BLACKBURN ROVERS 1 TOWN 0
One first half strike from Jordan Rhodes was enough to give Blackburn all three points at Ewood Park this evening as the Terriers couldn’t break a resolute Rovers defence down.
Town couldn’t be faulted for effort on the night, but failed to work the Rovers ‘keeper enough; his only genuine save of the game came from substitute Jermaine Beckford’s hooked snapshot in the second half.
Manager Mark Robins threw on the forwards in an attempt to get back into the game in the second half, but the second ball just wouldn’t drop to a Town player as they would have hoped.
With a superb travelling support to attack in the first half, the Terriers started with Adam Clayton deployed on the right and Neil Danns just off James Vaughan in attack; the shape that had worked so well at Wolves in the previous game.
A right-footed shot from Paul Dixon inside three minutes almost turned into an excellent cross when Peter Clarke just missed out at the far post, but the first real chance of the game fell to the hosts in the eighth minute.
Leon Best was a big, powerful figure alongside Rhodes in an attack that cost Rovers over £10 million to assemble and his presence four minutes later forced Anthony Gerrard into an error of judgement with a bouncing ball. Clarke was eventually adjudged to have brought down the striker on the edge of the Town ‘D’ and on-loan Wigan midfielder David Jones stepped up, but hit his set piece into Town’s defensive wall.
Clayton had a decent-looking left footed volley blocked behind for a corner than came to nothing four minutes later before Town’s next attack came through Sean Scannell. A tackle on winger Josh King set Scannell away and the Huddersfield fans made a noise of expectancy as the Londoner sped away, with thoughts of Sean’s devastating run and goal at Molineux in their minds. Scannell made it into the Blackburn box, but the ball bobbled up as he looked to shoot and he sent his effort flying into the stand.
That spurred Rovers into a response and they enjoyed a good spell of pressure as the second quarter of the game got underway. First the home worked an overlap down Town’s right and King stepped infield; it looked like he would cross, but instead he tried to sneak a shot inside the near post. Thankfully for Town, Alex Smithies was alert enough to push the ball around the post.
Peter Clarke came to the rescue thereafter when midfielder Lee Williamson skipped past Norwood inside the area; his cross towards the back post beat Smithies, but the dependable skipper was on hand to head the ball over his crossbar. James Vaughan cleared the subsequent corner into the path of Scannell and he led another pacey breakaway before passing to Danns, but when he entered the area his shot was expertly blocked by centre back Scott Dann.
Referee Darren Drysdale infuriated the home supporters by denying Best a free kick when he looked to break clear moments later, only to go down under a challenge from Gerrard. However, with the home fans firmly behind them Gary Bowyer’s men soon made their good spell count.
Clayton did well to block left back Markus Olsson’s cross behind for a corner, but from the following Jones set piece Rovers took the lead. His deep delivery to the back post was nodded back across goal by Dann and fell to the one man you didn’t want it to – Jordan Rhodes. In typically calm fashion, the Scottish international hooked the ball over his own shoulder and between Smithies and the post from close range to give his side the lead. Notably, the striker didn’t celebrate his strike.
The opener visibly buoyed the hosts, but some robust defensive play meant Robins’ men survived a few highly pressurised moments – with Gerrard in particular making two great headed clearances. That was matched by French centre half Gael Givet at the other end, who denied Vaughan a clear header at goal after Danns had beat Blackburn’s impressive on-loan Chelsea right back Todd Kane with a nice bit of skill down the outside.
A positive change won the day for Mark Robins at Wolves and he didn’t hesitate in making another, bringing on Jermaine Beckford for midfielder Norwood during the half-time interval. This saw Town revert to a traditional 4-4-2 shape, with Clayton joining Keith Southern in central midfield in the latter’s first start for four months following Achilles surgery.
Town meant business in the opening stages, with Beckford straight into the action - flicking an early header from Dixon’s decent cross into the waiting hands of Polish international ‘keeper Greg Sandomierski. A series of set pieces followed, but Blackburn hit back when Best fired wide from a Rhodes knock-down 18 yards out.
Olsson then went on another overlapping run and was picked out by King, but his cross was cut out at the near post by Clarke.
Best then tested Smithies with a dipping long range volley that the custodian pushed away with two strong hands just as Robins made his second change, bringing on the fresh legs of Oscar Gobern for the flagging Southern.
An error from young full back Kane almost presented Beckford with a golden opportunity inside the Rovers area with 25 minutes left, but to his credit the defender managed to get a half-block on the substitute’s snapshot and the ‘keeper gratefully gathered the ball in.
Vaughan’s touch let him down soon after when it looked like Town’s top scorer could have otherwise been through on goal before his strike partner Beckford had the team’s best chance to date in the 74th minute. A long throw from Woods down the right side fell to the striker in the middle of the box, but his smart shot on the turn was saved well by Sandomierski with a strong hand low down to his left.
Town were still working hard to find a way back into the game with ten minutes remaining and only an important block from the head of Scott Dann stopped Beckford from heading home Danns’ right wing cross.
With eight minutes left Alan Lee joined the fray for his 100th appearance for the Club as part of a three pronged attack for the Terriers and the instructions were clear – get the ball out wide and into the box! Peter Clarke even joined the three strikers for spells, but the ball just wouldn’t drop to a man wearing a navy shirt.
The groans went up around Ewood Park’s home areas when five minutes of added time were announced and the Town fans at the other end of the ground were similarly vocal when Scannell was flattened by a Kane challenge inside the area, but the defender did get a foot on the ball.
Late in the game Danns volleyed a half chance high into the Blackburn end from a Vaughan cross, but the hosts held on to condemn Town to defeat.
Town’s team (4-2-3-1):
Alex Smithies; Paul Dixon, Anthony Gerrard, Peter Clarke (c), Calum Woods; Keith Southern (Oscar Gobern 62), Oliver Norwood (Jermaine Beckford 46); Sean Scannell, Neil Danns, Adam Clayton (Alan Lee 82); James Vaughan
Ian Bennett, Murray Wallace, Scott Arfield, Joel Lynch
Calum Woods (17); Keith Southern (34); Paul Dixon (68); Jermaine Beckford (87)
Scott Dann (52)