What’s going wrong for Rovers?

Friday, 16 December 2022

After back to back embarrassing results in two Lancashire derbies, what needs to change before Norwich on Saturday?

I think many Rovers (and football fans in general) seem to forget that the club is still very much at the start of a long process and project. JDT inherited a squad that lacked leadership, lacked experience and arguably lacked large amounts of real quality.  With many senior players leaving the club in the summer, including the club captain, had you said Rovers would be third with 24 games to go, most Blues would have bit your hand off. 
But what has actually gone wrong in the last two games for Tomasson’s side? It seems like every season it looks extremely promising heading into the festive period, then after Christmas it all fades away into the darkness. So has it now become a mentality thing? 

A pathetic cotton mill derby day performance and a tragic battering from Ryan Lowe's PNE side it's not looking good for the Blues. A long anticipated trip to the Turf and the Rovers faithful were greeted with a shocking and disastrous display. The team news raised eyebrows, with both Scott and Adam Wharton left out the 11, with Clinton Mola starting in the back five, claiming his first Championship start of the season and again one of the arguably most influential forward players in Ryan Hedges deployed at wing back. Against one of the best sides in the division, it wasn't really the occasion to be making changes and taking risks and it showed! Dominated from minute one, it was a timid and shy performance. A similar story was to come when Preston came to town, in the long awaited and anticipated first fixture back following the World Cup break. It was almost as if the side had decided they had lost, before the game even began. Again, from minute one, it was domination and the Ewood Park performances we have seen in the prior stages of the season were incomparable. Many blues expected retaliation and a reaction, following the Burnley game, but again they were utterly disappointed. 

Coming into the season, the play off spots looked so far out of reach you would have been laughed at if you said Rovers would be a top three side come December. With key influential figures exiting Ewood; the likes of Ryan Nyambe and Joe Rothwell, as well as skipper Daragh Lenihan; there were astronomically big shoes to fill in the starting XI. With Callam Britain and Domonic Hyam joining the ranks as well as Tyler Morton arriving from Liverpool, the replacements were made but it was still not shaping up to be a season to remember. With Rovers seemingly relying on the academy, JDT really had a point to prove to the fans and it felt like he had already partly done so.  It looked like Jake Vale was going to be counted on throughout the campaign and youth starlet Adam Wharton integrated into the squad. The results were coming fast and they were accompanied by the performances too, dominating the likes of Watford, it looked like Rovers were a force to be reckoned with. 

When playing Burnley, it looked as though the occasion had got to the players, with players like captain Lewis Travis not at the races, it was clear it was never going to be Rovers day. When the players who are up for every game every week don't show up, it's not going to be a great outing. In games as big as that with as much riding on it as Burnley away did, you really need your senior players to show and quite frankly, they didn't. It was a similar story when Preston came to town. It's beginning to look like it's become a mentality thing, that the season always falls apart, heading towards the final run in. Tomasson clearly has a huge job on his hands to turn it around and get the players back playing as freely and confidently as they were before. This is where he is really going to be tested as a manager, and as a person. 

When on the hunt for a new man in the technical area, it was obvious that Rovers weren't the most attractive of offers, but the vacancy did have its positives. It seems that JDT and Gregg Broughton really grasped the blank canvas that the club had become. However, it's now that they will really need to earn their wages. The January ahead will be massive, as it is clear the squad needs improvements and depth. Whether they can really make a difference and whether they get the investments needed will really determine the remainder of the campaign. Only time will tell, but recent results certainly do not look promising.


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