Having spoken about his side’s struggles in front of goal so far this season in the lead up to this visit to Ewood Park from Millwall, Blackburn Rovers manager Tony Mowbray will surely feel that progress is being made in that area, even if his apparently promising side are still a work in progress.
While goals from Derrick Williams and Bradley Dack in either half gave Rovers a seemingly comfortable win, Mowbray may feel that this scoreline could have had an even more convincing feeling to it.
Even so, his opposite number Neil Harris may believe that his own side should have done more with the pressure they put their hosts under for long periods of this game, without really ever looking like making the breakthrough, as they struggled to get themselves into positions from which they could really threaten the Blackburn goal.
It was a game that saw the momentum swing one way then the other, with the key difference seemingly being Rovers’ ability to get their shots away enough to force a breakthrough.
Yet for all the talk there had been about strengthening in attack in the build-up to this one, it was defence that Blackburn were forced to think about first in this one.
After Ryan Leonard bounced an early shot comfortably into the hands of Christian Walton, the Blackburn goalkeeper very nearly had a moment to forget inside the first 60 seconds, flapping at a cross while unchallenged, with captain Elliott Bennett doing well to get back and deny former Rover Connor Mahoney a tap in.
Following that early scare, Rovers did seem to rally, but for all their possession, they had just a speculative Adam Armstrong shot to show for their efforts, and it would take something special to make the breakthrough.
That would come just in the most spectacular, and unexpected of circumstances just short of the 20-minute mark, as centre back Derrick Williams – who hadn’t scored since August 2017 prior to his winner at Hull last month – received the ball on the edge of the Millwall area, and unleashed a left-foot rocket that nestled into the far corner of the helpless Bartosz Bialkowski’s net.
It was the visitors however, who seemed to respond best to that opener, with Jed Wallace, Connor Mahoney, Mahlon Romeo and Ryan Leonard all unsuccessfully trying their luck from distance, while Jake Cooper headed straight at Walton from a corner.
But having ridden out that pressure, Blackburn would go close to doubling their lead late in the first half, as Bradley Dack broke into the Millwall half, with his ball into the visitor’s area finding Bennett via a deflection, only for the right-back to drag his shot wide, before Downing hit a low shot past Bialkowski’s right-hand post after some nice interplay in the visitors half as Rovers ended the half the brighter.
Just as they had done in the first half, it was Millwall who enjoyed the early chance in the second, as Murray Wallace’s cross was almost sliced into his own net by Darragh Lenihan, before Ben Thompson became the latest Millwall man to fire off target from outside the area.
Blackburn reacted well to that threat however, with Bradley Dack producing another impressive through ball to play Sam Gallagher into the area, but neither the substitute nor the advancing Dack were able to get a shot away.
Minutes later, Downing did see an effort – fired from 25 yards through a bunch of legs in the penalty area- beaten away by Bialkowski, with the Millwall ‘keeper palming it away from the feet of Armstrong minutes later, as the ball narrowly evaded that man Dack on its way to safety.
Millwall did have chances to level, but with Thompson and Leonard putting efforts off target, with Blackburn defending doggedly to prevent the visitors getting more shots away.
That defensive determination would be rewarded for Rovers, as Dack showed the predatory instinct that has served him so well during his time at Ewood Park, arriving at the back post to tap home a Lenihan ball across the face of goal after intricate build-up play from a free kick on the opposite side of the Millwall half.
Although Millwall would once again apply the pressure in search of a route back into the game, it was Blackburn who would go closer to adding to their tally, as Stewart Downing showed that at 35-years-old, he has still has a swift turn of foot, breaking into the Millwall half, before laying the ball off to Rothwell, who saw his shot well saved by Bialkowski.
With Dack and Armstrong both trying their luck again late on, it was Blackburn ended the game the brighter, as they secured the three points to see them leapfrog their visitors and climb into the top-half of the league table, leaving Harris himself with much to ponder.