Bookies’ pick are taught a les­son

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By Chris Phillips

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

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