jump to navigation

Blackburn Rovers 2 Watford 0 (13/09/2022) 14/09/2022

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
trackback

1-

Oh, it’s opening time down on Fascination Street

So let’s cut the conversation and get out for a bit

Because I feel it all fading and paling and I’m begging

To drag you down with me, to kick the last nail in.

Fascination Street, The Cure

“I can’t believe that Joe f***ing McLaughlin played for us 53 times”.

This is my first trip to Ewood Park since watching a young Alan Shearer quickly dismantle Steve Perryman’s side in front of a noisy away end in 1992.  I’m not sure why it’s been that long, it’s just how it’s happened.  Other Matt is an Ewood Park virgin, prioritising the midweek trip to tick a ground off.   Dave was last here to witness Jean-Alain Fanchone’s 74-minute Watford career in 2012; this nugget provokes a conversation that takes us most of the way from our rendez-vous at Corley services to Blackburn.  “A memorable short Watford careers” eleven, which rapidly bisects into a “Brief but beautiful Watford careers” eleven and a parallel “Brief for a reason Watford careers” eleven (euphemistically.  these may not have been the words used).

Dave polices nominations. Joe McLaughlin doesn’t qualify, having played more than ten times. Xavier Gravelaine inevitably spearheads the former eleven, while Collins John and Kerry Dixon form a fearsome forward line for the latter in the face of, as you’ll appreciate, stiff competition.

This sort of trip, stupidly long midweek drive facilitated by gratuitous use of holiday from work meaning a leisurely drive up and a late thunder back down an empty(ish) motorway, has become an annual tradition decided on fixtures day in June and fuelled by Red Bull (other revolting rocket fuel is available), snacks and “banter”.  Amanda joins us in the Fernhurst where we half-watch Tottenham lollop around against Sporting for a bit whilst eating enjoyably greasy pub fare.  

Yes, this is necessarily going to be an “enjoy the journey” report.  Without giving ages away (but see below), we’ve all been doing this for decades.  Long enough to know that sometimes a good day out can be marred by what is nominally the focal point of the trip.

2- There aren’t many here to witness this.  There was a smaller crowd at Rotherham, but that felt busier in a ground with lower capacity.  Ewood Park, as Other Matt observes, “always looked bigger on the telly”…  it’s a likeably straightforward, unmodern collection of four subbuteo stands, but it’s hardly bulging at the seams.  This goes for the away end as much as anywhere… independent of how the team is going, it’s surely to be expected that long-distance midweek support will be impacted by the relentlessness of the midweek programme in this season more than any other.  Sometimes a small away crowd can characterise the most memorable of games – those who braved the fuel blockades to travel up here in 2000 would surely agree.  This will not be one of those times.   Half a dozen gormless locals exchange the predictable chants about paying benefits, empty stands and bunches of whatevers with like-minded travelling orns, and whilst I must confess to never having heard the one about double glazing before, it’s a ritual grimly befitting of the evening.

A minute’s silence in tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth is impeccably observed, as you’d hope and expect.  A rendition of the national anthem is perhaps less unanimously engaged in, but you are nonetheless left with the impression that those wishing to pay tribute to the monarch might have had their best opportunity to do so by performing the same ritual before the Reading game rather than by doing whatever people did on Saturday afternoon instead.  Watch the cricket, perhaps.  Admittedly when faced with an unprecedented situation of such gravitas, bad decisions are going to happen and perhaps some leeway should be given but “not being bloody stupid” would seem to be a good guideline.  I suspect I’m not alone in finding that being told how I’m supposed to think and behave tends to incline me to the opposite course of action.

3- Here we go then.

It’s bloody awful.  Or at least, we’re bloody awful… Blackburn do a reasonable job of looking like a competent football team.  So we’re bloody awful.  Or rather…   we’re not completely awful, but the bits that are awful are so awful that they render the less problematic bits sort of obsolete.  For instance, I don’t really think there’s much wrong with our defence as far as actual defending goes.  Nothing that something more cohesive going forward to release the pressure wouldn’t relegate to merely something to work on in the goodness of time, for all Christian Kabasele’s generosity with possession.  Kortney Hause’s number has come up on the “who’s missing today?” spinning dial – a worryingly non-specific sprained ankle depriving us of the option of his surges out of defence and swinging crossfield balls.

So we’re back to Cathcart – Sierralta – Kabasele.  Which… as above, is kind of ok defensively.  Certainly for all that Rovers are the most up for it from the off and put Daniel Bachmann to work immediately these weren’t clear cut chances and we weren’t being played through… Brereton-Diáz, involved in a Chile-off against Francisco Sierralta, finds space for a bobbling shot from outside the area – a deflection might have caused a problem, but as it is Bachmann fields comfortably.  The lively Dolan snaps in a shot from an acute angle and does exceptionally well to direct his fierce effort on target, but Bachmann is equal to it.

The problem, the main problem, perhaps the problem that if resolved would see everything else fall into place, is the midfield.  Not so much the individuals themselves, for all that both Choudhury and Kayembe have had better games, but the inadequacy of the shape when both of them sit.  No evidence here of Kayembe trundling forwards with possession as against Boro which is something.  The lack of movement makes us horribly easy to defend against… sitting back and saying “come on then” is currently pretty much enough to watch the ball swing across the back line until someone loses it, or some individual brilliance (or perhaps some doggedness from Sema on the left touchline) fashions a chance.  You’d take those odds, and Blackburn do.  There is no pattern.  There’s little evidence of anyone carrying the ball. We don’t know how to score goals, indeed how to create chances despite our attacking riches and this demoralises team and fans alike.  We’re suffering from missing the mobility of Cleverley and Dele-Bashiru, missing Louza in a different way.  But we need to find a way to play football with the assets we have available.

JP doesn’t hide, for all that he too has had better days, days when flicks and spins have come off.  He looks ever more a leader, even at 20.  Not so Sarr, who is invisible until injury forces him off after half an hour, meaning that we get an hour of Keinan Davis…  the ball suddenly sticks, defenders with sore limbs left trailing in his wake (tho no matching the three at Rotherham, two his best tally here).  Something like a threat begins to suggest itself, but within ten minutes Blackburn finally play through us (Kabasele, for the second game running, contributing through inattention) and Hedges tucks away a Dolan cross from the right.

4- To be one down at half time was more than fair enough;  we’d scarcely threatened, for all that Davis had given us some oomph and 1-0 might have been considered “getting away with it”.

And indisputably things improved in the second half, if from a low bar.  This was abetted in part by Rob Edwards changing the shape (again)… switching out Sierralta and bringing Dan Gosling in to add a body and some snapping and sniping to that midfield.   Vakoun Bayo, who had run a willing but fruitless path skipping around chasing not very much, was surprised to find a Sema cross reach him at the far post… his header was well directed, downwards towards the bottom corner, but lacked the power to trouble Kaminski.

Davis remains our most overt threat, occupying and engaging multiple opponents at a time (if being treated less generously by the officials than he had at Rotherham).  As at Rotherham he pulls off the Sema-like trick of holding off and leaning into  a number of markers with his right shoulder and rolling around to his right in a wide arc to facilitate a shooting opportunity on his left foot, firing across the face of goal. Minutes later João Pedro clips across a corner, Davis gets his head to it and Kabasele bundles home only to be denied by the linesman’s flag.  The replay looks tight – only Davis is at risk of being offside – but we still hadn’t earned any luck, no more than we had with Ayala’s clumsy challenge on Davis in the box in the first half.

Rovers meanwhile were being pressed back, but catching us on the break.   Brereton-Diáz thundered away down the left but was forced wider than he would have liked and Bachmann blocked well.  Then a second break lead to a corner and Rovers did get the break, as the impressive Hyam hooked a flick-on home acrobatically from another borderline offside position.  If you make ten chances instead of two you can kinda expect to get these breaks with one of them.

5-  The visiting support, such as it was, flooded out.  The mood in the away end was combustible, that unhappy mix of those who want to vent their frustration and those who really would rather maintain a happy ambiance, a sense of togetherness.  Each group would have pejorative ways of describing the other’s stance and such opinions began to be shared openly as flashpoints sparkled in the stand.

One particularly agitated individual had been loudly and stridently expressing his frustration in a series of exclamations and ultimatums halfway up the left side of the stand throughout.  At the whistle he was down the front, pointing angrily at the Watford players who appeared to both recognise the efforts of those who had made their way up and their own inadequacy in rewarding it during the game.  Rob Edwards approached but didn’t engage directly, though visibly apologising to the crowd in general.  Daniel Bachmann, bravely but perhaps ill-advisedly and possibly thinking that his own faultless display might earn him a bit of restraint appeared to submit to discussion with calming gestures.  We were too far off to hear the exchange, but it was clear that no common ground was found.

As luck would have it my route down to the exit saw me arrive at the same time as the aggressor in chief, whose unbound anger was attracting more vocal criticism.  Joining in was stupid;  he was never likely to respond positively to being  told that he didn’t have to come to the games if he didn’t enjoy it as was obvious when his response was a shove of frustration that saw me topple backwards.  I fear I flattened whoever was behind me – there’s a lot of me – but any potential for deterioration doused quickly as we both seemed to recognise our own stupidity.  The surrounding supporters reacted angrily to the violent turn of events – “you’ve just hit an old man” was one shout.  It took me a few seconds to realise that the old man in question was, in fact, me, by which time the source of the shout was indiscernible and an even uglier flashpoint was avoided.  

As an aside, if there’s anything more stupid than engaging in such a conversation it’s doing so the day before your wedding.  Let’s say 20-odd years ago, arbitrarily.  Not that anyone would be that daft.

Unfortunately, Dave and Other Matt had heard the “you’ve just hit an old man” shout, the last two words of which were the focus of discussion during much of the queue to escape the car park.  Pointing out that Dave is a full three weeks older than me proved of little help (and neither of us 50 just yet… “old” indeed).

People get wound up by the oddest things.  I don’t mind disagreeing with people, or people seeing things differently in general.  I don’t really mind us being a bit rubbish – I mean I’d rather we weren’t, but, you know.  Comes with the territory.  I do hate conflict though, anything that challenges the illusion that we’re all pulling the same way.  Not very good at that.

People get cheered up by the oddest things too.  A McDonalds break in the early hours amidst the inevitable M6 lane closures was brightened up by realising that Spurs had lost after all.  We’ve just driven the length of the country and back to watch us lose and be rubbish, and Spurs losing is still capable of raising a snigger.

Later, post Corley, I undertook the solo hour-long final stretch with music at ear-bleeding volume.  Another Ewood Park curio – I bought the Cure’s “Disintegration” album the day before our trip to Blackburn for the play-off in 1989.  Astonishingly, Dad let me play it in its entirety on the drive up.  We didn’t score that day, either.  “Fascination Street” screams down the A14.  “Drag you down with me, Kick the last nail in”. 

No, I’ll be miserable as, when, if and how I choose.  Thanks anyway.

Yoooorns.

*Bachmann 3*, Ngakia 2, Sema 3, Cathcart 3, Sierralta 3, Kabasele 1, Choudhury 2, Kayembe 2, João Pedro  3, Sarr 1, Bayo 2
Subs: Davis (for Sarr, 30) 3, Gosling (for Sierralta, 45) 3, Mario Gaspar (for Ngakia, 74) 2, Asprilla (for Choudhury, 74) 3, Hungbo, Troost-Ekong, Okoye

Comments»

1. jtbodbo - 14/09/2022

I was at the game in 2000 – travelled from Shipley with younger son. A great night , although I remember the away end being in a low stand.
Briefly I hoped last night would be similar. Ha ! Some hopes. Wasn’t difficult to get last nights report accurate – but excellent as ever, thankyou.
Well done for travelling up there last night. ( travelling home from the ‘Boro game to Cheshire I was stuck on the M1 for 45 minutes – at 11pm ! Got in after 2-30 am)
Your brief altercation reminded me of an incident in 2000 , after we got back to my ‘hotel’ in Shipley. The pleasant owner had a brother, who being intoxicated, took exception to my son & I disagreeing with his assertion that Weeds United were the best team of the 70’s. Not quite violent but a bit close. Confirmed my suspicion ,then, that Weeds supporters mirrored the team – unpleasant, unsporting and unwelcome. Thankfully things have improved.

2. paullbaxter - 14/09/2022

My first game of the season as I live in the North West and was on holiday for Preston. Can’t argue with the report at all. We were just so utterly static in the first half with no out ball for the defense. I also don’t understand why the centre backs collect the ball from the keeper on the six yard box and pass it back and forth when so deep, which just invites the press. No team in this division can handle a press so why invite it? Overall, Blackburn were just more lively than us in possession, which given RE’s comments in mid week was baffling.

On a lighter note, in the first half while Danny Bachmann was keeping us in the game, someone behind me shouted ‘I love you Danny’ and he turned round and blew him a kiss.

3. Harefield Hornet - 14/09/2022

Your description of the exchange with Mr Angry certainly resonates with me – I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been involved in similar situations with both our own fans and opposition idiots, and regretted it seconds later. Better to take a deep breath and walk off. As for the match itself and the recent performances, I have a very uneasy feeling about the way this is going already. Rob Edwards needs a reasonably fully fit squad quickly to address this situation and buy himself a reasonable amount of time – which he obviously deserves at this stage. Lets hope for everyone’s sake the owners feel the same.

4. Jim Bullen - 15/09/2022

Nailed it, as usual.

That midfield set-up is utterly superfluous to most games. It provides zero protection to the rearguard and offers absolutely nothing going forwards.

If our coaching team can’t see the same after ten games we surely have a problem.

5. Paul S - 15/09/2022

Tuesday’s performance and the atmosphere in the Watford end reminded me very much of Crewe away in the Vialli season, nearly 21 years ago to the day. Watford fans were fighting each other in the toilets and the fare served up on the pitch that day was of a similar level of ineptness. A system that didn’t suit the players we had and a general air of ‘can’t be arsed’. Very disappointing.

6. Graham Walker - 15/09/2022

“Old man”. Ha ! As one who remained sitting at Rotherham, being of “Keith Furphy vintage”(actually Ron Burgess) I surely sympathise.
Young people eh? Can’t live with ’em, can’t shoot ’em.

Matt Rowson - 15/09/2022

Careful Walker, I’m still a young people…

7. David - 15/09/2022

I have no right to comment as I did no attend but can I assume that Edwards is safe for the time being in light of the news that Giaretta has left the club?

Matt Rowson - 16/09/2022

My guess would be yes, absolutely


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: