MOWBRAY’S FAVOURITES SHOCKED BY SHRIMPERS
Bookies’ pick are taught a lesson
BLACKBURN Rovers boss Tony Mowbray urged his side to learn lessons from their opening-day defeat at Southend United.
Rovers kicked off the new campaign as favourites to win the League One title following their relegation from the Championship in May.
But first-half goals from Ryan Leonard and Michael Kightly saw the Shrimpers secure all three points at Roots Hall.
And Mowbray knows Rovers must adapt quickly if they are to bounce back this season.
“The players have to get used to the physicality and directness of this league and the willingness to get to the second balls,” said Mowbray.
“It will test you every week but it doesn’t matter to me if we’re favourites or not, if I’m honest.
“We work with the team and the message had been drummed into them all week about what to expect and we got what we expected too.
“Southend have a lot of experience and their two strikers have been in the Premier League, so they’re not a bunch of kids.
“It’s a steep learning curve for us in this league but I’m sure we will adapt and when we do, our quality will come to the fore.”
Southend, who missed out on the play-offs by just a point last season, dominated the majority of the first half and came close
to scoring when Jermaine McGlashan’s volley was tipped over by Rovers David Raya.
But, with 28 minutes on the clock, the Shrimpers went in front when Michael Timlin’s right-wing corner picked out an unmarked Leonard, who sent a controlled low volley into the bottom right-hand corner of the net from 12 yards.
The goal justified Southend’s decision to turn down offers of £500,000 from both Millwall and Sheffield United for the midfielder in the summer and the Shrimpers were celebrating again in the 38th minute with Kightly on target.
The winger, who returned to Roots Hall in the summer after leaving Rovers’ rivals Burnley, netted from eight yards after Jason Demetriou and MarcAntoine Fortune both had efforts blocked.
Blackburn stepped things up after the break and netted in the 53rd minute when ex-Southend loanee Charlie Mulgrew curled a long-range free-kick into the top corner of the net.
But Rovers were unable to make the most of a spell of pressure which followed before the Shrimpers got back on top, with Michael Timlin chipping over from close range.
Fortune and substitute Theo Robinson then had close-range headers kept out by Raya, but the wasted opportunities were not costly.
Southend boss Phil Brown said: “It was a great first-half performance and we showed good resilience in the second half.
“When you’re up against the likes of Peter Whittingham, Bradley Dack and Danny Graham, you’re going to be tested at one stage and we were.
“But that first-half performance was probably the best I’ve seen since being at the football club and we also showed great character.
“I was stepping back in amazement at times, if I’m honest. One or two individuals really stood out but it was a good team display.”
It wasn’t all delight for Southend following the news that supporter John Stoten passed away during the fixture.
A Southend statement said: “The emergency services did all they could to save John but unfortunately, he passed away at hospital shortly afterwards.”
LIFT OFF: Shrimpers’ Ryan Leonard celebrates scoring the first goal
OFF THE MARK: Ryan Leonard scores to make it 1-0. Inset: Michael Kightly makes it two