Blackburn manager Tony Mowbray says his decision to replace Ryan Nyambe with Elliott Bennett for his side’s 1-0 defeat at Millwall was for tactical as well as fitness reasons.
In the only change to be made from the side that won at play-off hopefuls Cardiff and drew with promotion contenders West Brom, Bennett came in for Nyambe in the right-back position of Rovers’ starting XI as they looked to keep their play-off hopes alive at The Den.
That however would not ultimately work in Rovers’ favour, as a 20th-minute goal from Mason Bennett earned Millwall a 1-0 win, ending any chance Mowbray’s side still had of finishing in the top-six this season the process.
Did Tony Mowbray make the right call replacing Ryan Nyambe with Elliott Bennett at Millwall?
The decision to drop Nyambe for Elliott Bennett had raised eyebrows pre-match, and explaining the call he made with that change after the game, Mowbray told the Lancashire Telegraph: “Ryan has played a lot of football for us, I’m not sure he’s up to speed, from after lockdown he’s found it difficult, he’s a lad who needs to practice every day on his technique and his ability with the ball.
“I thought Joe Rankin-Costello warranted his place in the team (at left-back) and thought Elliott Bennett brings some character and personality to our team and takes the game-plan on to the pitch.
“It was a balance of a few things, confidence levels, and the fact he’s played a lot of football, we decided to go with Elliott and Joe.”
In all honesty, it feels hard to agree with Mowbray here.
While you can’t doubt he has been a good servant to Rovers over the years, Bennett is not a natural right-back in the same way that Nyambe is, and that is something that shows when he is on the pitch in that position.
Indeed, Nyambe has been one of the club’s most impressive players this season, so to leave him out of such a decisive game just makes things even harder to understand here.
You do feel that Rovers paid for it on the night at The Den, both with the pressure they were put under from the left of Millwall’s attack, and the reduced threat from the right going forward that Nyambe’s pace and ability to get in behind, which could certainly have been useful against a physical Millwall side who were able to quite comfortably deal with Bennett’s crosses into the box from deep.
With nothing to play for in the final two games of the season, it will be interesting to see how Mowbray approaches his selection choices at right-back, and indeed other areas of the pitch, which could even be an indication of what is to come in the summer transfer window.