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Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Much improvement needed if Blackburn want a quick return

Mark Langdon turns the spotlight on Rovers

Blackburn boss Tony Mowbray
1 of 1

Southend 2 Blackburn 1
Leonard 27   Mulgrew 53
Kightly 38

Any panic regarding a defeat on the opening day needs to come with an asterisk next to it. *It's only one game, it won't define the season.

Sheffield United collected one point from their first four matches in Sky Bet League One last season and still brought up a century, while Blackburn boss Tony Mowbray referenced Newcastle's successive losses to start last term before they won the Championship after this defeat at Roots Hall.

Losing to Southend is no disgrace either - they are a streetwise side who could easily be a top-six team this season and matchwinner Michael Kightly was a class apart - but Blackburn were well beaten even if the scoreline suggests it was a narrow contest.

Southend had more than double the shots (15-7) and won the shots-on-target count 7-2. Rovers did not create a worthwhile opportunity after Charlie Mulgrew's excellent free kick early in the second half offered them an undeserved route back into the match.

Blackburn had more possession but it was the poor kind of possession which serves no purpose, lacking in penetration and passing for the sake of passing. Their three substitutions made zero impact and only Mulgrew stood out.

Mowbray went with a 4-2-3-1 formation but despite a numerical advantage in midfield they were bossed by Southend's central pair of Ryan Leonard and Michael Timlin. Leonard continues to be linked with a move away and is exactly the sort of tempo-setter Blackburn could do with in their engine room.

Summer signing Peter Whittingham failed to dictate the play the way many anticipated after dropping down from the Championship, wide players Elliott Bennett and Dominic Samuel offered little threat and lone forward Danny Graham was often isolated.

Blackburn tried to play from the back but they were hustled by the hosts and the full-backs Ryan Nyambe and Derrick Williams spent most of the afternoon on the back foot.

Both were booked, which highlights how much pressure they were under, particularly from Kightly, although perhaps the biggest early-season headache for Mowbray will be Bradley Dack.

The former Gillingham man, a £750,000 signing, was substituted after 61 minutes having struggled to find space from his role as the number ten. He did not get beyond Graham and only once did he make a telling contribution which led to a shot from Bennett.

Dack missed a great headed chance from a corner when Rovers trailed 1-0 and the way the team is set up with Graham as the target-man striker should play to his strengths, but his poor showing summed up Blackburn's day.

It almost looked as if they were going through the motions and just expected their superior class (on paper) to pull them through. This was not the performance of a team who looked as if they will saunter to automatic promotion and justify the tag of title favourites.

Of course it's one game and you should never judge a season on one match. Blackburn will almost certainly improve, but they need to.

Southend 4-4-2: Oxley; Demetriou, White, Ferdinand, Hendrie; McGlashan (McLaughlin 89), Leonard, Timlin, Kightly; Cox (Robinson 76), Fortune.

Blackburn 4-2-3-1: Raya; Nyambe, Lenihan, Mulgrew, Williams; Smallwood (Evans 69), Whittingham; Samuel, Dack (Feeney 61), Bennett (Chapman 74); Graham.

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This was not the performance of a team who looked as if they will saunter to automatic promotion and justify their title favourites tag
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