MATCH REPORT 2022/23: Blackburn Rovers 4 – 0 Hartlepool United

MATCH REPORT 2022/23: Blackburn Rovers 4 – 0 Hartlepool United

Rovers booked their place into the draw for the Carabao Cup Second Round after a convincing display against pre-season opponents, Hartlepool United, as Jon Dahl Tomasson’s side ran out comfortable 4-0 winners under the Ewood Park floodlights.

After Rovers’ fine start to the season, which saw them become the only Championship team to amass a perfect record of six points from two games, alongside two clean-sheets, Jon Dahl Tomasson turned his attention to the Carabao Cup First Round tie against pre-season opponents Hartlepool United.

The Dane’s adamance that the competition was not to be discarded showed in his line-up, as despite making 10 chances from the side that beat Swansea City on Saturday, he offered stand-in skipper Bradley Dack a first runout of the season, as well as professional competitive debuts to two academy graduates, in Ashley Phillips and Adam Wharton as well as a first Rovers start for loanee Tyler Morton. Ashley Phillips became the fourth youngest player to debut for Rovers at 17 years and 45 days old, whilst Adam Wharton came in for his first professional game alongside his brother, Scott, as the Whartons became the first brothers to play for Rovers since Martin and Markus Olsson. Alongside the two debutants, and Dack’s first outing under the new manager, the rest of the team was made up of: Aynsley Pears, Joe Rankin-Costello, Scott Wharton, Tayo Edun, Dilan Markanday, Tyrhys Dolan and Jack Vale.

As both teams worked their way out onto the hallowed Ewood Park turf, it was the away side who won the coin toss with referee James Bell, as they looked to try and replicate the antics that Morecambe did, last season, after the Shrimps knocked Rovers out of the competitions at this stage, on this ground, last season.

Rovers started the game brightly as after only nine minutes, they eased their way through the Hartlepool defence. Adam Wharton picked out Dilan Markanday’s run, but his strike from just outside the box proved easy for Pools ‘keeper, Ben Killip to claim.

After a very quiet period, Rovers again got going in the 23rd minute after Bradley Dack pulled the strings. The playmaker found Tyrhys Dolan whose cross met Markanday, but Killip again denied the former Tottenham Hotspur man from even closer-range than the previous effort.

Five minutes later, Dilan Markanday was again showing his quality as he found Tyler Morton with a through ball. The Liverpool loanee did well to keep the ball in and cross a low ball into the path of Dack who just couldn’t stretch enough to poke Rovers ahead.

Rovers’ pressure continued to ramp up and they finally managed to break Hartlepool’s resolve in the 32nd minute, courtesy of the head of Scott Wharton who managed to climb highest in the penalty area and nod the ball home. Tyler Morton’s corner proved to be pinpoint as he picked out the older of the Wharton brothers who powered home to put Rovers 1-0 up.

Five minutes after the restart, Joe Rankin-Costello tried his luck, after Rovers had a penalty claim turned down, but the right-back’s effort cleared the crossbar.

The woodwork soon got a taste of the action, as Rovers continued to barge forwards. Scott Wharton’s lovely raking ball forwards was brought down by Markanday, but the forward’s good work wasn’t rewarded as despite beating the goalie, he couldn’t beat the post.

Despite one minute of time being added onto the end of the half, it proved redundant as James Bell the official soon called for the break, in a half that proved to be hot and cold, but lacked any Hartlepool presence.

Jon Dahl Tomasson would have been pleased with how his side had started the game, particularly due to the mass changes that he had selected. The Dane would have been happy to be leading at the break, but his high standards would have demanded more from his players, with them easily having the ability to put the tie beyond the reach of their pre-season foes.

Paul Hartley would have been frustrated with Hartlepool’s lack of hold on the game. The League Two outfit lacked any edge to their game, with only 23% possession. They had also failed to even test Pears in the Rovers goal with an attempt, which would have been at the top of Hartley’s list of topics for the team-talk.

Once both managers had spoken to their players, the sides returned for the second-half which Rovers got underway. The Blues were looking to continue their 100% start to the season and advance to the Second Round of the Carabao Cup for the second-time in the last three seasons. Just prior to the restart, however, Rovers made their first change of the evening as Harry Pickering came on and slotted in alongside Ash Phillips, to replace the goalscorer, Scott Wharton.

After just 120 seconds had been played of the second period, Rovers managed to double their advantage through their captain on the night, Bradley Dack, who notched his first Rovers goals in 188 days, since the 2-2 draw away at Coventry City, last season! Rovers managed to work the ball down the left straight from the kick-off as Tayo Edun delivered a delicious ball into the box that Dack capitalised on with all his nous and experience, before sliding in to turn the ball home and double Rovers’ lead to 2-0.

On the 50th minute, Adam Wharton looked to manoeuvre and pull strings from deep as he found Jack Vale before the Welshman looked to try and double his tally for the season against this opposition. Unlike in the friendly, however, the Pools ‘keeper was on-hand to deny the academy graduate, whose effort from the edge of the box lacked any real conviction.

That didn’t matter for Rovers, however, as only a few moments after Killip denied Vale, the goalie was beaten by Tyrhys Dolan who opened his account for the season. The fan favourite won possession back and picked up a loose ball in the Hartlepool half before carrying the ball for a prolonged period prior to finding the bottom corner of the net, with a perfect finish that left Killip stranded, as Dolan made it 3-0.

Just after the hour mark, the games first bookings were shown as Rovers goalscorer Bradley Dack and Hartlepool’s Tom Crawford were both booked for an off-the-ball altercation.

In the 68th minute, Hartlepool made a treble change as Jake Hastle, Josh Umerah and Callum Cooke replaced Mark Shelton, Jack Hamilton and Ellis Taylor.

On the 70th minute mark Dolan and Dack combined brilliantly, but the latter’s shot veered wide of the mark.

Rovers’ fine performance continued as they managed to add a fourth goal in the 73rd minute courtesy of Dilan Markanday who opened his account, both for Rovers and for his senior career, which proved to be muchly deserved after a fine first-half display. Jack Vale did well to carry the ball forwards before finding Dack who teed up Markanday who slotted home with a left-footed finish for 4-0.

Rovers’ second change of the game came in the 79th minute when Jake Batty replaced Tayo Edun.

In the 83rd minute, Adam Wharton and Jack Vale again combined, but the Welshman’s effort failed to test the goalkeeper.

The break in play following Vale’s effort allowed Rovers to make their third change as Bradley Dack retired for the night, with John Buckley replacing him during the closing stages.

Rovers nearly made it a fantastic five as Markanday and Vale nearly put the cherry on the icing atop the cake, but again the Welsh forward was denied by Killip.

As the 90th minute ticked over, only one minute of time was added onto the end of the game.

Hartlepool seemed to find their shooting boots in the final moments of added time as they managed to test Aynsley Pears from a corner, but the former Middlesbrough goalkeeper made a fine double save to preserve his clean-sheet.

The Pears pounce proved to be the game’s final act as James Bell soon brought Hartlepool’s misery to an end, as Rovers ended up running out comfortable winners on home soil.

Although the opposition were of the fourth tier, a side with an average age of 21.6 more than proved their worth. Although the team had a few senior debutants, they looked like they had been playing football for years, as Rovers restricted Hartlepool to the bare minimum and ran riot down the other end of the park to book themselves a place into the Second Round of the Carabao Cup.

Whilst we wait to see who Rovers’ next cup-ponents are, we know who they’ll face next in the league, as West Bromwich Albion make the trip up north to Ewood Park on Sunday 14th August for the 3pm kick-off, which has been moved to Sunday because of the Commonwealth Games in the Second City. After that affair, Rovers are on the road for the second-time this season, as they travel down to Berkshire to face former manager Paul Ince’s Reading on Wednesday 17th August at 8pm. Following those ties, Rovers make the short trip over the Pennines to face Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Saturday 20th August at 3pm.