This article is part of Football League World’s ‘Rewind’ series, this content strand is where we rewind back to a particular moment at a club, assess the initial reaction from the fans, and then proceed to evaluate and reflect on whether fans were right to react in that way…
The first half of the current Championship campaign concluded with a Lancashire derby the night before Christmas Eve 2019, when Blackburn Rovers hosted Wigan Athletic in front of the TV cameras on a chilly Monday evening at Ewood Park.
Going into this game, both teams found themselves in very different positions in the Championship table, and consequentially, with rather different ambitions.
Blackburn started the game tenth in the Championship table, unbeaten in their last six games – with five wins in that time – and well aware of the fact that victory over their local rivals could have lifted them into the play-off places.
Wigan, by contrast, were in plenty of trouble at the wrong end of the table, with results over the weekend dropping them to the foot of the table ahead of this one.
With the Latics also winless in ten and without an away all season, it was no surprise to see Rovers installed as firm favourites to take all three points at Ewood Park.
In football, however, the form book often goes out the window in derbies, and at times it would look as though that would be the case again here.
Former Wigan loanee Christian Walton was kept busy in the Blackburn goal by the likes of Josh Windass and Michael Jacobs in the opening exchanges, as the visitors enjoyed the majority of the early chances without managing to make the breakthrough.
At the other end, Rovers would eventually go close to snatching an opener of their own, with Darragh Lenihan producing an excellent save from Latics stopper Jamie Jones when he headed goalwards from Stewart Downing’s corner, before the Irishman had to be alert in his defensive duties to clear Gavin Massey’s deflected cross off the line.
After the break, both sides continued to show intent, although it was a moment out on the touchline, rather than in front of goal, around an hour into the game that would ultimately dominate the headlines from this match.
Going into a challenge with Wigan captain Sam Morsy out on the far side, Blackburn talisman Bradley Dack would be left writhing in agony on the far side of the pitch, eventually being stretchered off with his right leg in a brace following several minutes of treatment on the field.
After that, both teams would go close to finding a winner, with both Walton and Jones producing decent saves, while Rovers substitute Danny Graham rattled a header off the crossbar from inside the area.
In the end though both sides were forced to settle for a point that left Blackburn still looking up at the top six, and Wigan still trapped in the relegation heading into Christmas.
Giving their reaction after the game, plenty of Blackburn fans were left concerned by both the injury to Dack, and their failure to pick up all three points in a game in which they were expected to do, two fears which do seem to have been realised at least to some extent since then.
— Blackburn Rovers (@Rovers) December 23, 2019
Such a poor result
— martin williams (@parmanova) December 23, 2019
That was abysmal
— Daniel white (@danielwhite813) December 23, 2019
Downing at LB, not effective enough. We looked shaky at the back. Hope Dack is ok and it’s not serious, gonna need him.
— Matt Southgate (@MattSouthgate1) December 23, 2019
Poor night all round
— Adam lodge (@lodgie34) December 23, 2019
Very lacklustre performance! Probably due a game like that after the last 6 but another instance of dropped points against teams at the bottom. If we’re in this position come January ill be happy though. Pray @BradDacks40 isn’t injured too badly
— Kyle Smith (@KyleJoseph1987) December 23, 2019
Kind of looked like the lads took Wigan as a light tough on their lowly position. Not enough aggression or urgency and a draw is the best we could have got from the game.
— Ben Bignell (@BenBignell12) December 23, 2019
That wasn’t good enough tonight lads didn’t look as if we had rested since last Saturday, looked leggy, too many poor touches and passes. Love Graham but when he plays it forces us to look long too much, big worry over Dack 🙏🏻
— Adam Tauszky (@Leap_year_man) December 23, 2019
Poor performance, passing was abysmal, we were lucky to come away with a draw which was thanks to Walton in the end. Hope @BradDacks40 isn't too badly injured. 🤞🤞
— Ian Thompson (@The_one_tommo) December 24, 2019
What a shock, yet again bottle it when we get near the play-offs. That was an atrocious performance.
— Kane Talbot (@KaneEnabled) December 23, 2019
In the aftermath of that game, it was revealed that Dack had suffered an injury to his anterior cruciate ligament, which it has been suggested could keep him out for between nine and 12 months.
Not surprisingly, the absence of their talisman has been acutely felt, something which will not have been helped by extended injury problems to fellow attacking midfielder Joe Rothwell and Lewis Holtby, with the latter also yet to return to action.
Ironically, that has perhaps been emphasised most in games similar to this one, with Rovers continuing to struggle to take points off teams at the wrong end of the table, who are happier to sit back and let Rovers break them down; a task made difficult by the lack of a creative spark offered by the likes of Dack.
Since that stalemate with Wigan, Blackburn have won only two of the five games they have played against the division’s current bottom eight, something which has contributed to them missing out on several opportunities to break into the top-six spots in the division.
Ironically, that has played a part in Rovers now finding themselves in the exact same position they were in the lead-up to this clash with the Latics – tenth in the table, three points off the top-six – meaning they may well need to break their recent mould somewhat if they are to earn themselves a place in the play-offs, and with it a shot at promotion to the Premier League, between now and the end of the season.