Result: Blackburn Rovers 0-0 Yeovil Town (SkyBet Championship)
Venue: Ewood Park (Friday 18th April 2014, 3.00pm)
Att:14,353 (inc.347 visiting)
Part 1 of my Good Friday double header began at a little before midday, as I set off in the blazing sunshine on a packed train towards Manchester. It transpires that many of these people were on their way to a plastic duck race (I kid you not). I had different plans, but as it was, I was to see quite a few ‘ducks’ as the day unfolded.
After changing in town, and again in Salford, I was soon heading up towards the Lancashire hills and mills and before long I had arrived in Blackburn. The train passes Ewood Park on its way into Blackburn station, but it seems to travel forever until it gets there. Indeed you are left with the best part of a 25 minute walk at a good pace to backtrack to the ground. The plan was to grab some fish and chips on the way, being Good Friday and all, but there was pretty much nothing bar a couple of pubs and an Indian restaurant along the main road heading towards the Ewood area of the town. The disappointment of this was slightly lessened by the fact that it was a surprisingly warm day, but having arrived slightly later than planned I sadly had no real time to bask in the warmth, and headed straight for the stadium.
After using my brain (for once) and following someone in a Rovers shirt, I found my way rather simply down a backstreet heading towards the main entrance & club shop. Before hand, I made sure of a programme by buying one off a vendor just outside the ground, who helpfully pointed out where to buy a ticket for the game. This was to be purchased within the shop, where I resisted picking up some merchandise, before parting with £15 and receiving a pass into the ‘Riverside’ stand. With 35 minutes to kick-off I made my way around to the turnstiles, and along the walkway at the front of the stand, which today was populated by a number of families enjoying both the sunshine and watching the Rovers team warming up at close quarters. After a while, I decided it best to go and find my seat. I was somewhat dismayed to find it tucked up near the top of the stand and well out of the brightness illuminating the lower parts of the stand. As kick-off approached, the sad news of West Ham’s Dylan Tombides’ passing filtered through which was just an awful thing to hear about.
Looking around Ewood Park shows the usual, mandatory all-seated stadium. The three other stands, the ‘Bryan Douglas Darwen End’, the ‘Ronnie Clayton Blackburn End’ and the ‘Jack Walker’ Main Stand are all quite newly developed, with the Riverside being the only undeveloped stand in the ground and is quite old fashioned, despite only being a few years older than the other, larger stands. Ewood Park has a capacity of 31,367. The small grouping of hardcore Yeovil fans were clustered in the Darwen End, and there were many vacant seats within the Blackburn fans as well.
The players were soon ready to enter the field from directly in front of me, as I had been given a seat pretty much on the half way line, so now seems a good time to enter the history books for the…..
Blackburn Rovers was founded in the Leger Hotel in the town in 1875, and the club played its first game in the same year at Church. In 1878, Rovers became founder members of the Lancashire Football Association, and entered the FA Cup for the first time in 1879. They became the first ‘provincial’ side to reach the FA Cup final, but were defeated by Old Etonians in 1882, but won it 2 years later beating Scottish side Queens Park. The played each other again the next season, with Rovers again emerging victorious, and made it a hat-trick with a win over West Brom. For achieving this feat, the club were awarded a special silver shield and were given the unique privilege of having their club crest on their corner flags. In 1888, Rovers became founders of the football league, and 2 years later won a fourth FA Cup at Kennington Oval (the Oval cricket ground). The following season saw a fifth win.
The early 20th century saw the club struggle for the most part, although they did start in decent fashion with two First Division titles lifted in 1911-’12 & ’13-’14, along with a sixth FA Cup win in 1928, but this was to be their last major trophy for 70 years. They were relegated for the first time in 1936, and after assuming their place in Division 1 after the war, they were soon back in Division 2 in 1948. They were promoted after a decade, and reached the 1960 FA Cup final, where they lost out to Wolves. This was the infamous Dave Whelan broken leg game! This was only brief success, as the club were again relegated in 1966.
Throughout the 1970’s, the club yo-yoed between the 2nd and 3rd Divisions, winning the latter in 1975, but only remained in Division 2 for a further 4 years before being relegated once again. A year later they were promoted again, and this time have never returned to the third tier. In 1987, the club won the Full Members Cup, and in 1989 they reached the 2nd Division play-off final but lost to Crystal Palace over 2 legs. 1990 saw further play-off disappointment, but also saw the club taken over by local businessman, Jack Walker.
After an influx of cash, Rovers were promoted to the new Premiership in 1992 as play-off winners, and followed up a ’94 runners-up place to be champions in 1995, and with it European Cup football, but by 2000, Rovers had been relegated from the top flight. Sadly, Jack Walker died in 2001, and the club honoured him by achieving promotion as runners-up. In 2002, Rovers won their first League Cup at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff with a 2-1 win over Spurs. After a number of mid-table finishes between this success and 2010, the controversial takeover of the club by Indian poultry company Venky’s created unrest in the stands, and the club began to struggle and in 2012 the club was relegated back to the Championship were they remain. Last season, Rovers finished in 8th place.
The game began with Rovers’ Jason Lowe striking the foot of the post just three minutes in, and I thought that we’d be in for a good game. How wrong I was. What followed was possibly one of the most uneventful games I’ve ever seen. In fact, there was hardly even another shot in the first half, as the sides went in goalless at the break.
The second half was no better. Rovers had all the play as Yeovil defended wonderfully well to frustrate their hosts, and restricted them to just a Jordan Rhodes header which went straight at Marek Stech, but could have won it late on when both Joel Grant and Joe Ralls spurned good late chances, and that was it. Full Time. 0-0. Dire. Boos rang out around Ewood, which I did consider rather harsh considering they were playing a team in their division, who had set out to defend and defend only, but there we go. They pay their money and are well entitled to boo if they feel they must. Power to the people!
A quick march back towards Blackburn station saw me bely the 30 minute Google Maps prediction and make it in 20 minutes, but in good time to head back into Manchester for the connection through to game 2 of the day, Stockport County vs. Altrincham.
My Blackburn Rovers M.o.M.- Craig Conway
My Yeovil Town M.o.M.- Luke Ayling
Game: 3- Dreadful.
Ground: 8- Really enjoyed the ground. One of my faves.
Programme: 8- Not too bad an effort, what you’d expect for the level.
Fans: 6- No real atmosphere generated, and unwarranted (in my opinion) boos at the end
Value For Money: 9- 2nd tier football for £15 isn’t too bad at all. Programme standard £3 too.
Referee: 7- Had an easy game, with no big decisions to make. No decisions actually because nothing happened.
BLACKBURN ROVERS: 1.Paul Robinson, 16.Michael Keane, 5.Grant Hanley(c), 4.Matt Kilgallon, 3.Tommy Spurr, 45.Tom Cairney, 6.Jason Lowe, 17.Lee Williamson, 32.Craig Conway, 39.Rudy Gestede, 11.Jordan Rhodes. SUBS: 13.Simon Eastwood (GK), 2.Todd Kane, 29.Corry Evans(p), 8.David Dunn(p), 15.Luke Varney, 7.Josh King(p), 22.Liam Feeney.
YEOVIL TOWN: 1.Marek Stech, 2.Luke Ayling, 4.Joe Edwards, 5.Byron Webster, 3.Jamie McAllister(c), 15.Shane Duffy, 8.Ruben Palazuelos, 11.Tom Lawrence, 19..Joe Ralls, 21.Liam Davis, 9.James Hayter. SUBS: 25.Chris Dunn(GK), 7.Kevin Dawson, 23.Joel Grant(p), 10.Sam Foley, 18.Matteo Lanzoni, 26.Seth Nana Twumasi.