls gathered in the lower left of the Darwen Stand. The usual faces were there and in addition an expected smattering of our northern contingent. Ewood Park didn't look in the mood for it and the Rovers fan we shared a table with in the pub before the match wasn't particularly confident. Would this be one of those wins against the head that only the diehards get to see?

Disappointlngly, there were no changes to the side from the last fiasco. Solly was again playing in a diamond formation midfield in front of Fox, Bikey, Ben Haim and Joe Gomez. Well, he was for thirty minutes until Big Bob was forced to change things. Nicky Pope was defending the goal in front of us and we were to get a close-up of his loss of confidence.

Lawrie Wilson was again wearing a tracksuit as we kicked off and it was Harriott and Vetokele up front, although I only noticed Harriott when he was subbed.

We made a disastrous start. Blackburn put us on the back-foot and we began to defend as per the game plan. Unfortunately, after only five minutes and seconds after a failed Blackburn attack where they had committed men forward, Pope played a casual ball short out of defence through the middle of the box. I will need to see it again but it was either a shockingly poor ball or our players weren't ready for it and it was quickly seized by Marshall who squared to Rhodes who had the simple job of rolling it wide of the horrified Pope. One-nil and there was worse to come. On eleven minutes Rhodes challenged Ben Haim for a ball in our box and the experienced Israeli used his body to hold the faster moving Rhodes off the ball and create space for his keeper to collect. Pope hesitated but came for it anyway as Rhodes struggled past Ben Haim. Pope was there first and should have collected but he fumbled the ball and it cannoned off Rhodes' legs and fell nicely for him to roll it in from two yards. Pope said something to Ben Haim but he walked away and shook his head. There was nothing to say. 

A few minutes later and Pope decided to fist a bouncing ball onto the ground rather than hold it and nearly lost possession. It was desperate goalkeeping and we had barely threatened. He did pull off an excellent tip over from a Gested drive that was headed for the top corner before half-time but it was a little too late. Igor failed to connect with another couple of crosses, one of which was meat and drink and Andre Bikey headed down too strongly at a corner when anything which less of an angle might have troubled Steele.

Big Bob acknowledged the match was beyond our formation on the half-hour when Morgan Fox was subbed and Lawrie Wilson was eventually brought on to the left flank. Solly went to left-back and we looked better even if he can't cross with his left boot. We also improved marginally after half-time when Joe Pigott came on for Callum Harriott.

So, yet another unconvincing performance and for the first time some worrying body language from our players. Solly had words with Andre Bikey after Ben Haim had been left two-on-one and it was pretty clear to me that the back four are not confident with Nicky Pope in goal. Pope made another couple of decent second-half saves but he needs a penalty save and a clean sheet to help restore confidence. 

Beyond all of that, Bob Peeters tactics are clearly not working. There is very little football being played and we don't look like scoring. It's not a good picture as we prepare to slide into the bottom-half of the table. If you need convincing of our lack of ambition, look at what Bournemouth did to hapless Blackpool just up the road from us yesterday. That was a side we handed a draw to last week. 

I dare not look forward but it's Cardiff on Boxing Day and I have some extended family members join us. I can see us throwing another stink bomb to remind my Tottenham supporting brother-in-law why he never followed his local team. Cardiff are struggling too and were beaten by Brentford yesterday at home. They will be pumped by a visit to the Valley on Boxing Day no doubt. 

Finally, I was told yesterday that Tony Watt is on his way to SE7 next month having been frozen out at Standard Liege. I think we will need to see the best of him to arrest the decline and prevent us finishing the season in a lower position than Jose Riga managed last year having taken us off the bottom of the table. Away trips in 2015 look increasingly unlikely for me.


Anonymous said...

Thank God for the early season form.


Tony said...

I have to hand it to you Dave, that is some dedication a week before Christmas. I had the pleasure of Villa Park a season or two ago for pre Christmas, and the result was pretty much the same.
That 7/2 is beginning to look not as rosy as a month ago.

Tony said...

For Villa Park, read Bolton.
The last time I was at Villa Park it was memorable for the right reasons (4-3?).