There can be a great deal of trepidation when the odds are stacked firmly in Blackburn Rovers’ favour but this excellent team proved there was little reason to doubt with a superb 4-0 victory over Peterborough United.
Goals from Harry Pickering, Darragh Lenihan and a brace from Ben Brereton Diaz recorded Rovers’ biggest victory since their triumph over Cardiff City in September and moved them up to seventh in the league standings.
It was Rovers who fashioned the first openings of the night, an incisive one-two played between Joe Rothwell and Ben Brereton seeing the former aim a side-footed effort into the path of David Cornell.
The left flank was where Tony Mowbray’s side enjoyed the majority of their success and they had the relentless energy of Pickering to thank for that. Operating at wing-back, Pickering had made several runs inside of Joe Ward and the 22-year-old escaped his marker once more to latch onto a delicious curling cross from John Buckley, guiding his header beyond the fingertips of Cornell and into the top corner.
With Rovers controlling possession and looking to carve a second as they navigated around Peterborough’s penalty area, an unexpected setback would inevitably occur from somewhere. On this occasion it was the condition of Daniel Ayala, the Spaniard lasting less than half an hour before trudging off the pitch with injury and Bradley Johnson, who in his fifth appearance of the season deputised at centre-half.
Rovers managed their personnel hitch with maturity and it was the persistence of Tyrhys Dolan that enabled the hosts to chalk up their second.
Nathan Thompson, on the edge of his own penalty area, thought he could escape the attention of the Rovers attacker by turning inside and out, only for Dolan to wrestle the ball from him and with Cornell out of position, the teenager set it across to where Brereton was lurking for his 15th goal of the season and arguably his most easiest finish this campaign.
And if you thought Rovers were finished with their first-half escapade, you could think again. A crunching challenge from Mark Beevers on Dolan resulted in a free-kick in a promising area, of which Rothwell delivered with an inviting cross and Darragh Lenihan charged in unmarked to give Mowbray’s team a healthy advantage at the break.
Commanding, yes but most certainly not unassailable, as the opening minutes of the second-half indicated. Peterborough expectedly showed greater attacking impetus and Rovers, struggling to get themselves into gear, helped them create a portion of chances, the best falling to the feet of Sammie Szmodics who was thwarted by the strong stance of Thomas Kaminski.
Rovers managed to steady the ship, happy to cede possession but still nurturing a potent threat on transition. And so it proved as Peterborough naively attempted to navigate their way out from the back, a pass intercepted by Rothwell and the midfielder allowed Brereton to surge forward, who notched in his second of the evening with a thumping finish.
Oozing control, Rovers allowed their tempo to drop but at no consequence to their authority of the contest and Mowbray’s side still fashioned chances as substitute Dan Butterworth tested Cornell’s hands with a curling effort.
A tremendous performance from Rovers, fully deserving of such an emphatic victory against a side who were vastly inferior. Here’s how the players rated.
Thomas Kaminski – 7
The Belgian had nothing to contend with in the opening half but was alert to read the danger and snuff Szmodics’ effort. A little more active in the second-half, providing a constant vocal presence throughout.
Ryan Nyambe – 7
A solid outing from Nyambe, which was needed after the weekend. Kept it tight defensively and endeavoured regularly down the flank, although he was unable to contribute anything more than one blocked cross in the final third.
Darragh Lenihan – 8
Great composure to convert Rothwell’s free-kick which capped off yet another resilient outing for the captain. Decisive when contending with the early second-half threat from Peterborough.
Daniel Ayala – 6
A premature exit for the defender who only last 26 minutes before succumbing to injury. The setback is to be expected, the severity of it is what prompts concern.
Scott Wharton – 7
Sensational block in the first-half to deny Sammie Szmodics who had the goal at his mercy. A real air of composure about his game, both in possession and in the tackle.
Harry Pickering – 8
Executed the wing-back role perfectly, offering Rovers width and unpredictability with his unrelenting movement and positioning high up. Excellent take for the goal – who knew a left-back could guide a header like that?
Lewis Travis – 7
Marshalled the midfield regions excellently and kept the team ticking over by putting in the graft before his defensive three.
Joe Rothwell – 9
A scintillating night from the midfielder who demonstrated why there’d be a great degree of disappointment if he were to leave. Peterborough tried to stick two men on him and even then they were unable to thwart his advances. Two sublime assists, exceeding his tally from the previous campaign.
John Buckley – 8
Continues to evolve with each passing fixture and his ability to dictate from anywhere on the pitch is simply majestic. Doesn’t shirk from the hard yards, pressing from the front. The cross to create the opening goal was simply divine.
Ben Brereton – 8
His first goal of the night couldn’t have come any easier but he displayed excellent conviction to dispatch his second with a smart finish. A constant thorn in the Peterborough defence and 20 goals is now in touching distance.
Tyrhys Dolan – 8
His magnificent persistence was going to reward in a goal sooner or later and so it proved when he dispossessed Thompson to create the second. Added a vibrancy to Rovers’ forays and just wouldn’t stop running.
Bradley Johnson – 7
A surprise to see him deputise in Ayala’s position but rarely looked flustered as the deep-lying centre-half. Made two important clearances when Peterborough threatened early in the first-half.
Reda Khadra – 6
Once more demonstrated his tremendous ability to escape opposition with the ball at his feet, even if he was a tad greedy in possession once too often.
Dan Butterworth – 6
A good opportunity for Butterworth to stretch an increasingly exposed defence and he offered a threat on transition. Mustered a decent shot after Rothwell had dragged two defenders away.
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