Saturday, August 23, 2014

A day of surprises - why beating Bournemouth doesn't feel as good as it should

Who would have thought that after 10 minutes of hardly touching the ball against a decent Bournemouth side, Blackburn Rovers would have been impressively 3-0 up after half an hour?

And who would have thought that an hour of football later we were hanging on for dear life?

Well, me for one. This Blackburn Rovers side is capable of great things. The ball control, fluidity and goal poaching is something else. The defence is strong and athletic. And this was a bold team, designed to attack and supply Rudi Gestede and Jordan Rhodes.

But that niggling thought I've had about mental strength. It was always there. It was especially there when Rhodes was subbed for a veteran midfield player, David Dunn, with 20 minutes to go. And it was there again when Paul Robinson took back passes from the half way line with 15 minutes to go.

I have seen Rovers sides with commanding leads at Ewood Park go on to destroy a defeated opposition - Norwich in 1992 (7-1), Forest in 1995 (7-0), Sheffield Wednesday in 1997 (7-2) and West Ham in 2001 (7-1). This could and should have been such an occasion, but it wasn't and never will be with Gary Bowyer as manager.

Had we done so it would have sent a powerful message to the rest of the league. Wow, this Blackburn team are ruthless. Wow, this Blackburn team mean business. They're not the bottlers of last season.

That issue of mental strength comes from the top. Letting teams back into games has become a habit. The quality is there, but the killer instinct is not. Not through the spine of the team when the pressure mounts.

This is going to be a long hard season and the issue now, more than ever, is mental strength.

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