Just Back On The Island... Blackburn

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SM
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Just Back On The Island... Blackburn

Post by SM » Mon Feb 05, 2024 12:11 pm

Such has been our dismal run on the road, the IOW ferry staff down here have occasionally started to gift me a 'priority boarding pass' en-route to whatever part of the country we’re playing.

For any readers unfamiliar with transport from the Isle of Wight - pound for pound the most expensive strip of water to cross in the entire world - those with deep pockets (and more money than sense!) can throw even more money at this awful company for a priority place on this completely broken service.

Our National Rail has major issues - but it’s nothing on the Island ferries. Getting up at 4:45am, off the back of last weeks snooze fest, heading to a ground we’ve not won at for 25 years with no Sam Field, I went cap in hand expecting my free priority boarding pass waiting for me in the terminal.

... I should be so lucky, no priority boarding pass, and a cosy welcome to Ewood Park by some Blackburn fan sat in a VIP corporate box behind the away end flipping the bird and givin' it large whilst chugging his way through his white-wine spritzer.

The last time I wrote for LFW was that grim Boxing Day fixture at The Den. We were masters of our own downfall back then, and we started in an equally shaky fashion. Indeed Blackburn had a truly guilt-edged chance with less than 5 minutes on the clock.

Sticking with this incessant plan of playing out from the back on every single occasion, Cook received the ball from a Begovic goal-kick, but his forward pass was easily dispossessed and pinged straight back at us... After the ball was slid in behind Colback, Ben Chrisene advanced into our area, skipped his way past the recovering Cook, and saw his right-footed effort slice high and wide of the goal from around 10 yards out. A huge, huge let off.

We didn’t heed the warning and within a couple of minutes, another hash-up between Begovic and a wrong-footed JCS saw us present the latest gift to the divisions top goalscorer in Sammy Szmodics - thankfully Paal was alive to the danger and manage to hook the ball out for a corner.

The second warning shot within the opening few minutes, Cook firmly pulled rank and had a strong word with Begovic to re-focus the attention amongst a backdrop of a very uneasy away crowd. To his and their credit, whilst we continued to go short, it was at least done in a far more measured way than the franticness that saw us open the game with.

That coincided with us threatening at the other end of the pitch too, after collecting the ball out wide, Chair saw a trademark rasping drive from the edge of the area comfortably pushed wide of the post.

With the wind in our sails, Cannon later sent Willock away down the right hand side, after a couple of step-overs, he cut in on his left, bent back the other way whilst sitting his marker down, but his deep cross just evaded Dykes at the far post.

Shortly after, Cook played a stunning ball right through the centre of the pitch to set away Armstrong who had oceans of space to run into, with Willock and Chair both available out wide, he got caught between dribbling and passing, and frustratingly the chance came to nothing. His pace and power unquestionably was causing them problems, but the decision making in those key moments was poor.

Talking of poor decisions… To our right, an increasing number of QPR fans were getting pretty invested in something happening at the back of the stand.

Alcohol in the ground? Confrontation with a steward? Someone caught with a pyro?

No, no… Low and behold, that same Blackburn fan from earlier, half hour into his VIP experience, with the scores level, decided now was the time to start a feud with the QPR fans directly in front of him.

Through a mixed chorus of laughter and cheers, it became apparent that the response to him was far more inventive than to just exchange insults… With every cheer, another sticker slapped on the window in-front of him - "QPR FC FROM THE WHITE CITY” stickers becoming an ever rare commodity in this part of the country.

Needless to say, his view was violently downgraded from VIP to severely restricted view within a matter of minutes until there was a ceasefire. So Childish, so petty, very immature… But to a man, united agreement that it was absolutely glorious.

The poor lady assigned to look after the guests in this area really providing the icing on the most edible cake, by shrugging her shoulders and saying there was nothing she could do. Exquisite.

Back to the game, and Blackburn still looked threatening and had played some decent football. Costello saw a shot from a tight-angle smothered by Begovic, but it was an open encounter with both sides just lacking a bit of quality upfront.

Chair had looked very lively, and he was the next to carve out an opening for us. With two men tightly marking him around the half was line, his delicate chip again set Armstrong racing through on the left, he roasted past his man, and advanced through on goal before his near post snap-shot was pushed wide for a corner when it appeared there better options in Dykes and Willock both on for the cut-back.

The first half ended 0-0 with us probably just shading it as the better side.

We started the second half very much on the front foot, and Illias Chair was again causing havoc.

After receiving the ball from JCS, Chair darted his way run down the left wing, jinked his way past the full-back and dinked a lovely ball into the back-post… It was just taken off of Dykes head for what would have doubtless been a certain goal as the ball went out for a corner.

You know the drill, par for the course, the resulting set piece was headed straight back out, but only to Chair who put a far better quality ball back into the far post… Cook won the knock-down, and it looked for the world that Dixon-Bonner would score his first goal for us before the ball was prodded away and back out wide to Paal… He teed it up for Chair, who bent the ball right back into the same area, and Cook this time saw his out-stretched header fly just wide of the post.

The pendulum had really started to swing in our favour, and the biggest chance of the game followed shortly after.

JCS was the architect from deep, and after dispossessing Costello, he played a perfect ball forward to Armstrong who was left in a one-on-one foot race… Only one winner there, and with the nearest Blackburn player absolute history, he was through on goal with just the keeper to beat… As he approached the box, Armstrong's next touch was a heavy one, and the ball was gratefully received by Pears in the Blackburn goal without us even mustering an attempt.

Keen to step things up further, Cifuentes mixed it up with Hayden, Hodge & Smyth all coming on to replace Willock, Dykes & Dixon-Bonner. It paid instant dividends, with the dead-lock broken almost immediately.

Cook fed the ball out wide to Smyth for his first touch of the ball, and after good work, he feinted to cross, beat his man on the by-line, and crossed for the back post... Paal controlled the ball dead, and squared it to Colback… With 3 men well positioned directly in front of him, he found Chair who was hovering on his left… After teasing his man, he cut in from the left, bought the commitment from a flurry of Blackburn defenders by shaping to shoot, then dragged the ball onto his right foot for a further touch before letting fly from the edge of the box…

The keeper was well beaten, but Chair’s shot thumped against the post, before kissing the goalkeepers back, and then trickling back across the line for the opener. It was a fortunate goal, but one that even the most ardent Rovers fan would agree was well deserved.

1-0. Game on!

With a jubilant atmosphere in the away end, we didn’t have to wait long until we were celebrating again.

Colback robbed Dolan of possession, and he again set away Armstrong who was again on the turn… After holding the ball up, he got a fortunate deflection with two Blackburn men on him, and it fell kindly as he brushed off his marker and carried the ball forward. Chair was the obvious option out wide, but Hodge made a direct run right through the heart of midfield and in behind the defence… Armstrong’s pass was weighted to perfection, and Hodge didn’t even need to take a touch before arching his body and clipping the ball in the corner for our second goal in as many minutes.

Hodge led the celebrations down by the away end, my dad, still nursing the effects of a broken shoulder thrown around like a rag-doll as fans piled in around us. The only regret that our friend in the VIP lounge wasn’t able to witness in it all it’s splendour.

The Blackburn fans immediately voicing their displeasure and turning on their ownership - QPR’s sticklerless away following going absolutely nuts behind the goal. This is what it’s all about.

The following 10 minutes we really got the ball down and started to play… Smyth had their full-back on toast, and there was one exquisite move between our Irish contingent that would have really killed the game. Hodge had the ball in a deep position, and with two men on him, he skilfully nut-megged one, and set away Smyth out wide, his bursting run on the right saw him beat his man and find Armstrong on the edge of the box, who saw his powerful shot fly wide of the post.

We were all having a lovely time - but Queens Park Rangers, Sam Gallagher (one league goal to his name all season!) and clean sheet will never fit in the same sentence. Not now, not ever.

Armstrong was harshly adjudged to have fouled his man on the half-way line, and the quickly taken free-kick was immediately played forwards to Szmodics who drilled the ball in low and hard for Gallagher who was racing for the near post… Cook just managed to get a foot on the ball as he hacked it clear to the edge of the box, but it fell to Costello who’s scuffed first time effort bounced up into the air, and he won the second ball ahead of Colback, to leave our perennial pain in the arse Sam Gallagher to fire through Begovic and bring them right back into the game.

2-1. 15 minutes left on the clock.

Paal had been down for a couple of minutes, and he was replaced by Larkeche on the far side, with the tireless Armstrong also making way for Frey up top.

It’s incredible the difference a goal makes and the balance of play moved heavily back into their hands from here.

From a really fluid, progressive mindset to a cagey backs to the wall job, it made for an excruciating watch… We just couldn’t get the ball out, and Blackburn dominated possession and committed bodies forward and put countless balls into our box. Whipped crosses, floated crosses, drilled crosses… It felt like it was a matter of time until they found the leveller, but time and again there was always a QPR body in the way...

We managed to grind our way through to the 89th minute without them really testing Begovic, and then an opening… Colback, right back to his best here, slid to intercept a ball which he missed, and it left Costello around 35 yards from goal with our midfield completely out of the picture… He took a touch, set himself, and then smashed an effort goal-wards which bounced off JCS and looped towards Begovic… Thankfully he was well positioned and punched the ball up and over the bar for a Blackburn corner.

Hairlines receding, all eyes were on the touch-line for added time: and a whopping 10 minutes awarded, from somewhere. The resultant corner mercifully nodded wide of the post.

4 minutes into the 10 being played, and an enormous chance again. With Cannon caught between two players, the loose ball was rolled across the goalmouth and eventually smashed wide of the upright with Begovic having no chance in the world.

As the time dwindled down, nobody typified our spirit more than Illias Chair. With 99 minutes on the clock, after losing the ball down by the corner flag, he got back to his feet, went on a lung-busting run back to the half way line, won the ball back, before eventually being hauled back down by the frustrated Blackburn man he had dispossessed. It was celebrated as much as any goal - as much as any sticker - and the game was finally ours.

A really enjoyable game of football, and a critical 3 points towards our fight for survival.

Just a quick comment on the loan players:

Hayden looked every bit the player I hoped we had signed. A strong, calming presence in the midfield and a really promising start to his time with us.

Hodge will obviously get all the plaudits for his goal, but he looked really impressive. From his first interview, his hunger to come here and play was apparent, and he matched those words with a really energetic, effective impact from the bench.

The old adage to never fall in love with loan players is a good one, another season watching the likes of Ethan Laird & Tyler Roberts is about as appealing as a weekly prostate examination. But we might have something pretty special here if this cameo is anything to go by.

I don’t want to go too harsh on Frey as he was introduced at a tough time, but truthfully he looked miles off it and very heavy. I really hope his finishing is better than his mobility on this showing.

They say it’s the hope that kills you, but we’ve had a heavy dose injected right into the arm here.

COME ON YOU R’s!
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Montag
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Re: Just Back On The Island... Blackburn

Post by Montag » Mon Feb 05, 2024 1:46 pm

Good report, SM. Thank you very much. Both for your report and your dedication. The club are lucky to have supporters like you. Love the pictures!
"Go, muster men: My council is my shield ; We must be brief, when traitors brave the field."
Richard III, Act IV, W. Shakespeare

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Re: Just Back On The Island... Blackburn

Post by SM » Mon Feb 05, 2024 8:22 pm

Montag wrote:
Mon Feb 05, 2024 1:46 pm
Good report, SM. Thank you very much. Both for your report and your dedication. The club are lucky to have supporters like you. Love the pictures!
Thanks very much Montag.

No words could do justice to that VIP window :lol:
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Re: Just Back On The Island... Blackburn

Post by WA Hoop » Tue Feb 06, 2024 8:35 am

SM wrote:
Mon Feb 05, 2024 8:22 pm
Montag wrote:
Mon Feb 05, 2024 1:46 pm
Good report, SM. Thank you very much. Both for your report and your dedication. The club are lucky to have supporters like you. Love the pictures!
Thanks very much Montag.

No words could do justice to that VIP window :lol:
That was seriously funny and a somewhat inventive response! 8)
Question everything.

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Re: Just Back On The Island... Blackburn

Post by StevenageRanger » Mon Feb 12, 2024 6:42 pm

Great read, thanks for taking the time. The sticker was a great response! Brilliant.

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