MATCH REPORT 2022/23: Blackburn Rovers 1 – 0 Cardiff City

MATCH REPORT 2022/23: Blackburn Rovers 1 – 0 Cardiff City

2023 began in the best possible way for Rovers and Jon Dahl Tomasson as a Bradley Dack goal and a clean-sheet secured a vital three points heading into the second-half of the campaign’s calendar.

After ending 2022 with a 2-1 home defeat to Middlesbrough, Jon Dahl Tomasson and his squad were looking to kick 2023 off in the right way against Cardiff City. The Dane only made one change to the side that ended 2022, which was enforced, as Jake Garrett came in for John Buckley, who was serving the first of a three-game suspension after his appeal was rejected. There was positive news from the bench as Tayo Edun and Jack Vale returned as standby options.

With the game scheduled as Sky Sports’ early kick-off at midday, a lot of praise must be given to the travelling Cardiff supporters who must have made it to Ewood Park at unholy hours, but they were raring to go and support their team come the kick-off, as the Bluebirds got proceedings underway, following a minute’s applause in tribute of the legendary Pelé.

Rovers managed to sneak in-behind after two minutes when Cédric Kipré’s mistake allowed Sam Gallagher in, but Ryan Allsop did enough to force an early attempt from the forward whose scuffed shot was well saved by the foot of the goalkeeper.

In the 7th minute, Rovers thought they’d scored the opener after Bradley Dack’s slide through ball into Ben Brereton Díaz, but despite the Chilean’s fantastic finish around Allsop from outside the box, he made his run too early.

Jake Garrett became the first player to be booked after a crunching tackle in the 13th minute.

From the free-kick, Cardiff managed to fashion a chance through Mark Harris who latched onto the end of the set-piece, but his attempt flew over the bar.

Cardiff broke away against Rovers on the counter-attack as Gavin Whyte got himself within a shot of putting the Bluebirds ahead, but a fantastic recovery tackle from Garrett, whilst on a booking, saw the score remain goalless.

Sam Gallagher again had a great chance to take the lead in fantastic fashion after a fine move. Jake Garrett’s lofted ball into the path of Bradley Dack saw the midfielder backheel the ball into Gallagher who tried a first-time volley from range that ballooned over the bar.

Referee Thomas Brammall soon incurred the wrath of the home fans after Jack Simpson’s studs connected with a sensitive area on Jake Garrett’s body, however the official only deemed the challenge as a yellow, rather than the red the home contingency were hoping for.

A ball over the top in the 30th minute saw Ben Brereton Díaz manoeuvre a crossing position into Hedges, who tried to lay the ball into the path of the on-rushing Dack, but the Cardiff defence managed to clear the danger.

Moments later, the Chilean and Dack combined again, but Dack’s attempt lacked the accuracy to either trouble Allsop, or curl into the path of a teammate.

A brief period of Cardiff pressure saw Thomas Kaminski forced into a save from Callum Robinson, before a Ryan Wintle attempt was skewed wide of the Belgian’s posts.

Sam Gallagher connected onto the end of a Morton corner in the 39th minute, but the nod dropped the wrong side of the far-post.

Mark Harris tried to score his second goal of the campaign against Rovers as he was played in and tried to use the greasy surface to his advantage by trying to beat Kaminski at his near-post, but the ball edged narrowly wide, before the half-time whistle was soon blown.

Jon Dahl Tomasson would have been rather satisfied with how his side had played, without being delighted, after his side were more than enough value for a lead at the break, but lacked the ruthlessness that saw them pick up 13 wins so far, this campaign.

Mark Hudson would have pushed to encourage his side ahead of the second-half and would have wanted them to try and force more urgency from Rovers. The interim boss, who scored in Cardiff’s last win at Ewood Park in 2012-13, would have been calling for his side to match Rovers’ first-half intensity.

Following the return of the players, it was Cardiff City who got the game underway, as they looked to try and claim a victory for the first time since the start of November.

Rovers started the second period in the best possible manner after Bradley Dack secured a belated birthday present after he turned 29 on New Year’s Eve, as he needed a slice of luck to net Rovers’ first goal of 2023. After Rovers worked the ball forwards, Ben Brereton Díaz brought the ball down and cut inside, only to tee up Dack on the edge of the area, whose shot deflected in off the tucked in arm of Perry Ng, before rolling into the opposite corner as Ryan Allsop was left stranded, with Rovers taking a 1-0 lead.

During the celebrations, Ryan Hedges was booked for booting the ball into the Blackburn End in celebration.

In the 54th minute, Joe Rankin-Costello was no longer able to continue after a hamstring injury forced him off, as Scott Wharton replaced him, with Rovers switching to a back-three as Ryan Hedges moved to right-wing-back.

Hedges showed his quality down the right as he nutmegged Simpson before eventually finding Tyler Morton just inside the right-hand channel, as the Liverpool loanee’s back-post cross fell kindly for Sam Gallagher, but the forward failed to gain the desired connection as the ball slid off his head and behind for a goal-kick.

In the 58th minute, Cardiff made a treble change as Rubin Colwill, Sheji Ojo and Andy Rinomhota came on for Jack Simpson, Joe Ralls and Gavin Whyte, as Cardiff reverted to a four-back system.

Garrett slid Brereton Díaz in-behind, but the Chilean failed to grab his first goal post-World Cup as Allsop stood firm to deny the attacker.

Mark Harris and Scott Wharton were both booked in the 65th minute for an off-the-ball altercation after clashing.

Isaak Davies was subbed on in the 66th minute for Callum Robinson, as Cardiff looked to try and change their means of attack.

11 minutes later, with little to no goalmouth action, both sides made changes as Cardiff introduced Jaden Philogene for the booked Mark Harris, whilst Rovers introduced Lewis Travis and Tayo Edun for Jake Garrett and Harry Pickering.

The 87th minute saw Rovers make a fourth change as Adam Wharton was introduced for Tyler Morton, who hobbled off after a heavy challenge against him.

Perry Ng came so close to equalising but lacked the required contact, as he somehow managed to kick the ball behind him from his side’s 89th minute corner.

As the 90th minute ticked over, five minutes of added time were allocated as Rovers looked to hold out.

Four minutes into the allocated five, Ben Brereton Díaz and Bradley Dack combined as the Chilean won the ball back after seeing a foul on him waved away by the referee, before a backheel by Dack set the attacker on his way. But despite having Adam Wharton free and available for a cutback, the attacker went for glory but blazed his effort over the bar.

The final kick of the game saw a Cardiff corner cause havoc in the Rovers penalty area as Ryan Allsop came up for the corner, but it was Callum O’Dowda who connected with the cross, but saw his effort saved by Kaminski, before the final whistle was met by delightful cheers from the home crowd.

A result that was more important than the performance proved vital for Rovers to kick-off 2023 in the right way, as they keep themselves at the right end of the table. Whilst Rovers weren’t really met with much quality, with Thomas Kaminski only having three saves to make all game, there is mixed opinion regarding how the team played, despite the positive display. What everyone can agree on is the excitement that the January Transfer Window brings and the attraction that the league position also offers.

Following the acquisition of three points, Rovers remain in 3rd place in the table, with the rest of the league still to play today and on Monday, however their five-point gap secures them 3rd place regardless of other results. After 26 games, no draws, a neutral goal-difference of zero and 42 points notched, it’s a wonder how far Rovers can go this season if they play their cards right.

Next up for Rovers, however, is a distraction as they again head to East Anglia to face Norwich City in the FA Cup Third Round on Sunday 8th January at 2pm. Following that game, they make a trip to New York (Stadium) to face Rotherham United on Saturday 14th January for the 3pm kick-off, before heading down south to face Nigel Pearson’s Bristol City on Saturday 21st January for another 3pm start.