Match Report

500 Words Post Cambridge United

Sunday, 7 January 2024

Is it only the 6th January? The oft used cliché of “a week is a long time in football” rang true for Rovers fans, as the Festive Season™ came to an official conclusion.  

Friday morning's bombshells of a departing Captain Travis, coupled with not one, but two! (count 'em!) loan signings have made for an eventful start to our 149th year.

Rewind the clock to the start of December when Trevor Steven and Jen Beattie pulled both respective balls out of the pot, even the most negative fan could hardly have foreseen the intervening mess both on and off the pitch. The ill-executed debut of ‘Digital Day’ (more on this later…) just one win in the seven games since, combined with seventeen goals conceded, two red cards and a defence that looks both fragile and suspect. As the Twelfth Night gave way to the Epiphany, you’d be forgiven for heading down to Ewood fearing the worst.   

Yet this is the situation in which Jon Dahl Tomasson found himself and the players. Tomasson, under his first real sustained period of pressure as Rovers boss, must have heard the discontent from the Jack Walker and Blackburn End as the visitors took the lead after just six minutes. After a brief reprieve following Szmodics’ equaliser, that defensive fragility was exposed once again as Cambridge regained the lead just three minutes later.

Credit to Rovers however as from the moment the game went to 1-2, it was one way traffic. Szmodics added his second and then completed a fine hat-trick as the half time whistle was blown, a sumptuous volley struck past the United keeper. 

The more things change, the more they stay the same with Szmodics who worked tirelessly and confidently throughout the game, deservingly taking the Player of the Match honours.

Sigurdsson added his seventh of the season just after the hour as the home crowd breathed a sigh of relief before Harry Leonard put the icing on the cake with the fifth. Leonard had earlier missed a golden chance, so blushes were spared! 5-2 and comfortably in the draw for the 4th Round. Tomasson may not have appeased the doubters and question marks do remain, but Rovers recent cup success continues as the club progress through, bring on a big team at Ewood!

As for the crowd, it wasn’t as catastrophic as perhaps some feared, though the whole ‘Digital Day’ debacle does leave a sour taste. Foresight and common sense have shown a different approach is needed going forward, particularly on the back of the last cup match at Ewood and the Blackburn End closure against Cardiff back in October. A home draw against a Championship or lower side in Round 4 would give the powers that be a chance of redemption, though I remain unconvinced. 

Final word has to go to the history maker Rory Finneran, who at 15 years 10 months and 8 days becomes Rovers youngest ever player. For those who made the game, maybe it’ll be an “I was there” moment in the years to come, here’s hoping! 

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