Match Review: Blackburn Rovers vs. Preston North End


This match review is going to be a little bit to the usual ones we produce. As we were all (Jake, Oli and Dan) at Ewood Park yesterday, we decided to do something combining thoughts from the 3 of us and combine them all into one match review for you all to read.

We also have @TalkofEwood returning and providing his thoughts on the game after his contribution to the Rovers vs. North End match preview. Hopefully, you enjoy the piece, don’t forget to follow us on twitter @FromtheFinney and say hello.

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Oli Gornall – @oli_gorn

With the news of Brad Potts and Tom Barkhuizen being injured, and with Ben Pearson suspended, I must say I anticipated the worst going into the game yesterday – I thought we had run out of steam.

Nmecha came in on the right with Gally coming inside off the left, which made us unbalanced and gave us a few issues. Their use of the wing backs worked well in the first half, generally pinning Nmecha back and leaving Maguire 3v1 at the top end, meaning we couldn’t set up for sustained periods in the opposition half. The one-time Nmecha exploited the space on the right, he powered past Derrick Williams and DJ arrived perfectly to finish. Apart from that, North End rarely threatened, and credit has to go to Rovers for setting up in a way that stifled us.

Their wing-backs were wide and high, and it resulted in Maguire being isolated, and Dack caused Ledson a few problems in a free role behind the strikers. The North End defence though was resolute, with Rudd making a couple of good saves at key times. The centre back partnership continues to blossom, with Jordan Storey and Ben Davies again showing their class and Andrew Hughes is improving every week – positionally he is pretty solid now and he wins his fair share in the air. The one regret that I have is that it took so long for the centre back pairing to be trusted together, they are absolutely excellent.

PNE rode their luck at times in the second half, and couldn’t get out, resulting in Fisher picking up a late 2nd yellow which was the only blemish on an otherwise perfect away result. North End lacked the same energy and crispness that we’ve seen on the road in recent weeks, but to win to nil away at a rival with the absence of Pearson, Potts and Barkhuizen is a pretty excellent result.

Hopefully, we recover well and head to the Riverside with a couple of bodies back, for what could prove to be a huge night in the play-off race.

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Dan Wheeler – @wheels_456

Ok, have we all found our way off the edge of our seats yet?

Blackburn Rovers 0-1 Preston North End is a great result however you look at it. It’s an away win (an incredible 5th away win on the bounce for the first time in around 65 years), a derby day win, and it moves North End to within 4 points of the playoffs with 10 games to go.

But, it was stressful. PNE took the lead early on, playing out calmly from the back through Rudd, then Storey. Ledson then came short for the pass from Storey who in turn found Gallagher who had created an overload in the midfield by moving in-field from his inside left position and he then found Alan Browne as the free man higher up the pitch as rovers had pressed the ball and left space in behind. He turned smartly and fed the impressive Lukas Nmecha down the right channel. Nmecha bullied Derrick Williams for pace and strength before slipping a low ball into the box from the byline for Daniel Johnson who, for the second time in as many games, found the top corner with the instep of his left foot.

It was a bright start that was then followed by around 80 minutes of a Blackburn barrage. The Blackburn fans on social media and in forums summing it up perfectly; they had every chance to win yesterday’s game but were stopped by a combination of resolute Preston defending and a generally poor final ball.

The stress for North End fans grew as the game went on, Declan Rudd saving smartly from Danny Graham toward the end of the first half, whose looping header seemed to be creeping in at the back post. As the ball dropped, and Bradley Dack attacked where it was falling, everything happened in slow motion, but Rudd pounced to palm the ball behind for a corner.

At most points throughout the game, Maguire was almost nullified and wasn’t the constant source of an out ball or a counter attack he can so often be. In fact, seemingly every time he tried to make a forward run he would be impeded, shoved down or tugged back by Ryan Nyambe, something that the referee consistently overlooked.

Something the referee didn’t overlook was a shove on Jordan Storey by Danny Graham, which allowed the Rovers striker to slot home what he thought would be an equaliser, before the play was called back by the official. On first viewing from the Darwen End, I screamed for a foul on Storey. Seeing it again in the highlights it looks very soft and we might have gotten away with one there.

Soon after, Rudd was forced into another great stop, this time keeping out teammate Ryan Ledson whose attempt to block a low Blackburn delivery from out wide diverted quickly towards the bottom corner, Rudd getting down superbly to block.

The only moment of the second half that wasn’t completely stressful was a moment of comedy in which goalscorer Johnson pretended to have lost the ball when going to take a corner, before claiming it had burst and getting it replaced, a process that took upwards of an entire minute.

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There was still time in the end for Darnell Fisher to pick up a second booking and receive his marching orders. His first yellow earlier in the half having been given assumedly for excessive force, considering his challenge took the ball entirely. The second yellow was baffling. Amari’i Bell made moves down the left and Fisher got in front of him to hopefully shield and clear the ball. The Rovers substitute then clattered into the back of Fisher, flattening North End’s number 2 who was then shown a second yellow card, supposedly for bringing down Bell.

Still, despite all the stress North End held on and continued our push to reach the playoffs. There are 10 games to go and, when you consider that 10 games into the season, we were rock bottom and looked in for a relegation scrap, we could be in for something truly special as the season draws to a close.

Jake Oates – @jioates

Now that I’ve finally calmed down from yesterday, the first thing that comes to mind about the game is that sitting directly behind the goal low down in the stand doesn’t make for a good view of the game. I’ll let that be a lesson learned for next time.

Overall though, we weren’t great and if I’m being perfectly honest, we did well to come away with the 3 points, I honestly thought Rovers deserved a point at least but as Tony Mowbray said after the game, their final ball wasn’t good enough all game and if that’s the case, you can’t expect to get anything from a game of football. Ultimately though, I’m buzzing with the 3 points.

Another win on the road, another away win on the bounce and still unbeaten in local derbies with Alex Neil at the helm, what’s not to like?

A great team goal secured all the points and saw the often-criticised Lukas Nmecha with another assist under his belt. He’s now got 4 for the season, tied second with Alan Browne, Daniel Johnson and Darnell Fisher. Not bad going really for a 20-year-old playing at this level for the first time in his career. He probably didn’t expect to be leading the line on his own so often during this loan spell but with all the injuries we have had, he was thrust into leading the line for us. I’d certainly like to have him back next season.

The referee yesterday was awful for both sides. Many Rovers fans were fuming at him on social media after he ruled out what would have been Danny Graham’s equaliser and I have to say, it looked soft on the replays. Again, I just saw the legs of the players due to the crossbar being in my way.

The first yellow for Fisher is harsh considering he was also pushed in the back by Joe Rothwell but, as they say, you see them given. The second yellow though certainly was harsh. I’ve watched the replays too and there’s not a lot in it to be perfectly honest. Fisher looks to get his body in between the ball and Amari’I Bell and the two players both had arms on each other go down. Perhaps a freekick at best but a second yellow, not in my book.

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Thankfully, that didn’t cost us and we managed to see out the game and the travelling 7,514 North End fans went home happy with another 3 points in the bag and the first league double over Blackburn since 1978/79.

Opposition View – @TalkofEwood

Football’s a hell of a game, even when you love it you hate it, yet even when you hate it you love it – if you get my drift. Us Rovers fans hate it at the minute. 7 games, 6 losses and 1 draw since our last win since we were within a stone’s throw of 6th place. Ugh.

I missed Preston’s goal. Had to collect a ticket with my Grandad, after helping him hobble up the stairs, strangely enough, a metaphoric action resembling Rovers’ form. So, not the best of starts to the highly anticipated all Lancashire tie.

It was clear, as soon as I took my seat, what Preston’s plan was – to frustrate the home team in as many ways as possible. ‘Shithousery’ as it is called. When you’re the side producing this, it’s possibly the best way to win football matches, especially a local derby. But when it’s happening to you, boy it’s infuriating. Diving, time wasting, little fouls here and there, prolonged treatment to injuries; blood boiling amongst the Rovers fans, players and staff. Perfect for all concerned with Preston.

We dominated, I thought, as the Lilywhites backed off having got the early goal, we dominated possession overall, yet lacked that cutting edge. Be it overhit crosses, lack of desire to connect with balls in front of goal, the final product of all Rovers players was just not there. I mentioned in the preview, the favouring of diagonal balls up to Danny Graham to flick on to Armstrong or bring down for Dack… So, did someone pass this information on to Alex Neil?!

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Preston dealt with it expertly. Graham – usually good in the air – often fell short in duels, and Armstrong didn’t get a sniff after we went 1-0 down. However, this continued. We kept playing the same balls. It was a sign of desperation in some cases. When we got the ball down and brought Dack into the game, we created useful chances, yet we looked scared to do so and reverted to feeding Danny Graham lofted balls from afar. Strange, but it came off every now and then I guess. Nothing much happened that first half, it was fiercely contested, with Rudd pulling off one or two good saves, but aside from that, there was little to report.

That all changed when the second half came about. Rovers wanted it a bit more. Nuttall was soon introduced, he gave the extra support that Graham needed, and arguably lit up the game as far as Rovers were concerned. He took the pressure off Danny Graham and put more on to the impressive Preston centre back pairing. Nuttall’s persistence and quality paid off as he chased down a loose ball, brushed off his man and found himself one on one with the keeper as he shifted the ball onto his strong right foot, creating space with the goal in his sights. But wait. What? The referee blew up. Why? A foul. Where? Really? The Rovers fans erupted. ‘You’re not fit to referee’ echoing around the ground. Not the first strange decision referee Oliver Langford had made, but I let it go. Nuttall did look a bit robust when challenging Fisher (I think) to the ball. Go again Rovers.

The Blackburn hopeful were all guns blazing now, and that was emulated on the field, Rovers really wanted it now. Dack was riled up, Nuttall was buzzing around. And that’s when it happened. Nuttall pressed, forced a rushed bit of play from the away side’s midfield, Dack put a crunching tackle in, the ref played on, Smallwood picked up the ball 30 yards out and sent a defence-splitting pass to Danny Graham who slotted home. Get in. 1-1. But wait. What? The referee blew up. Why? A foul. Where? Really? The Rovers fans erupted. ‘You’re not fit to referee’ echoing around the ground. Deja Vu. Ewood was toxic. The Preston defenders even looked towards the linesman to see if he had given offside first, as it seemed they did not even realise what the free kick was for. I just knew this wasn’t going to be our day from this point on.

We tried, and tried and tried; battled for every ball, creating chance after chance, but still incapable of producing a threatening final ball. It just would not go in. Another disappointing loss, and 6 points to the content North End faithful.

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Take nothing away from PNE though, a hard-fought win to which their tactics worked superbly although the match probably warranted a draw, and was overshadowed by the peculiar decisions by the officials for both sides, probably diluting what could and should have been a classic contest not short of goals. But yeah, well done, you b*stards.