Rovers remained within touching distance of the top six, as they fought back from a below-par first-half performance, to deny Bristol City their second home win in 10 months, as Ben Brereton Díaz’s 14th goal of the campaign saw the points shared.
Rovers come into Ashton Gate looking to build on their pre-international break victory over Sheffield United, as the Blues came out 3-1 winners over the recently relegated side, at Ewood Park a fortnight ago. Due to that fine display, Tony Mowbray opted against changing his side, as he named an unchanged team for the first time since the second game of the season, against Millwall. The Blues will be hoping to pile more misery on Bristol City, who have only one once on their own turf in 10 months, which came in their last home outing against Barnsley, as Nigel Pearson’s side emerged with a 2-1 win.
Ryan Nyambe was set to make his 150th career league start, fresh off from international duty with Namibia, whilst Jacob Davenport was hitting 50 career league appearances.
As both sides emerged from the tunnel ahead of the 3pm kick-off, it was Rovers who got the game underway following referee, John Busby’s whistle. The Blues – who were in yellow this afternoon – were looking to build on their fine run of form from before the international break.
In the 5th minute, Thomas Kaminski was tested by his own central defender, as Scott Wharton inadvertently flicked Alex Scott’s wide free-kick towards goal, but the Belgian did fantastically well to show his reflexes as he kept the ball out of the net, before Wharton cleared.
After a quiet ten minutes, Reda Khadra burst into life as he picked up the ball and burst past half a dozen men before tumbling to the ground under pressure, much to the frustration of Tony Mowbray who saw his appeals for a free-kick denied.
In the 17th minute, Callum O’Dowda’s footwork saw the ball delivered before it was touched into the path of Tyreeq Bakinson, whose effort was crucially blocked behind by Darragh Lenihan.
With the game’s chances being limited, Andreas Weimann came agonisingly close to poking Bristol City ahead from a corner. The set-piece was flicked towards the back-post and Weimann’s air-shot saw him fall off balance, as Ben Brereton Díaz hooked the ball clear.
In the 33rd minute, Ryan Nyambe became the first player to be booked in the game.
A minute after the game saw its first card, the first goal arrived and it fell the way of the hosts, who managed to take the lead courtesy of a deflected effort that left Thomas Kaminski bamboozled. Andi Weimann did well to pick up the ball in the hole, before threading O’Dowda through, who was making a good run in the gap left by Lenihan, who came out to close down the Austrian. The through ball proved perfect, but O’Dowda was left with a lot to do, as he turned and released a snapshot that deflected off the sliding Wharton and looped over Kaminski, as the hosts celebrated their 1-0 lead.
Four minutes after going behind, Rovers thought they had levelled through Ben Brereton Díaz. The Chilean was found by a lovely lofted through ball from Reda Khadra, but the attacker had drifted a fraction offside as his cool finish, through the legs of Daniel Bentley, was ruled out by the offside flag.
Ayman Benarous nearly saw Bristol pick up a second as he twisted and turned inside the Rovers box before releasing an effort that just fell the wrong side of the near-post.
In the 44th minute, a challenge between Ian Poveda and Nathan Baker saw the Leeds United loanee unable to continue as he was stretchered off the field and replaced by Daniel Ayala, as Rovers switched their system from a four-back, to a five-back.
As a result of the injury, referee John Busby allocated six minutes of time, onto the end of the first period.
Despite the time allocated, neither side made anything count in the added time, as the first-half was soon brought to an end.
Nigel Pearson would have been delighted his how his side had applied themselves in the first-half, not only with how much of the ball they had dominated, but with the fact they managed to make it count with a goal. The former Leicester City boss would have been encouraging them to continue their performance and try and focus on frustrating Rovers on the counter.
Tony Mowbray, in contrast would have been furious with his side’s lack of direction in the first period. The boss would have been quick to remind his side of the previous game, where, despite going behind, they were able to come back and convincingly dispatch their opposition. The manager would have hoped for a similar reaction in the second period.
After the 15-minute break, the game was resumed by Bristol City who were looking to see out the second-half and secure what would only be their second home victory in 10 months.
The first chance of the second-half came in the 59th minute as John Buckley tried to curl an effort at goal, but it just bent wide of the mark.
Rovers’ second change of the game came on the hour mark, as Joe Rothwell replaced Jacob Davenport, with half-an-hour to go.
Bristol City made their first change in the 63rd minute as Ayman Benarous departed and was replaced by Han-Noah Massengo.
Rovers’ final change came in the 67th minute as the booked Ryan Nyambe left the field, with Leighton Clarkson taking his place, as John Buckley shuffled back to right-back.
Bristol City’s second substitution of the afternoon saw Chris Martin depart in the 69th minute, with Antoine Semenyo replacing him.
Joe Williams was booked in the 70th minute after scything down Lewis Travis on halfway, to stop the counter.
10 minutes after coming on, Massengo was booked after pulling back Tayo Edun.
With 15 minutes to go in the game, Rovers managed to get themselves a lifeline, through their Chilean forward, Ben Brereton Díaz who capitalised on some fragility in the Bristol City backline to draw Rovers level at 1-1. After forcing Bristol back into their own box, Brereton Díaz capitalised on a poor clearance by the hosts before driving in from the right-hand side and smashing the ball into the roof at the net beyond Bentley, at his near-post, before turning away in celebration of his 14th goal of the season!
Joe Rothwell came close to putting Rovers ahead as Clarkson’s whipped cross was narrowly volleyed wide of Bentley’s far-post, via Rothwell’s left-foot.
Moments later, Rothwell was booked for stopping a City counter-attack.
In the 82nd minute, Nakhi Wells came on as Bristol City’s final change, with Alex Scott departing the field.
Two minutes after his introduction, Wells rose highest in the box to latch onto Massengo’s disguised cross, but Kaminski pulled off a world-class save to tip the substitute’s header over the crossbar.
Nakhi Wells again had a chance to test Kaminski in the 90th minute – as five added minutes were called for by the referee – but the Bermudan’s effort didn’t trouble the Belgian as it trickled into his gloves.
Although there were some handbags in the Rovers penalty area between Thomas Kaminski and Antoine Semenyo, there was nothing much to report regarding final minute chances in added time. Bristol City kept launching long throws into the box and Rovers stood valiant against their bombardment, as both sides were forced to settle with a share of the spoils.
Although nobody will reject a point in this division, given the craziness and tightness of it, it is worth mentioning that the first-half display from Rovers was not what we all desired, regardless of the fact they went in at the break behind. The lack of attacking edge in the final third, despite the great work leading up to the non-existent finishes, was something Rovers managed to rectify in the second-half, more so due to Bristol City’s own downfall, rather than Blackburn’s brilliance. Although some questions have risen regarding the various changes and substitutions that emerged throughout the game, Rovers can ignore that and hop back on their coach happy with the outcome of the game which could have easily spiralled out of control.
Following the 18th matchday of the season, Rovers are still in the playoff picture. Mowbray’s men sit 8th in the table, on 27 points, but their goal-difference remains in single digits at +2.
There’s a quick turnaround for Mowbray’s men, as the games don’t stop. Next up for Rovers is the hosting of Peterborough United on Wednesday 24th November at 7:45pm, at Ewood Park. Following that stop at Ewood, Rovers are back on the road as they travel to Stoke City on Saturday 27th November with kick-off set for 3pm. As November turns into December, Rovers’ first game of the twelfth month of the year sees a Lancashire Derby at Ewood Park as Rovers host close neighbours and rivals, Preston North End on Saturday 4th December at 3pm.