It was ‘5000, not out’ for Blackburn Rovers on Saturday, as they marked their 5000th league fixture by beating last season’s beaten playoff semi-finalists, Middlesbrough, 2-1, at Ewood Park. A pleased Jon Dahl Tomasson summarised his thoughts to Rovers TV, on what was a pulsating, but nervy end to his side’s return to action, following the fortnight stoppage for internationals.
“Today’s result was great. We played against a really good team, in Middlesbrough. When you analyse them, you see that they’re playing really well without gaining the results. To put in such a brilliant performance, like we did today, was great. The timing of the goals were perfect. Sammie’s (Szmodics) first in the 30th minute amidst the tribute to Matt (Sillitoe), is such a proud moment for his family, and I’m sure they’ll be proud of that. It’s great to see Rovers hit 5000 league games, yet the way we created the chances today and won the game was fantastic.
“I was happy with our performance, but the only thing I wasn’t happy with was that we didn’t manage to convert all of the chances that we had, into goals. That was quite frustrating. I told the lads at half-time, that we should have been 3-0 up. At the end of the day, we’re disappointed that wasn’t the case, but we started brightly in the second-half and immediately created a chance that we should have scored, but didn’t. Then, after that, we scored a harder chance, through Sammie! Yet, we were all nervous after conceding, what was definitely an offside goal. I think the officiating team will be disappointed when they watch their performance back tonight. Of course, everybody can make a mistake, but that changed the momentum of the game, because it was a big moment.
“In the end, we earnt a well-deserved victory. It was great to see the identity of the team and see some of the young players earning more minutes and growing into assets for the club, which is important. It’s been a good day, overall. Our fans enjoyed the game, as well, it was great entertainment. I think I grew a lot older, during the second-half and so did our fans! We’re proud, however, of the performance and the result!
“If we can create so many good chances against a good side, like Middlesbrough, then the players are doing something right. Yet, you need convert the chances in order to win games. It’s quite simple, goalscorers score goals, it’s not rocket science, but when you put in such a good and entertaining performance and deservedly win the game, we can all be happy. We’re constantly training our chance creation and conversion. I call it: ‘the final third product’. I think we created loads of chances, today, but we used the international break to play against our under-18s and against Rochdale, and we created a lot of chances and scored a lot of goals. We saw a lot of the work on display today and I’m extremely satisfied with all of those chances and moments we created, yet, at the end of the day, scoring goals is the hardest thing in football.
“The defensive side of the game, especially after conceding, was excellent. Their goal should not have stood. We should have had a clean-sheet and then we probably could have had the freedom to score the third and fourth! However, as we know, goals change games, and the boys worked extremely hard to get the points over the line, with the help and support of the fans. I think it’s important that all of the great legends that we saw before kick-off, saw Rovers play. I know it’s a new, young team, but I think they enjoyed it as well.
“The performance showed what Blackburn Rovers is about. The motto on the badge came through and shone, today. We want to play the best football in the world. We have to be dominant on the ball and we showed that with our great display today. However, we also need to work hard, that’s also part of life. You have to work extremely hard for Rovers, to get a result; every player knows that that’s our attitude.
“We all know that Sammie is a very good player. When he arrived at the start of last season, he said that it could take time for him to get used to a new team, new manager, new way of playing and a new environment, both at work and at home, but I think, towards the end of last season, he played extremely well. He’s started this season on fire and he could have had his first Rovers hattrick today! He always works hard for the team, alongside his goals and assists, so he should be proud of his performance.
“He’s a very good player for this team, but he should always look to improve. Every player should have that mindset, because if everyone increases their levels by 2-3%, then the whole team’s level increases. That’s the attitude we should all have, even as staff, but Sammie is a great lad, he’s also funny as everyone knows. He gives off a lot of energy, which is brilliant! The energy he shows is what you want as a coach, but he’s one of the more senior players in the team at 27. He has a natural role within the team to help the younger players. I know he’s been helping (Jake) Batty a lot, for example.
“It’s still early days regarding potential injuries to Sam Gallagher and Lewis Travis. I know Sam has a bit of an injury history; hopefully he stopped running in time, I’m not sure yet. Trav is a warrior. His tackle that forced the injury was really important. Hopefully he can be ready for Wednesday night, but I haven’t seen the report, yet, which I should receive this evening. They’re both crucially important players for us, so we hope they’re not serious injuries.”