Over and out

Adrian at the Carling Cup final at Wembley in 2011

Blackburn Rovers 5 – Birmingham City 2

Saturday, May 8 2021

The strangest of seasons came to an end at Ewood Park as an experimental Blues were overwhelmed by a Blackburn side who made their greater experience count in the last twenty minutes.

Craig Gardner was in charge for the absent for family reasons Bowyer and he presided over a team which saw starts, again, for fringe players Cosgrove, Miller, Stirk and Dacres-Cogley, who were joined by Gordon, one of two in the middle of a back four with the tucked inside Pedersen, in a kind of 4-3-3.

The formation actually gave Blues more problems than Blackburn and, unfortunately, a lot of that was down to Leko. Time and time again in the first half Dacres-Cogley was exposed two against one due to lack of cover in front of him, Leko’s job in this kind of formation, and a job that Miller seemed more capable of on the other side protecting Seddon.

Now, a lot of players could be described as having a languid style, but there’s a fine line between languid and lazy and Leko certainly crossed it with his work in the first half. It was no surprise that he was hooked at half-time. Many players have responded positively in terms of improved performances since Bowyer came in – Dean, Roberts, Sunjic, Jukey – but Leko isn’t one of those. Is there a player in there? Not on the evidence of this season.

Both Blackburn’s first half goals came down our right hand side. They ruined a lot of good work from Blues after a rocky start when the ever dangerous Armstrong hit the bar from a free-kick with the recalled Trueman beaten.

Blues actually took the lead on 22 when Pedersen cooly tapped in after the Blackburn keeper dropped a high free kick into the box from Seddon under no pressure. Kaminski did the classic goalkeeper thing of looking around for others to blame, but couldn’t get away from the fact that he just needed a mirror for the real culprit.

The lead didn’t last long. Ambling back, Leko allowed ex-Blue Bell to once more get inside him and this time he clipped his heels in the box. Armstrong made no mistake from the spot.

Blues recovered well from conceding and were playing some nice stuff in midfield without really doing a lot in the final third. They probably didn’t deserve to go in at half-time in arrears, but they did as a result of another Blackburn break down our right hand side. This time Brereton found himself free in the box, no sign of D-C or Leko, and he held off Pedersen before slotting home past Trueman.

Gardner made changes at half-time to address the right hand side problem. Hallilovic came on for Leko making more of a 4-1-4-1, with the increasingly impressive Stirk sitting in front of the back four and Jukey coming on for Cosgrove to play as a lone striker.

After an energetic start to the second half by Blackburn, but more noticeably down our left side, Blues equalised against the run of play.

Deep in midfield Stirk swept a really good ball out wide to Seddon. Seddon then did what a lot of people think he’s capable of and crossed a peach of a ball to the back post where Jukey did what Jukey does. Like his shirt, Cosgrove must have been green with envy seeing that kind of service.

For 15 minutes, Blues looked the more likely and were again playing some good stuff without being over-threatening of Blackburn’s goal, before the home side, and Armstrong in particular, took over and clinically finished off our season.

On 70, Armstrong took a pot shot from distance. A decent enough effort, but, as they say, Trueman will have been disappointed to have let it go through him.

There were rafts of changes by both sides and one of those subs, Elliott, added Blackburn’s fourth. Looking mildly like he had a bubble perm from the 70s, the Liverpool loanee got inside Seddon and neatly chipped over Trueman.

Blues had run out of steam, two players going down with cramp, and Armstrong took advantage to complete his hat-trick, the second consecutive one conceded, with a sharp turn and shot.

“Let’s hope that we can start moving forward and not see a last gasp relegation dodge as the height of our ambitions.”

So, it’s all over and all eyes turn to next season. Let’s hope that we can start moving forward and not see a last-gasp relegation dodge as the height or our ambitions. We’ll see and, hopefully, in person. It’s simply nowhere as good not being at the game.

Probably my last from the couch report, as not only do I hope to be back at St Andrew’s next season, but we’re getting rid of the couch as well.

MoM – Pedersen – strong in an inexperienced side.

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