Throughout the second half of the 2018/19 season, millwallfc.co.uk will be analysing The Lions' opponents by taking a look back at their campaign so far. As they return to Sky Bet Championship action against Blackburn Rovers at The Den on Saturday evening, here is a review of their results this season…
The summer months for Tony Mowbray and his Blackburn Rovers side were based around adapting to the step back up to Championship level, after an incredibly strong promotion campaign in League One, finishing in second just behind Wigan Athletic. The preparation period saw Mowbray secure new contracts for key players Bradley Dack, Danny Graham and Richie Smallwood whilst recruiting a handful of reinforcements. These included Jack Rodwell, Ben Brereton and former loan player Adam Armstrong. Results-wise, Rovers went through a mixed bag throughout pre-season, with wins over Everton, Lincoln City and Hibernian, defeats to Liverpool and Accrington Stanley, and a draw at Port Vale.
With players still arriving and departing Ewood Park, Blackburn’s highly anticipated return to the second tier got underway with two draws, firstly away at Ipswich Town (2-2) before a home stalemate against Neil Harris’ Millwall side. A game of two halves ensued in The Lions’ first away fixture of the campaign, with a dominant first half followed by Blackburn on the front foot after the interval, with the game ending goalless. Victories by a solitary goal away at Hull City and back on home soil against Brentford came either side of a 2-2 comeback draw at home to Reading. Rovers also navigated through two Carabao Cup ties, thumping Carlisle United 5-1 and Lincoln 4-1 to bring an unbeaten August to a close.
After taking an early lead at Bristol City, Rovers suffered their first defeat of the League season in considerable fashion as Lee Johnson’s side ran out 4-1 winners at Ashton Gate, plunging Rovers from the Play-Off places into the bottom half. Two draws following the international break arrived next, against promotion hopefuls Aston Villa and Derby County – the former securing a last-gasp equaliser to deny Rovers two points. A trip to Stoke City followed, with Mowbray’s men racing into a 3-0 lead at the bet365, eventually holding onto a 3-2 advantage for an impressive win. After heartache in the Third Round of the Carabao Cup – Bournemouth netting a last-minute penalty to advance with a 3-2 victory – Blackburn picked up another point against Nottingham Forest in their final game of the month.
With the mid-table area of the League wide open, Blackburn knew that a good run of form could lift the side back into Play-Off contention. Unfortunately, October started on a poor note, beaten by Sheffield United at Ewood Park in a midweek clash. Consecutive victories did however arrive, with a 1-0 win at neighbours Bolton Wanderers followed by a 2-1 success over Leeds United to rise to seventh. After defeat to Swansea City and a share of the spoils in an albeit solid result at free-scoring West Bromwich Albion, form amongst teams around them saw Blackburn drop back to 12th going into November.
November turned out to be another mixed month for Rovers as they struggled to maintain consistency. A victory over QPR lifted the team to eighth, before a frustrating draw at home to Rotherham United. Two defeats then followed, conceding seven goals across two short away trips – a 4-1 defeat to Preston succeeded by a 3-1 loss at Wigan. Blackburn dropped back into the bottom half to round off November, but Mowbray was boosted by the signatures of Elliott Bennett and captain Charlie Mulgrew to new long-term deals. The manager himself also put pen-to-paper on a fresh contract.
December rose the season in intensity as the Christmas period approached for clubs around the country. For Blackburn, the month was about staying in touch with the sides above them by picking up a reasonable number of points, albeit with trips to Middlesbrough, Leeds and Sheffield United. Danny Graham’s hat-trick in a 4-2 triumph over Sheffield Wednesday started the festive month on a positive note, but this was to be Rovers’ solitary three points during December. A respectable 1-1 draw at Boro’ was followed by another share of the spoils, 2-2 back in Lancashire against Birmingham. After a narrow home defeat to Norwich, defeats to Leeds and The Blades followed, as Blackburn slipped to 15th going into the New Year. A victory over West Brom by two goals to one started 2019 on the right track, coupled with a 1-1 draw against Premier League Newcastle United at St. James’ Park in the Emirates FA Cup Third Round, forcing a palatable replay. Rovers still sit just nine points outside the top six, and six points ahead of The Lions. As the winter window opened for transfer activity, on-loan forward Kasey Palmer was recalled by Chelsea and moved onto Bristol City, whilst striker Graham signed new terms at Ewood Park.