ROVERS 0 TOWN 0
Town gained their first point in seven trips to Ewood Park courtesy of a tightly-contested goalless draw with Blackburn Rovers.
With much made of the goal-scoring prowess of strikers Jordan Rhodes and James Vaughan in the build-up, it was ironic that no goals were scored in Lancashire on an afternoon of few clear-cut chances.
Although Blackburn pressed the Terriers in the first-half, some astute tactical changes from Mark Robins evened the play in the second-half and Town can reflect on how they may have netted one of the games’ better chances, which they created.
It was the Town fans behind the goal cheering loudest at the final whistle as the players in the red and black change strip did them proud.
The hosts put Town under considerable pressure during the first-half, although Town still had a few very presentable openings in front of the travelling faithful and in truth Alex Smithies was never truly worked.
Most of Blackburn’s threat came down Josh King on the right side, who gave Jazz Richards a very tough test on his full debut for the Club. Such was King’s threat that Town Manager Mark Robins switched his team’s shape as early as the 19th minute, moving Adam Hammill from his role just behind the strikers in a 3-5-2 formation to the right wing position in an orthodox 4-4-2.
Rovers also carried a threat from set-pieces. Midfielder Tom Cairney delivered two deep corners during the early stages of the first-half that saw giant centre half Scott Dann rise above his marker Jon Stead to cause problems; the first ended with left back Tommy Spurr firing over his knock-down, with the second a headed chance that the defender powered over. At the next set-piece Stead switched with Anthony Gerrard and the Town defender headed clear.
On top of his additional defensive duties, Hammill was the man causing problems in the Blackburn area. The former Wolves player had the first shot of the game in the fourth minute after being set into space by Richards, slicing a left-footed shot wide of the far post, before getting his head to a cute Jonathan Hogg cross in the 34th minute. On that occasion the ball looked to be heading inside the far post, but Rovers ‘keeper Jake Kean superbly touched the ball around the post.
Hammill also had a decent penalty appeal turned down during the opening 45 minutes, latching onto James Vaughan’s good knock-down before running directly at big full-back Spurr. The Town man knocked the ball past the defender before going down under a clumsy challenge, but the referee was unconvinced and waved away the appeals.
Ahead of the game the press were billing the game as the battle of the division’s two top scorers; Vaughan and former Town man Jordan Rhodes, but both men were relatively quiet early on.
Quality delivery to Vaughan was in short supply during the first-half, but he still managed to rattle the crossbar with a header from Paul Dixon’s cross that would have been ruled out for offside in any case.
Rhodes, meanwhile, was being closely marshalled by Peter Clarke and Gerrard and when his only real chance came he uncharacteristically fluffed his lines – diverting Cairney’s cross from Town’s left way over the crossbar.
Robins didn’t hesitate to change things early in the second-half and bringing on Oscar Gobern for Stead, meaning Town had an extra man in midfield, heralded a marked improvement in Town’s passing.
Town created another opening early on when Hammill played Dixon into the area but with Vaughan crying out for a ball slid into the near post, the Scottish international powered a deep cross to nobody.
Blackburn fought back, with former Oldham winger Chris Taylor driving infield inside Lynch before checking back onto his right and bending an intelligent curled effort just off target.
Robins restored a two man attack when ex-Burnley man Martin Paterson entered the fray with 20 minutes left to a hostile Ewood Park welcome. Both sides had spells of possession, but neither goalkeeper was overly worked and the points were shared.
Town’s team (3-5-2):
Alex Smithies; Joel Lynch (Calum Woods 79), Anthony Gerrard, Peter Clarke (c); Paul Dixon (Martin Paterson 68), Adam Clayton, Adam Hammill, Jonathan Hogg, Jazz Richards; Jonathan Stead (Oscar Gobern 52), James Vaughan
Ian Bennett, Oliver Norwood, Sean Scannell, Daniel Carr
Oscar Gobern (66)
Lee Williamson (82)