If Jonathan Woodgate had been under any illusions as to the challenges of management, he certainly won’t be now.
After just a single point from his first two league games, and a shock cup defeat to Crewe in midweek, the former player will have been desperate to pick up his first victory of the campaign at Ewood Park.
Instead, after seeing his Boro team largely dominated for the opening half, and then well restricted for much of the second, Woodgate now finds his side one place above the Championship relegation zone in the early standings, with a penalty from former striker Danny Graham sealing a 1-0 victory for Blackburn.
Both these sides were given a difficult time by League Two opposition in the Carabao Cup during the week, although Rovers came through that test, and it seemed as though that late victory against Oldham had given them greater confidence and momentum heading into this game.
Right from the off, it was the home side who looked to be on the front foot, with Ryan Shotton having to intervene early on to stop Danny Graham tapping in Stewart Downing’s early cross.
Having impressed during his first start on Tuesday night, Graham seemed to be relishing a return to league action, and he went close to opening the scoring midway through the half, as he narrowly failed to turn Bradley Dack’s volleyed cross-cum-shot past Darren Randolph at the back post.
Minutes later, the 34-year-old would make a decisive impact.
After Greg Cunningham had an effort from Downing’s corner cleared off the line by Daniel Ayala, Anfernee Dijksteel, making his first league appearance for Boro, grabbed a huge chunk of Graham’s shirt as he shaped to head home a cross from Elliott Bennett, and referee Jarred Gillett could only point to the spot.
Up stepped Graham, and the former Middlesbrough man smashed his penalty into the top right-hand corner to get his first goal of the campaign.
With Bradley Dack, also seeming brimming with confidence following his own rescue act from the bench against Oldham in midweek, fizzing around the pitch, Boro at times seemed to find it difficult to get out of the own half.
As a result, Woodgate’s side were restricted largely to efforts from distance in the first half.
Lewis Wing and Ashley Fletcher both put shots wide, whilst Jonny Howson’s was on target, but comfortably dealt with by Christian Walton in the Blackburn goal.
In Woodgate, Blackburn boss Tony Mowbray was facing a manager he once signed back in 2012, and he will have expected a response from his former player’s side in the second half.
That did eventually come, but not before Downing had threatened a stunning second for the home side with an impressive effort from the edge of the area early in the second period.
The anticipated Middlesbrough fightback did then come, but the visitors struggled to find a finishing touch to some dangerous crosses.
After Christian Walton flapped at one from Wing, the ball found its way to substitute Marcus Browne, who could somehow only put the ball against the post, while Ayala headed one narrowly wide from Browne’s own delivery, after a much more inviting one from Howson had been missed by everyone inside the Rovers area.
For their part, the hosts did threaten themselves. A tireless Sam Gallagher did brilliantly to find substitute John Buckley in the area, but the youngster could only volley his effort well over.
Buckley himself then went to close to turning provider for Rovers, his ball to the back post found fellow substitute Joe Rothwell, but his effort was well saved by Randolph, with Howson blocking from Adam Armstrong on the follow up.
So often last season Rovers were the victims of late goals, but Mowbray’s men seemed to show a new level of resilience, perhaps best emphasised by the hardworking Gallagher’s brief stint at right back in the final stages.
With the home side throwing themselves in the way of everything, the final whistle was greeted with the sense of relief around Ewood Park as Mowbray’s men got their first league win of the season, something that still eludes Woodgate.Like what the FLW have on offer? Sign up for more notifications!