“I love this group of players.”

“I love this group of players.”

After Blackburn Rovers won their first away game at the tenth attempt, with a demolishing 4-1 victory at Deepdale, against Lancashire rivals, Preston North End, boss Tony Mowbray praised his side’s outstanding performance as they kept their feint playoff hopes alive, heading into the final two games of the campaign.

“Tonight’s display was up there with some of the best performances of the season, in my opinion. It was as if a weight had been taken off, really. We didn’t build this game up as a ‘last chance saloon’, if anything I build it up as if we had nothing to play for and I told the lads to just relax and go out there and play their game. We knew we could come here and get a result, because we’ve showed we were capable of that last year, albeit with a different team containing the likes of Harvey Elliott, Lewis Holtby and Adam Armstrong, to name a few. It was a really good, controlled performance. They all understood their positions and understood where the space on the pitch was. We scored goals at good times and it was important for the midfielders to get on the scoresheet and it was also good to see Darragh (Lenihan) the skipper score a brilliant header. I thought we were the better team on the night, and we deserved the win.

“I’ve just given them a few days off, to relax and chill out. We’ll prepare for Bournemouth, like we prepared for tonight. We’ll spread it over a couple of days and keep the intensity regarding the opposition to a minimum, in order focus on how we’re going to play and what we’re going to do. With total respect to Preston North End, Bournemouth are a better football team and they’ll give us more of a test.

“We changed formation tonight and we worked this week on where the spaces were going to be, on the pitch and how we were going to use that space to our advantage. The lads took that onboard really well and we scored goals at the right time. I don’t stand here and think, ‘wow, we’ve never played like that before’, we’ve scored fours and fives earlier in the season against the likes of Peterborough United, Birmingham City and Cardiff City, respectively. We’ve been a really good team this year, and yet when you lose these really tight games, 1-0 due to a set-piece, everybody thinks, ‘oh, this team are not very good’ and yet, I’ve always said that we’ve needed to spread the goals out and take the burden off Ben Brereton Díaz, and tonight, they did that.

“The fact the goals came from other areas of the pitch was one of the most pleasing aspects of tonight’s performance. Saying that, I thought Ben was really good tonight, despite not scoring. It was brilliant that two midfielders and the right-back scored. We’re happy with the result and it takes the season to the last home game, at the very least and hopefully there’ll be a positive feeling at Ewood Park at the weekend. Of course, the result might change that, but let’s hope the result is a positive one and the performance level is full of determination, grit, and quality, like we saw tonight.

“The team will turn up and give it their very best, like they have done in every game this season. Even when we haven’t been able to win many matches over the past few months, I’ve never questioned their desire and their attitude. I’ll prepare them the same as we always prepare them, but we’ll be fully aware of the quality that Bournemouth possess, but we’ve already been to their ground and won 2-0, so there’s no reason why we can’t do the same on Saturday. We look forward to the challenge of facing a team vying for promotion to the Premier League.

“The people who watch the team on the road are generally different to those who watch the team at home. They have to stick with the team, so what happens if we go 1-0 down against Bournemouth? They have to stick with the team, that’s all I would say. This is a very young team that needs confidence and belief pouring into it and if it’s not going well, they need encouragement to charge forward, play forward, run forward, pass forward and I hope at the weekend, Ewood Park will be full of enthusiasm whatever the game, whatever the score. We’ll be doing our very best to try and win another match and add to our tally.

“I love this group of players. I feel as if I’ve been consistent all year in saying how good they are. They have a brilliant attitude and drive and are desperate to improve and learn and want to work hard to get to where they want to be. Yet, when they don’t win matches, it’s easy to criticise them. I like to think that I don’t criticise them very much, in fact, in the confines of the dressing room, I tell them how much I love them, and I think they’re a credit to this football club.”