Blackburn Rovers brought their six-game winless run to an end in emphatic style on Saturday afternoon, with a 5-0 demolition of Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.
After Lewis Holtby gave Blackburn an early lead, Rovers were then given a helping hand midway through the first half, when Wednesday’s Massimo Luongo was sent off for an apparent stamp on Blackburn midfielder Lewis Travis.
That was a situation Rovers were able to take full advantage of, as a Cameron Dawson own goal – with the ball bouncing off the post from a Travis shot, onto the Owls’ goalkeeper’s back and then into the net – and a second from Holtby, put Blackburn 3-0 up after the break.
Darragh Lenihan volleyed home Stewart Downing’s cross just after the break to make it four, before Sam Gallagher completed the rout by with Rovers’ fifth in second-half stoppage time.
That result has seen Blackburn climb to 11th in the Championship standings, five points adrift of the play-offs, and should leave them brimming with confidence heading into the rest of the season.
Here, we take a look at three things we learned about Blackburn from that thrashing of the Owls.
Lewis Holtby steps up
Following the loss of Bradley Dack, there had been a feeling that the attacking instinct and central role of Lewis Holtby meant he could be the man to fill the void of Rovers’ talismanic top scorer.
Heading to Hillsborough however, that expectation had yet to materialise into reality, with Holtby struggling to make much of an impact in recent games, even failing to register a single touch in the Preston box during last weekend’s draw at Ewood Park.
All that would change on Saturday however, with Holtby getting on the scoresheet not once but twice, with both of his goals coming from inside the penalty – where Dack has always been at his most clinical in Rovers colours – suggesting Holtby may yet possess that predatory instinct to take on that role that Blackburn desperately needed to fill if they were going to have any hope of a play-off push this season.
A big moment for Sam Gallagher?
So far this season, it has been a hugely difficult time for Blackburn’s big money attacking signing from the summer Sam Gallagher, who has struggled to regularly find the net or settle in one position within the starting lineup.
Against the Owls, Gallagher would once again work tirelessly for his side’s cause, helping to cause plenty of problems for the beleaguered opposition defence, while his late goal to make it five will have come as a big relief to all of a Blackburn persuasion.
Despite the fact they were 4-0 up against ten men in second-half stoppage time, the expectation on Gallagher as one of his side’s highest-profile attackers to get in the act in such a situation means the pressure will still have been on the striker as he went through one on one with Cameron Dawson.
That however, didn’t show, with Gallagher firing brilliantly into the top corner to get his goal, which, combined with his all-round performance, should give him plenty of belief he can still make a significant contribution going forward, and plenty around the club will be hoping this does indeed prove to be a welcome turning point for the much-scrutinised attacker.
A much-needed show of ruthlessness
In recent weeks, there has certainly been a sense that Blackburn have missed plenty of opportunities to pick up wins they would have been expected to take.
Home games against Wigan and Birmingham, as well as a trip to Huddersfield over the Christmas period, saw Blackburn pick up just two points from three games against out of form sides, while they also conspired to lose an FA Cup clash at Birmingham despite their hosts going down to ten men with the score at 1-1 and half an hour to go.
This time however, when Wednesday went down to ten men with Rovers’ already a goal to the good, Tony Mowbray’s side did not blink, instead running riot by adding four more goals to their tally, while never really looking threatened in their own defence.
That is something that should serve as a reminder to this squad if no one else, that they are capable of coping with the expectation that may be put on them ahead of games as well as in them, which could be crucial to their push for a top-six spot this season.