Rovers are now 5 games into the season under new manager Jon Dahl Tomasson, racking up 3 wins and 2 losses under the new gaffer placing them 4th in the league in what has been a start full of highs and lows.
Rovers kicked off the season with a home tie against Queens Park Rangers. Hopes were indifferent heading into the opening game due to a lack of transfer activity in the early window and a new style of play still being developed into the group of players. It was unknown how Rovers were going to perform. Despite a shaky opening 30 minutes, Rovers broke the deadlock with a worldie from captain Lewis Travis; this brought the Rovers team alive who controlled the rest of the game, seeing out the 1-0 win in what was a solid opening performance from the blues.
The second game of the season saw Rovers take make the journey to South Wales to take on Swansea City at the Swansea.com Stadium. 5 days prior to the fixture, Rovers welcomed new signings Sammie Szmodics from Peterborough and Tyler Morton on loan from Liverpool to the club, with both players expected to feature in the Swansea game. Szmodics started the game and opened the scoring after Ryan Hedges burst forward on the counterattack to lay it off to the new midfielder who slotted it into the bottom left corner. Rovers went into the next half as 1-0 leaders and doubled their lead in the 57th minute as Ryan Hedges got his second assist of the game with a superb long-range pass into the feet of Brereton-Diaz who shoved away Nathan Wood to run through and chip the ball over Andy Fisher to make it 2-0.
The final nail in the coffin was put in place when the hosts fell victim to another lethal counterattack which resulted in Lewis Travis smashing it into the top right corner giving Rovers the comfortable 3-0 win in South Wales, the first time they had won away at Swansea since 1983. The win saw Rovers go top of the league in what was a really impressive performance. The Blues sat back and were patient waiting for the right moment to press and strike up a counterattack taking all their scoring opportunities with both hands. This was the first real impression JDT had made as manager, not being stubborn with his tactics and changing it up against Swansea to counter their style of play, and it worked perfectly.
The excellent away performance from Rovers was followed up with a home game against one of the promotion favourites West Bromwich Albion. Steve Bruce’s side had drawn the first two opening games of the season and were looking to kick off their winning ways against Rovers that afternoon. Rovers starting Centre-Back Scott Wharton picked up a calf injury in the league cup game mid-week meaning he would miss the next two weeks of action with Rovers giving 17-year-old prospect Ash Phillips his first senior career start. Rovers were dominated for the majority of the first half and despite West Brom chances not coming to anything Rovers pounced on their opportunity as another superb counter- attack allowed Ben Brereton-Diaz to show his quality by curling the ball into the bottom left corner from outside the box sending Rovers into half time with the 1-0 lead.
Blackburn started off the second half strong and it didn’t take long for them to get a second as Sam Gallagher beautifully placed the ball into the bottom left corner, doubling Rovers lead. Despite Rovers having a decent spell after the second goal, West Brom eased their way back into the game and got more comfortable, allowing them to dominate Rovers again possession wise for the rest of the second half. West Brom did manage to get themselves back into the game with a deflected goal from Grady Diangana, they put the pressure on and despite a ridiculous 11 minutes being added on Rovers saw the game out in what was a well-grafted victory under the sun at Ewood Park. The victory saw Rovers stay top of the league with 9 points and the only team in the league to win all their first three matches.
The whole back 4 were the stars in this game, with young Ash Phillips and the experience of Dani Ayala working well together throughout the game despite Phillps having to come off later in the game with a slight knock. It was an all-around hard earned 3 points in Lancashire.
The upcoming Wednesday night saw Rovers travel to Berkshire to take on Reading, who had lost 4-0 away at Blackpool in their previous fixture. It was the first game of the season which I was optimistic about getting a result in, however the optimism didn’t provide the correct outcome as Rovers were outplayed and defeated 3-0 by The Royals with Tom Mcintyre, Junior Hoilett and Lucas Joao all finding the net. Rovers came to the game and didn’t look bothered; despite them having 65% possession they failed to create any real chances recording only 1 shot on target throughout the 90 minutes. It felt very much like a performance from the Rovers of last year, not really showing up midweek and having the bulk of possession without creating chances however, JDT did say a different plan needed to be put in place against every team in the league however, this plan didn’t work.
The fifth and final game of Rovers start to the season saw them take the trip to Bramall Lane to take on promotion hopefuls Sheffield United, which was always going to be a super tough test. The game was woeful for Rovers; the midfield creativity was non-existent, resulting in chances being awarded to Sheffield United and denied thanks to the excellent goalkeeping from Thomas Kaminski and goal line clearance from Ash Phillips. However United opened the scoring with a free kick from Oliver Norwood giving The Blades the lead. The second half was exactly the same, pure domination from United inevitably resulting in Rovers being punished even further with Ilman Ndiaye scoring a brace and handing Rovers their second 3-0 defeat in a row sending Sheffield United top of the league and dropping Rovers down to 4th. Rovers ended the game with only 3 shots and 0 on target in the whole 90 minutes.
After the last two games it is clear that Rovers need signings fast; 2 senior centre-backs are injured and playing young Ashley Phillips and Dani Ayala every week just isn't achievable at all. Sepp Van den Berg, on loan from Liverpool, was finalised however that is delayed depending on Liverpool's defensive situation and a permanent deal for a centre-back should also be done so the defence isn’t on strings this season.
The Manager JDT has made it known he shares the same frustrations with the supporters about the lack of signings in the window so far and he hopes the Director Of Football Gregg Broughton, can get some deals done in the near future. With the likes of Brereton-Diaz also getting offers in from other clubs and reportedly rejecting a new contract extension with Rovers it is clear that they should be doing all their effort to find Brereton’s replacement should he leave this summer.
Despite the transfer frustrations and injuries in the defensive department, Rovers have managed to pick up 9 points in their opening 5 league matches, seeing themselves in 4th place, which I deem acceptable looking at how thin the squad is at this present time.