If ever there was a game to sum up the unpredictability of the race for the Championship play-offs this season, this could well be it.
After a lacklustre start that saw both sides largely fail to trouble either goalkeeper, this clash between Blackburn and Swansea would soon develop into a thrilling, dramatic end to end encounter, featuring four goals, an increasing number of missed chances in a frantic second half- including one from the penalty spot from a player up against his former club – before a last-minute equaliser ultimately meant both these sides were forced to settle for a point that keeps both sides well in the fight for a play-off place.
Speaking ahead of the match, Blackburn manager Tony Mowbray had said that the play-off ambitions of these two sides meant that he expected a more open game than was seen in his side’s goalless draw with struggling Stoke in midweek.
Despite that, it would be a slow opening to the game, with Andre Ayew and Joe Rothwell firing the only efforts of note in the first 25 minutes off-target from the edge of either.
But then, out of very little, Blackburn would grab the opening goal of the encounter, thanks in no small part to a player who is rapidly emerging as one of the club’s brightest talents.
Picking up the ball in the central defensive position he had been moved into to cover for the absence of the suspended Darragh Lenihan, Ryan Nyambe drifted out to his more natural position on the right, before embarking on an enterprising run down the touchline and firing in a pinpoint cross for Sam Gallagher – restored to a more familiar central position this after his recent struggles on the right-wing – to tap Rovers into the lead with his first home goal of the season.
As Mowbray had predicted, both sides would continue to show plenty of attacking intent as the half wore on, although chances would remain few and far between, Ayew heading over from a free-kick and Rothwell again fired over from distance.
But as the half drew to a close, Swansea managed to snatch an equaliser, as Conor Gallagher found Rhian Brewster on the edge of the Blackburn area, and the Liverpool loanee would waste no time in emphatically thumping a first time effort into the bottom corner of Christian Walton’s goal to pull the scores level at the break.
Having ended the first half well, Swansea would start the second in equally positive style.
As Rovers struggled to clear their lines early in the half, a tangle of legs just inside the home side’s penalty area saw Tosin Adarabioyo bring down Jordan Garrick, with referee Peter Bankes immediately pointing to the spot.
Up stepped Andre Ayew, who confidently sent Walton the wrong way to notch his 14th goal of the season, and complete the turnaround for the visitors within three minutes of the restart.
Mowbray responded to that setback by sending for the cavalry, throwing both Danny Graham and Ben Brereton into the game to add yet more attacking threat to his side, but it was Swansea who continued to look the more likely to score, and they very nearly did when a Garrick ball across the face of goal narrowly evaded Ayew in the six-yard box as the clock passed the hour mark.
But with Swansea seemingly in the ascendency, Blackburn were suddenly handed a big chance of their from which to equalise, as Joe Rodon brought down Brereton with the Rovers substitute breaking into the area, and referee Bankes pointed to the spot for the second time.
It was an opportunity that Rovers couldn’t take, as Freddie Woodman dived to his left to produce his second penalty save in as many days to deny Graham against his former club, before the veteran striker rattled the post from close range from Armstrong’s header across goal barely 60 seconds later.
Up the other end, Swansea continued to look dangerous with Gallagher twice going close, first dragging an effort just wide from a tight angle after playing two impressive one-twos to break into the area, before firing over on the half volley from distance after Rovers could only half-clear a freekick.
As the game wore on however, it was Blackburn who would apply much of the pressure, with Graham seeing a goalbound header deflect over, with the same Rovers man then firing narrowly wide from the resultant corner.
Fellow substitute Bradley Johnson would then see an effort flash over from distance as the match entered seven minutes of stoppage time with Swansea still hanging on.
When Sam Gallagher headed an effort straight at Woodman two minutes into that additional period, it seemed as though the chance of an equaliser had come and gone for Rovers.
This however is the Championship, were nothing is over until it’s over, and when Swansea failed to fully clear another free-kick which would find it’s way to Johnson, the midfielder would not be denied again, as he fired home via a deflection to snatch Blackburn what could yet prove to be a precious point in the play-off race, and deny Swansea what would have undoubtedly been a huge win in this remarkable battle for those top-six spots.