REPORT: BLACKBURN 1-1 TOWNTown dominated the large majority of today’s Sky Bet Championship encounter with hosts Blackburn Rovers, but couldn’t get a second goal to get the three points that a superb performance warranted.
With almost 70% possession and 29 shots in the game, the Terriers couldn’t do much more in terms of their performance – but couldn’t get the all-important second goal thanks to a combination of good goalkeeping from Jason Steele and errant finishing.
In the end, they had to settle for a point after Kasey Palmer’s early header was cancelled out by a Danny Graham penalty, but the performance was still hugely encouraging.
Town dominated the first 45 minutes, setting the tone right from the off. The first chance came within 40 seconds of kick-off, with Martin Cranie – making his first start of the league season at right back in place of the suspended Tommy Smith – being released down the right by Kachunga and picking out Nahki Wells with a low ball. Unfortunately, the Bermudian couldn’t turn to get his shot away.
Aaron Mooy created the next chance in the fourth minute after centre back Mulgrew barged over Nahki Wells. His free kick into the area dropped to Michael Hefele’s feet and he back-heeled the ball into the six-yard box for Kachunga, only for a defender to get in a vital challenge.
Town suddenly looked extremely dangerous from attacking set pieces, with Mooy’s low delivery finding Hefele at the near post; somehow his first-time shot was deflected inches wide of the near post.
The first goal of the game followed from the second corner. Chris Löwe made his way to the left side to play in a perfect out-swinging corner, where Kasey Palmer evaded marker Craig Conway with his late run to plant a firm header past the goalkeeper at close range. Having netted twice at the John Smith’s Stadium, this was the Chelsea loanee’s first goal away from home.
There was no let-up after the opener, with Mooy soon forcing home goalkeeper Jason Steele to push his 30-yard free kick over the crossbar.
Another corner, another Town chance in the 17th minute. This time Mooy found Hefele at the back post, but the German hit the man on the post with his shot and the ball went behind. He got on the end of the resulting corner, with a looping header forcing the custodian into more action.
Town came closer than ever on the third successive corner, with the impressive Cranie heading unmarked towards goal. He hit the face of the crossbar before the ball bounced clear; in truth, he should have scored his first Town goal.
Blackburn couldn’t handle Town’s threat from set pieces and another corner led to another chance in the 22nd minute. Blackburn headed Mooy’s first corner clear, but the Australian collected and beat a man on the dead ball line before squaring back to Cranie. Unfortunately, Martin got his shot all wrong, hitting an ugly effort over the crossbar before falling the floor with his head in his hands.
More great attacking play four minutes later involved Cranie, with his cross causing havoc. Blackburn’s defenders did well, blocking fierce shots from Palmer and Rajiv van La Parra in the penalty area.
Cranie was fantastic in general play; he beat a man with a superb piece of skill just after the hour mark before picking out van La Parra with a pass into the area. The Dutchman side-stepped his marker, but hit his snap-shot straight at the ‘keeper.
Blackburn’s first effort at goal came in the 32nd minute when Mulgrew headed a free kick well wide, but the home side was thrown a lifeline moments later. Southampton loanee striker Sam Gallagher ran to the Town right to collect a throw-in and cleverly rolled Hefele, who stuck out a leg and looked to catch his opponent on the hip. The striker went down in the area – and the referee did not hesitate to give a penalty.
Up stepped fellow striker Danny Graham – and he slammed the ball straight down the middle as Danny Ward dived to his right side.
Town continued to finish the half strongly as Wagner’s men looked to restore their lead, but the best effort came from van La Parra; he fired a first-time volley over from Kachunga’s deflected cross.
The first chance of the second half fell to Mooy, who had ‘keeper Steele at full stretch to his left as his 25-yard drive flew just wide of target.
In return, midfielder Corry Evans sent a shot sailing into the home end after Schindler half-cleared a Blackburn long throw.
Town continued to press, with van La Parra having another shot blocked after Wells cleverly flicked the ball back into his path inside the penalty area.
Mooy soon went close just before the hour mark, seeing a shot saved after a corner was worked to him on the edge of the box before a defender blocked his follow-up.
Steele was back in the action soon after, tipping a bobbling Kachunga shot around his far post after the German had outmuscled an opponent in the right back slot.
Only on a few occasions did Blackburn threaten, with a few counter-attack situations. Gallagher stepped inside Hefele on one such counter in the 67th minute, but pulled a powerful shot wide of the near post from the edge of the area.
Mooy had another shot saved as time began to ran out for Town to find the winner, with Cranie blocking another Gallagher effort at the other end.
Van La Parra had another effort blocked as Blackburn players put their bodies on the line with 10 minutes left. From the corner, Cranie headed another effort wide after a good near post run; he could have easily had a hat-trick on the day.
Town’s team (4-2-3-1):
Danny Ward; Chris Löwe, Christopher Schindler, Michael Hefele, Martin Cranie (Jon Gorenc Stanković, 87’); Jonathan Hogg (c) (Philip Billing, 85’), Aaron Mooy; Rajiv van La Parra, Kasey Palmer, Elias Kachunga; Nahki Wells (Harry Bunn, 85’)
Joel Coleman, Dean Whitehead, Tareiq Holmes-Dennis, Jack Payne
Michael Hefele (32’); Kasey Palmer (59’)
Town fans: 1,925