Blackburn Rovers extended their unbeaten run to nine-matches following a goalless draw with play-off competitors to Huddersfield Town.
For those accustomed to free-flowing, precise and intricate football, this show was definitely not for you as incessant rainfall prior to kick-off resulted in a boggy pitch that impacted proceedings and Rovers’ preparations for the contest.
And yet for all the disruption, Rovers battled bravely, displayed great resilience and while they may have lacked conviction and quality in their final third play, were more than good value for a point which moved them into the automatic promotion spaces.
Kick-off may have been delayed by 15 minutes but it certainly never gave Khadra cold feet, the forward explosive during the opening exchanges as he toyed with the Huddersfield defence. Anticipating an underhit pass, he retrieved possession in the opposition half before feeding John Buckley, whose low effort was blocked.
Just two minutes later it was Buckley’s turn to become the architect, sliding a piercing through ball behind the Huddersfield defence for Khadra to chase. The on-loan ace went for power over precision and rattled the crossbar with a thunderous effort.
Rovers continued to fashion chances as they displayed intent and energy in the press but were almost made to pay for their profligacy when Thomas Kaminski was called into action to deny Duane Holmes’ header from point-blank range.
Tony Mowbray’s side, having managed the conditions excellently through the first 25 minutes, began to feel the effects of the pitch and struggled to sustain their early intensity with several jaded pass and indecisive actions coming to the fore. Yet as Rovers laboured, Huddersfield did little to suggest they were capable of controlling the contest and putting themselves ahead.
Ultimately all of the attention fell on the shoulders of Keith Stroud, who made a series of controversial decisions and felt the wrath of Mowbray. The Rovers manager was subsequently cautioned for his protests but it certainly didn’t stop him from conveying his feelings as Stroud, too occupied with an incident involving Lewis Travis off the ball, failed to see Ben Brereton Diaz being impeded in the penalty area before he allowed play to continue when Khadra was shoved off the pitch by Levi Colwill.
Similarly to the way in which the first-half concluded, the second period lacked any fluency and while both sides were willing to commit numbers forward, quality in the final third was significantly lacking.
Huddersfield did carve another glorious opportunity just after the hour mark when Daniel Sinani was slipped through one-on-one with Kaminski but the forward restricted his angles before firing his effort into the side-netting.
Rovers enjoyed their own concerted spell after the 75-minute mark, moving the ball patiently in the opposition third only for Huddersfield to camp out on their own 18-yard box as Mowbray’s failed to find the winning key to unlock their defence. Ryan Nyambe spurned a left-footed chance wide from just inside the area while a divine Rothwell pass sterilised three Huddersfield defenders to put Brereton into the penalty area, his chipped cross intercepted by the gloves of Nicholls.
Continuing to commit numbers forward, Rovers found their endeavour restrained by a consistent lack of quality with passes not finding intending targets and touches not as crisp as we’ve seen in previous weeks. Any notion of Mowbray going full strength for Wigan in the FA Cup may be revisited with Rovers looking jaded, although the condition of the pitch certainly didn’t help tired legs.
Here’s how the players rated in the draw.
Thomas Kaminski – 7
Regardless of whether he had to move much or not, he was positioned excellently to thwart Holmes’ header in what was seemingly an inevitable goal. Other than that, didn’t have a great deal of shots to contend with. Distribution was still weak.
Ryan Nyambe – 7
Got the better of Harry Toffolo in his match-up in the flank and made several crucial interventions to prevent Huddersfield from exploiting spaces in behind. Again, his work when attacking undermined him, failing to capitalise on some good spaces in the final third.
Darragh Lenihan – 8
Was caught out by the conditions on one too many occasions as his aggressive-style undermined him when pressing onto the midfield. Took a more reserved approach in the second-half but that didn’t make him any less domineering.
Jan Paul van Hecke – 8
If there’s anyone you wanted as the last man to snuff out imminent danger, Jan Paul is the man. Dealt with Huddersfield’s threat with such assurance that he often decided to navigate his own way out of trouble – and he did so with ease.
Scott Wharton – 8
Swept up the majority of trouble with a minimum of fuss and looked to play his part in the construction of attacks. Just consistently brilliant with each passing week and you can do nothing but commend his positioning, mobility and bravery.
Harry Pickering – 7
As you’ve come to expect from the 22-year-old who was steady and resilient once more. Delivered an impeccable cross in the first-half Concerning to see him withdrawn, let’s hope the injury is not severe.
Lewis Travis – 7
If ever there was a Travis type of game, this contest suited him down to the ground. Tackles flying in across the pitch, anticipating the opposition’s passing sequences and being a general nuisance across the board. Great discipline to avoid a second caution.
Joe Rothwell – 7
It should have been impossible for Rothwell to dance his way through a sea of Huddersfield bodies in the conditions presented to him and yet he still found ways to embark on his trademark run. Was the instigator of several Rovers attacks but proved inconsistent with set-piece deliveries.
John Buckley – 6
Started the game excellently, picking off Huddersfield with his pressing traps and pinpoint passing. Influence waned as the game progressed – couldn’t pick the opposition locks like has been doing in recent weeks. Embodied the fighting spirit in the camp but made one too many stray passes for his own good.
Reda Khadra – 7
A bright spark in the opening exchanges, effective in the press and daring when driving forward. Could he have done better when through one-on-one? Seemed to narrow his angles down and probably should have went for precision, rather than power. Then again, what do I know? I’m nearing a beer belly at 23.
Tried to navigate the tight spaces in the second-half to create opportunities but ran out of fizz by the end.
Ben Brereton Diaz – 5
Think the FA Cup next weekend will be an opportune time to give Brereton the rest he deserves with the forward not quite at the races in this contest.
His honesty was to his own detriment as Stroud waved away his appeals for a blatant penalty.
Sam Gallagher – 6
Seen his glancing header cleared when it looked to be heading in but asides from that the forward found chances few and far between. His arm must ache from the amount of times he was demanding a delivery into the area only for Rovers to not take advantage of the opportunity.
Tayo Edun – 6
I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again; Rovers are looking very healthy in the left wing-back department. His mobility is a useful asset on the flank.
Tyrhys Dolan – 5
Showed great heart but just couldn’t generate the spark Rovers required in the final third.
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