Back up boys gain great win against Rovers

A team that amounted to what would have been a second string team last season, continues to defy the situation and recorded another great win at the Amex yesterday. The back 5 and probably Andrew Crofts aside, a fully fit squad would yesterday have seen at least 6, possibly 7 changes from the team that actually  took to the field against a Blackburn side that has made a solid enough start to the season.

But best not to dwell on injuries. All teams have them and it is at these times that the squad needs to step up and at the moment that is exactly what they are doing. The likes of Forster-Caskey, Ince, Conway and Barnes all put in top performances yesterday. After capitalising on some extremely dodgy defending by the away team and relying on the safe hands and agile reflexes of Kuszczak, the Albion came away with an impressive 3-0 victory that moves us up to 10th, just 3pts of the play-offs.

To be fair, that result didn’t look so likely during the first half hour, which was among the most turgid passages of play ever seen at the Amex. Blackburn played a high tempo spoiling game that showed no particular desire to do anything with the ball, which they sent skywards in the direction of Rhodes at every opportunity. Albion themselves showed little imagination and with many of the flair players out of the side, were finding it difficult to pass their way in behind Rovers.

The first real excitement came on the half hour mark when a Rovers defender played an inch perfect through ball for Ashley Barnes to run onto to. He had time and space to run at goal, but never really got the ball moving properly and ended up dragging the ball wide and blazing a shot skywards. But, as ever in football, this was the spark that turned the game. The signal went out for the thus far ineffectual Spanish Dave and Craig Conway to switch wings and the effect was instant. A prolonged period of pressure ended with Conway being clumsily upended and the mach maligned Andy D’Urso pointed to the spot. (the booing of D’Urso’s name when announced prior to the whistle was unprecedented but quite funny).

A quick check round the field to make sure Dave was on hand to convert the penalty and we were generally pretty relaxed that we would soon be 1-0 up. But wait… what did we see? Ay ay Ashley had firmly taken hold of the ball and it was soon clear that he was not going to be putting it down for Dave to convert. You could tell that 25,000 people were all having the same thought at the same time but saying nothing. Hats’ off to the lad – calm as you like, he slid it half way between the keeper and the post in the sort of pen that if the keeper goes the right way looks terrible. But he didn’t and it was a goal and all is good with the world. Well done Ash – but please at least share the pens with Dave eh?

After that Blackburn had to come and play and did show they were clearly a pretty good side, particularly when running at us from midfield. Rhodes should have scored before the break with a header that Ulloa would have had for breakfast. Second half, Rovers continued to press, but in doing so created gaps in the back which we duly exploited. More indifferent defending led to the excellent Conway popping a cross onto Forster-Caskey’s head for his second in two games. Rovers hit the bar and had a number of decent efforts calmly dealt with by big Tomas before Barnes put the game completely to bed with a ferocious strike from 2 yards after the keep failed to hold a shot.

Possibly the biggest cheer of the day greeted the arrival of two-times player of the season, Liam Bridcutt, as he made his first appearance of the season. It made a difference too. You could see the calm assurance with which he picks up the ball and lays it off positively. This is what we have really missed and if he can now start games again, I think Albion could really start climbing the table after the international break.

The sponsors (Focus Group???) gave Ash the man of the match, which was fair enough. Although most in the crowd felt it was Kuszczak who really deserved it. For me, I felt it was between the keeper and Craig Conway who with two assists and a generally excellent performance both going forward and defending, definitely had a claim.

So overall a most excellent afternoon’s work.

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