Per­for­mance sent out right mes­sage

Accrington Observer - - SPORT -


TONY Mowbray and his Rovers team pro­vided just the right ri­poste to the doubters- me in­cluded – with a fine dis­play to bury a dis­ap­point­ing Portsmouth on Satur­day.

Though you still get the nag­ging feel­ing this side has to take one step back­ward and an­other side­ways be­fore ad­vanc­ing, while the man­ager almost seems to hit on a win­ning selec­tion and sys­tem by accident on oc­ca­sion.

But the re­sult and per­for­mance sent out all the right mes­sages and sig­nals with a week to re­cu­per­ate from a de­mand­ing af­ter­noon mak­ing light of Storm Bryan to re­claim a top six spot ahead of what could be the most im­por­tant four days of the sea­son to date.

Much has been at­tached to Rovers’ two games in hand which could be in­stru­men­tal in ad­vanc­ing the cause, points tally and league po­si­tion still fur­ther but there is an­other tow­er­ring chal­lenge be­fore the first of those (Fleet­wood at home on Tues­day) in the shape of a reg­u­lar neme­sis in a visit to sec­ond-placed Wi­gan Ath­letic to­mor­row.

A de­feat on Satur­day would open a huge gap be­tween our­selves and Lat­ics and should Shrews­bury win at Peter­bor­ough, a top two spot would al­ready be look­ing re­liant on the kind of run of form which, if you’re lucky, come once or twice a decade like Don Mackay’s 21-match un­beaten run, Ken­dall’s 14 wins out of 15 or the dozen un­de­feated which Kenny’s Alan Shear­erfu­elled jug­ger­naut racked up in the 1995 ti­tle sea­son.

So it was might­ily en­cour­ag­ing to see Rovers, with Harry Chap­man fi­nally un­leashed, set about their busi­ness against Pom­pey in such pos­i­tive fash­ion. From the in­stant Richie Small­wood had a stun­ning piledriver tipped over the bar, the boys looked bang at it in a way we never saw in the meek sur­ren­der at Old­ham or the gorm­less fail­ure at home to Pom­pey.

Kenny Jack­ett’s team ought, on pa­per, to have caused us more prob­lems than Ar­gyle but they were sim­ply never al­lowed to set­tle and pass the ball as a markedly im­proved home team took com­mand.

From Down­ing’s un­fussy com­po­sure at the back we looked im­proved all round and went af­ter the op­po­si­tion with, if not mur­der­ous in­tent, a clear plan to do the vis­i­tors a mis­chief or two.

Should-he-start-or-be- an-im­pact-sub de­bate about Chap­man will con­tinue to rage but af­ter a quiet open­ing per­son­ally he made his mark af­ter a num­ber of op­por­tu­ni­ties had been scorned.

To see him and Bradley Dack ma­raud from the cen­tre of the park and ad­vance past the nom­i­nal front men is quite a rev­e­la­tion af­ter years of watch­ing timid, cau­tious mid­field­ers stodge up the cen­tre of the park.

I’m not sure to be hon­est what a “num­ber 10” is but Dack looks to me a good old-fash­ioned, clin­i­cal goalscor­ing mid­fielder, a species I’ve al­ways en­joyed watch­ing whether vi­car­i­ously (Ball, Wark, McDer­mott, Lam­pard etc) or in our colours (Knighton, Oates, Atkins, Barker, Sher­wood).

He strides into parts of the pitch other play­ers fear to en­ter and we are be­gin­ning to see the mak­ings of a dou­ble­fig­ures-plus op­er­a­tor about his busi­ness.

If you were a cen­tre­for­ward worth your salt you’d surely be ex­cited at the prospect of beneft­ing from a duo with such cre­ativ­ity in their boots and while Danny Graham has been writ­ten off in some quar­ters, I have al­ways be­lieved that our best chance of do­ing well this sea­son is if play­ers like him and Whit­ting­ham, sea­soned prac­ti­tion­ers of their arts, can im­pose their per­son­al­ity on the team and di­vi­sion.

Whit­ting­ham is slowly emerg­ing from his early-sea­son tes­ti­mo­ni­al­pace chrysalis but Graham’s last two starts have en­cour­aged dreams that he could yet look as good at this level as he did in the Cham­pi­onship in his first weeks at Ewood Park.

I hope Graham did a bit of soul-search­ing dur­ing his time on the subs’ bench and if so I hope the con­ver­sa­tion with him­self went a lit­tle like this.

“What ex­actly am I, Danny Graham, with hun­dreds of ap­pear­ances and goals higher up, do­ing stuck on a mid­dling Third Di­vi­sion out­fit’s bench watch­ing, with re­spect, kids like Sa­muel and An­tonn­son start games?

“Is this how I want to be re­mem­bered, draw­ing a big wage for fad­ing away undig­ni­fied, or am I go­ing to shape my­self and pro­vide the goals and as­sists to jus­tify my salary and help the club climb the ta­ble?”

Graham was given a rather un­ex­pected guar­an­tee of con­tin­ued selec­tion by Sa­muel’s act of fool­ish­ness in get­ting him­self sent off late on to earn a three-game ban. Nut­tall from the Un­der- 21s could also ben­e­fit from that aber­ra­tion.

Wi­gan has been a scene of many a Rovers hor­ror how down the years but the oc­ca­sional vic­to­ries there have been mem­o­rable for the right rea­sons and there would be no bet­ter time to chalk up an­other.

De­feat could the­o­ret­i­cally leave us re­spec­tively 16 and 15 points be­hind the top two and while some have por­trayed it as a must win, a point would do for me.

It would, it goes with­out say­ing, be ab­so­lutely im­per­a­tive to beat Fleet­wood in the first ever league meet­ing be­tween the sides at Ewood on Tues­day how­ever we’ve done at Wi­gan.

You can wring your hands all you want about how it shows the ex­tent of our fall from grace play­ing the Cod Army in the first place but that does their phe­nom­e­nal as­cent a dis­ser­vice.

We are where we both are and credit to them for do­ing so well whilst hop­ing we put them sum­mar­ily in their place.

I’ll be ab­sent from both games this week on a trip to Hun­gary and Slo­vakia but I hope ev­ery­one en­joys a couple of crack­ing Lan­cashire der­bies.

See you at the Bar­net game af­ter miss­ing the re­ally ex­cit­ing stuff!

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