Big Sam’s first match in charge really couldn’t of been any better. Yes there were still flaws to the performance but the main ones that we have suffered with have been addressed by Big Sam immediately.
The defence looked a lot more solid and attacking wise we looked about a million times more penetrative.
In truth, at the start of the game we looked nervous and tentative on the ball. Stoke piled on the pressure and took control of the game. Rovers looked like a side that had not won for 11 games.
However, with the first foray into the Stoke penalty area, Rovers took the lead.
Nine minutes had elapsed when Morten Gamst Pedersen was slipped a pass and he rounded Sonko before being crudley hacked down. EVEN Mark Lawrenson acknowledged that it was a penalty on MOTD – a sure fire sign that it was as Lawrenson had to swallow some pride and give us some credit for once. Benni McCarthy converted from the penalty spot, sending the keeper the wrong way, great penalty but a barely deserved lead.
After the goal Rovers looked a little more settled, however Stoke still applied the pressure and showed why they are a team that are so hard to beat. However, Rovers incredibly stumbled across a second goal with only their second attack of the game.
McCarthy cushioned back Andre Ooijer’s throw to Brett Emerton and his drilled cross to the far post was deflected back into the path of Roberts by Ryan Shawcross, Roberts only had to make firm contact which he did with ease. Blackburn were 2-0 up and whilst barely warranting that scoreline looked clinical for the first time this season.
The third goal highlighted the great understanding that McCarthy and Roberts have together. They may not play together a lot, but they have an sixth sense that only really good friends have.
Benni Mac back-heeled the ball to Roberts on the edge of the area and when Simonsen could only parry J-Rob’s shot, McCarthy pounced from 12 yards as he does best. The delight was widespread. Chairman John Williams was seen standing up and punching the air.
After all this mayhem Rovers finally settled down and stroked the ball around.
Rovers were looking strong defensively, they restricted Stoke to half chances from distance. Stoke showed their desperation further by just pumping the ball into the box.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first. Stoke had slightly more of the possession but Rovers looked the more dangerous. Incisive passing was on display which had been missing in the Ince reign.
David Dunn, who had put in some sterling work in the middle was withdrawn with game won after 60 minutes.
Infact the introduction of Tugay helped Rovers set up Pedersen with a passing move more at home in Brazil. A 4 man passing move, involving McCarthy, Tugay, Warnock and Gamst cut Stoke to ribbons. I almost went into cardiac arrest as the long ball and hit and hope tactics of the Ince reign were replaced with some slick passing.
Roberts should have had a couple more as well as he shot straight at the keeper and had an effort defelcted wide.
McCarthy also hit the post late on as he pressed for a hat-trick.
Fuller then fired wide from a hugely offside position after Robinson had pulled off another good save, this time from substitute Seyi Olofinjana.
The performance on the whole was far from the best I have ever seen Rovers play but there were a load of positives to take from the game for Big Sam. He wasn’t the only who was very pleased to see what he saw yesterday.
Much. much better and most of that was down to the 100% commitment on show at all times.
Paul Robinson – 6
Still looks dodgy on crossing and commandment of his area but when he was called upon to pull off the saves, he was there and will have been delighted with his clean sheet. One save in particular from Ricardo Fuller’s header was solid as a rock.
Andre Ooijer – 6
Not mobile enough to support Brett on the right wing but did his defensive duties with minimum fuss.
Ryan Nelsen – 9
Immense. A true leader. A great battle with Fuller
Chris Samba – 7
Held firm and didn’t give an inch. Looked a lot more solid than in recent weeks.
Warnock – 7
Much better than the Wigan game which I know isn’t saying much. Looked willing to support Pedersen and put in a shift of work rate. Will be getting his confidence back with performances like this.
Emerton – 7
Have seen better from him but he offered a good outlet down the right. He offered pace and was willing to get behind his man, just need better service and he would of been a major threat.
Andrews – 6
Did the quiet mans job but he often hoofed the ball out in panic which he needs to cut out. Will probably be replaced by Vince Grella when he gets back.
Dunn – 8
God I’ve missed him. Strong and gave the big guys of the Stoke midfield a real battle. We’ll need him if we are to get out of this relegation battle sooner rather than later. Was taken off to save him extra effort but his willingness to battle and provide industry is always welcome.
Pedersen – 7
Another one with a much improved display. His crossing was better and was really unlucky not to score. Put in the usual work rate and offered width on the left.
Roberts – 7
Predator like goal and with better finishing could of had a hat trick himself. No-one can doubt his effort levels though and held the ball up well.
McCarthy – 9
Simply magnificent. Excellent link up play with Jason Roberts and put in the effort that has been missing for a while from his game. 2 goals means a very good day at the office. His holding up of the ball and body movement was a joy to behold.
Tugay – 7
Still got it. A few losse passes but as usual his distribution at the heart of the midfiel was spot on.
Derbyshire – 6
Little time to impress, put in the yards but needs to improve his touch.
Replaced Emerton with about 7 minutes left and looked hungry but little of note contribution wise.
Sam Allardyce – 8.
More or less spot on with the team selection. Side looked to have a good balance. He wont of been pleased with the nervousness of the performance in the first 15 minutes of the game but will be delighted with the potency in front of goal.
Got his tactics right and got the players playiong with full blooded commitment.
David Dunn – back from injury and adds guile to the midfield. Will be a big player for the remainder of the season.
Benni McCarthy and Jason Roberts – If Santa Cruz does leave us then we have no worries. Roberts does all the ugly stuff and if we can get Benni to maintain the level of performance over the remaining games then we have nothing to worry about. Very promising.
Centre backs – both were on top form and stood up to the physical approach of Stoke really well. Much more solid and you can’t argue with a clean sheet can you?
Stephen Warnock – much more like his old self.
Right back – still looks weak. Andre will offer Rovers a steady if uninspired option there everytime but Emo needs support.
Keith Andrews – Treading water until Grella gets back.
Paul Robinson on crosses – looks undecisive, his shot stopping is great but he needs to command that box more.
Well done evryone that went yesterday. Atmosphere was very good and we really got behind Sam and the boys. lets keep it up.