Blackburn Rovers saw their ten-game unbeaten run at home come to an end on Saturday afternoon, as they were beaten 1-0 by promotion-chasing Fulham at Ewood Park.
In a game of few chances for either side, it was Fulham’s ever-reliable Aleksandar Mitrovic who would score the only goal of the game, firing into the bottom corner of Christian Walton’s goal from inside the Blackburn penalty area, midway through the second-half.
While that result, coupled with Leeds’ defeat at Nottingham Forest later in the day, means Fulham are only outside the automatic promotion places on goal difference, Blackburn are now 12th in the Championship standings, six points off the play-offs.
That is something that will give manager Tony Mowbray plenty to think about heading into the final 15 games of the season, and here, we’ve taken a look at three things we learnt about Blackburn from that defeat to the Cottagers.
They must back themselves more in games such as this
Writing in his programme notes ahead of this game, Mowbray had claimed that his side were confident of beating Fulham on Saturday, although on the pitch, it didn’t exactly look like it.
For much of the game, Rovers allowed Fulham to dominate possession and dictate play, and it was only after they had fallen behind that Mowbray’s men really looked to take the game to the opposition, leaving them with little over 20 minutes to make an impact.
Winning a game with that approach is always going to be difficult against a side challenging for promotion such as Fulham, and with four of their remaining eight home games this season coming against sides above them in the table, they are going to have to back themselves more in those encounters in order to pick up points in the race for the top-six, particularly given how important their home form has been to their play-off hopes.
Stewart Downing has a new best position
They say you only know how much you miss something when it’s gone, and with Stewart Downing’s influence, that did seem to look the case on Saturday.
Having been moved back into the wide role he has occupied for much of his career to accommodate the injury-enforced absence of Lewis Holtby, Downing appeared notably quieter than he has done in the central holding role he has been used in over recent weeks, and Blackburn did appear to miss his supply from deep on the field.
With Bradley Johnson, who came into that holding midfield role as part of that rotation, struggling to help Rovers control play as much as Downing has in past weeks, it would be no surprise to see that alteration reversed when Blackburn look for a quick response against Hull City at Ewood Park on Tuesday night.
Christian Walton is looking ever-more like a number
One significant positive note for Blackburn from this defeat, was the performance of goalkeeper Christian Walton.
The Brighton loanee endured a difficult start to his season-long loan with Rovers, making a number of costly errors, but recent weeks have started to see the 24-year-old look the part between the posts, and none more so than against Fulham this weekend.
Having found himself caught under the high ball a number of times earlier in the campaign, there were no such problems for Walton against Scott Parker’s side, with the ‘keeper claiming crosses both regularly and confidently, while also making a number of decent saves to keep his side in the game.
It was the sort of performance that will give Walton confidence he may yet be capable of getting first-team opportunities when he returns to the Amex in the summer, while underlining the pressure Blackburn will find themselves under to replace Walton when that time comes.