REPORT: TOWN 1-1 BLACKBURNAn added time free kick from Nahki Wells gave Town a share of the spoils against Blackburn Rovers in the final game of 2016.
A point was the least that the Terriers deserved after enjoying over 70% of possession and 20 shots to Blackburn’s three, but they had to come from behind after an 81st minute header from Danny Graham gave Owen Coyle’s side the lead.
However, Town kept going and were rewarded when Wells hit his sixth goal of the campaign from just over 18 yards out.
The win ended Town’s winning streak at four, but Wagner’s side is now unbeaten in six ahead of the game at Wigan Athletic on 2 January.
Town came flying out of the blocks and forced ‘keeper Jason Steele – Blackburn’s best player in the game at Ewood Park in early December – into two good saves within the first 30 seconds. Tommy Smith’s excellent cross was only half cleared into the path of Rajiv van La Parra inside the area; Steele blocked his effort before recovering to keep out Kasey Palmer’s athletic bicycle kick.
Hefele soon headed wide from an Aaron Mooy free kick into the area as the game settled into a familiar pattern, with Town dominating possession against a Rovers side playing in a tight 4-4-2 formation, with little space between the lines of defence and midfield.
Nahki Wells’ flicked header from van La Parra’s 14th minute cross forced Steele into routine work again as Town continued to make the running,
Palmer and Wells combined well five minutes later to set Elias Kachunga away in space down the right. His cross fell to van La Parra, who had another shot blocked before Wells sent a left footed snapshot flying over from near the penalty spot.
Blackburn’s sole chance of the half fell to Southampton loanee striker Sam Gallagher just before the half hour mark. The big striker frequently pulled onto Chris Löwe to try and win aerial balls and, having picked up the ball, he surged forward past two players before shooting as he entered the area. Fortunately for the Terriers, he pulled his effort way wide of Danny Ward’s goal.
Normal service was resumed 60 seconds later, with Wells laying off the ball perfectly into Kachunga’s path just inside the Blackburn penalty area. Town’s top scorer tried to pull the ball across the goalkeeper and into the far corner, but placed his effort too close to the goalkeeper.
The move of the half followed in the 31st minute as Michael Hefele sent a superb low pass inside left back Derrick Williams to set Smith free and his first time cross was perfect, picking out Nahki Wells’ run across the centre half. Unfortunately, his first-time effort was too close to Steele once again.
Blackburn centre backs Greer and Mulgrew continued to get vital touches on balls delivered into the penalty area as the half ended, but there was still chance for one more decent opportunity. Christopher Schindler’s pass down the line released Löwe into space and his cross was flicked on by Wells into van La Parra’s path. The ball was begging to be hit left footed, but instead Rajiv tried to bend the ball with the outside of his right and skied it.
Town’s second half passing didn’t have the same flow as the first, but the Terriers still stayed patient and stuck to their identity in and out of possession.
With the game in limbo, Wagner wasted no time in bringing on Harry Bunn and Jack Payne to freshen things up on the hour mark.
Bunn was soon in the action, stabbing a reactionary effort at Steele after some good play on the left between Wells and Löwe allowed the latter to cross.
Wells then tried to play Bunn in again after getting the better of Mulgrew on the Town right, only for a combination of right back Nyambe and Steele to smother his shot at source.
Then the sucker punch came in the 81st minute as Blackburn took the lead. A Kachunga foul on Hope Akpan gave Mulgrew the opportunity to launch the ball into the box from just over halfway and when Town failed to properly clear, Gallagher pushed the ball to the flank for winger Liam Feeney. He floated a good cross towards the back post, where Danny Graham had timed his run perfectly to power a header to Ward’s left side.
Town refused to give in, with substitute Payne forcing Steele to push his shot over the bar after a good one two with Löwe released him into space on the edge of the Rovers box.
With time ticking away for the Terriers, Wagner made the choice to bring on Mark Hudson – his first substitute appearance for the Club – as a makeshift striker, also pushing Hefele up front.
Going long, one of the second balls fell to Payne on the edge of the box and he reacted quickly to nudge the ball away before being brought down by Elliott Bennett.
Up stepped Wells to send the ball over the wall in seemingly effortless fashion and past Steele’s right side to give Town a share of the spoils.
Town’s team (4-2-3-1):
Danny Ward; Chris Löwe, Christopher Schindler, Michael Hefele, Tommy Smith; Aaron Mooy, Dean Whitehead (c) (Mark Hudson, 86’); Rajiv van La Parra (Harry Bunn, 59’), Kasey Palmer (Jack Payne, 59’), Elias Kachunga; Nahki Wells
Joel Coleman, Philip Billing, Martin Cranie, Jon Gorenc Stanković
Dean Whitehead (17’)