That was the anti-Rovers out there today against Leeds. All season we’ve been conceding late goals, denying us points in games that should have been out of sight. Ipswich, Villa, Forest and so very nearly at Stoke. At the end of a second half where we comfortably matched a fluid and attacking Leeds side, we did it again. Same old Rovers, we all thought.
But there were very important differences on display today, some of it not great, some of the passing out of defence was off beam, but when they earn you three points against Leeds, dirty Leeds, with their 10,000 fans, then this is most definitely not a complaint. So here are the untypical Rovers traits.
1. Adam Armstrong terrorising the Leeds defence. He’s threatened to do that all season but today he did it with vengeance. Well deserved for boozed up jewellers guests’ man of the match.
2. Corners. When did we last score from a corner? End of last season at Doncaster, maybe? Even that was an aberration. Our corners are shocking. Reed and Conway landed two crackers onto unmarked heads today. Boom.
3. Bradley Dack was brilliant today without ever actually being Bradley Dack. The odd flick, two sniffer’s chances (and Leeds fans of my vintage will get that) but it was link up play, his persistence, his hard running, his tackling back, all of that for me made him one of our stand out perfomers today.
4. Cynical game play to the death. Again, when did we last waste time and cynically see out a game with such effectiveness? I can’t remember either. I still don’t know what kind of player he is, but Ben Brereton was a nuisance for that last period, so was Craig Conway, both of whom I didn’t wholeheartedly welcome when they came on.
5. A decent referee. I barely noticed the ref today. Despite us getting bookings (deserved) I can’t think of a bad call for either side.
All week, I have been thinking how much I wasn’t looking forward to the unpleasant walk through the 12,000 Leeds fans back to the car as they celebrated their victory over us. I didn’t actually believe we’d win until we actually did. In the end I rather enjoyed it. Instead it was like a hushed parade away from a wake. Shuffling off together.
I love welcoming large crowds to Ewood, I really do. So I dedicate the win to one of the 20,000 Leeds fans for whom I held the door of Leavers before the game and told him, with a smile, that these will be the best pies he’ll enjoy all season. “I know,” he snarled. “We came two year ago, but couldn’t come last year as you’d been relegated. Ha ha ha.”
For you my surly Yorkshire friend, after the game, stuck in traffic to make way for the 25,000 Leeds fans, we played the saddest song ever written on loop. And for once I had a massive smile on my face. Love will tear us apart, indeed.