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Match Previews

PREVIEW |Blackburn Rovers vs Wrexham

Fancy some real Monday Night Football ?

29 January 2024

Match Previews

PREVIEW |Blackburn Rovers vs Wrexham

Fancy some real Monday Night Football ?

29 January 2024

Defeat to Newport County in our last match was a huge disappointment, but an away tie against storied opposition offers the opportunity to swiftly make amends. Rovers aren't having the best of times, but Ewood Park remains a formidable place to visit.

THE WREXHAM ANGLE

While Phil Parkinson wouldn't use them as an excuse, the injuries which forced him to make major changes to his side at Newport were a major factor in a disappointing performance. Tom O'Connor's foot injury will see him miss a few more games, and there has been no update on Anthony Forde's back problem. Steven Fletcher failed a fitness test at Newport, and will hopefully benefitted from 8 days of recuperation, while Andy Cannon's head injury ought to have cleared.

With Aaron Hayden and Jordan Tunnicliffe both playing for the reserves in midweek and Jacob Mendy back from AFCON, there will be plenty of competition for places. 

Phil Parkinson has a long and admirable record in the competition, and appreciates its importance in Wrexham's history, telling The Leader, "You just have to talk to Wrexham supporters; if you talk about important games in the club's history, the FA Cup comes up.

"When the game got moved to Monday, you think that's going to knock our support because it is a lot harder on a Monday night with work commitments and kids in school the next day. But it is an outstanding achievement from our supporters to sell that many tickets.

"Tuesday nights away up and down the county, we have sold out time and time again and this is a night for our supporters to go and really enjoy. The league is our priority, everybody is in the same position, but let's focus on Monday and enjoy everything which Wrexham Football Club is about,

"We have had some really tough games but got to this stage and what a great opportunity for us to go to Ewood Park with 7,000 fans behind us. What a great occasion that will be for our players and our supporters to be part of that.

We've worked very hard to get to this stage. In my time here, we have always understood the tradition of the club in the FA Cup and played with a clear understanding of what we are representing.

-Phil Parkinson

"It is a game to really look forward to and like we have done in the cup before, it is about going there and giving a good account of ourselves. The supporters who came across to Bramall Lane last year, that was an incredible night.

"We'd come so close in the home game and then going to Bramall Lane, everyone thought our chance had gone. Of course, we ended up going out but the manner of the way the lads played on that night and the support we had was an occasion to remember.

"The way the lads handled the stage, when the pressure games came at the end of the season they took it in their stride and implemented the game-plan we'd set out on the training ground really well in those key league games, Notts County and Boreham Wood in particular."

LAST MEETING

THE OPPOSING VIEW

Blackburn manager has been talking enthusiastically about the value of cup runs in the lead-up to this match, but his priority must be to steer clear of the Championship relegation scrap.

Only QPR and Sheffield Wednesday, both in the bottom four, have lost more games than Rovers, who have the worst defensive record in the division, having conceded 53 goals in 28 games, one more than bottom side Rotherham United. At home, the 24 goals they have conceded is matched only by Preston North End.

The last 8 games have yielded one win, against Cambridge United in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup, and 5 defeats, their most recent match seeing them lose the lead in a home draw with Huddersfield Town.

Tomassen anticipates a bust conclusion to the transfer window as he looks to bolster his squad, especially after defenders Hayden Carter and Harry Pickering were confirmed to have picked up hamstring injuries which will put each of them out for an extended period. Both players have made over 100 appearances for Rovers, and will be missed.

"They're two players who've played a lot, and done well for Blackburn Rovers," Tomasson told BBC Radio Lancashire.

"Hayden doesn't need surgery but 11 weeks before he will be fit, it could be the end of the season but of course he needs to be back fit. Over the last one and a half years he's developed a lot and played a lot."

This is a game we’re really looking forward to against a side who are bringing 7,000 fans, so all the credit to them. I think it’s amazing on a Monday night and I’m sure that our fans will come out and help the team, just as they showed against Huddersfield in our last game.

-Jon Dahl Tomassen, Rovers manager

Tomassen has already made 3 additions to his squad this month, and is hoping for more. Crewe's Connor O'Riordan has signed permanently,with Yasin Ayari and Ben Chrisene arriving on loan, while James Hill and Lewis Travis have left. Tomassen is believed to be looking for a striker and a centre back.

"I think the club have said we need experienced players and I totally agree," he told the Lancashire Telegraph.

"I can't imagine that it won't be solved. We know what the club should have done in the summer, this is a new opportunity. The project did change, it has been a difficult financial situation and we have to respect that.

"For me, I think there should be three more in, for sure. If you look at the summer and what the club lost, I think that's quite normal. Hopefully, that's possible.

"We all know that we need, that hasn't changed from the summer what we need. The club didn't manage it in the summer, we lost proven goal-scorers and experience. We lost a number of players who are used to playing games at this level.

"The project has changed totally. Now, there are still days left so we should give the club the chance to bring players in.

"We need players with experience and goal-scorers. It hasn't changed. "It will be exciting, I am looking forward to this week. I am excited to see what the club can bring in."

Striker Niall Ennis was signed in the Summer but is expected to join Bolton Wanderers on loan once a replacement is found.

"There are rumours, some clubs are interested in Niall. It could be an opportunity that he could go away but nothing is clear about it yet.

"I can't imagine the club would weaken the squad, especially when we don't have many numbers that are proven compared to other teams."

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Liverpool centre back Nat Phillips, who accrued a lot of Premier League experience during an Anfield injury crisis a couple of seasons ago, has been suggested as a potential loan target after his temporary move to Celtic didn't work out, although Leeds Uniteed and Cardiff City are also rumoured to be interested.

Tomassen will have to fight to avoid losing a key player in the coming days though: England Under-20 international Adam Wharton was subject to an £18.5 million offer from Crystal Palace last week, but Rovers turned it down.

Tomassen is confident that, even if further offers come in, Wharton won't be distracted: "He has a great attitude, he comes from a great family. He is a Rovers man after all.

"He has come through the youth and done a lot of great things for the club, he is still doing that....I wouldn't sell him now, I'd sell in the summer. There will be a lot of clubs wanting to buy him in the summer. If he plays more games, adds more goals, and assists, the price could be even higher. 

"I think one day he will go away. I think the Rovers family should be proud of him and enjoy the different stages. I think Adam understands, it's part of football.

"At the end of the day, I think a lot of clubs will be coming, even in the summer. I think lots of clubs will be knocking on the door."

HEAD TO HEAD

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Our first clash with Blackburn Rovers would turn into an historic occasion, as it resulted n our first giant-killing against a top division team. The victory came in the last 16 of the League Cup in December 1960. We emerged from Ewood Park with an admirable draw, characterised by the rock solid defensive partnership between Aly McGowan and George Evans (no relation!). Goalkeeper Charlie Hughes, who was otherwise excellent in goal, made an error to gift Rovers the lead in the final minute of the first half, but Wrexham came out strongly in the second period, and Micky Metcalf earned a replay with a fine goal after good work by Arfon Griffiths.

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The replay, on an icy Racecourse pitch, saw Rovers field four internationals in an attempt to make amends for the first match, and they started strongly. However, Wrexham's solid defence held firm again, and before long the home side were on top, playing a tidy style of passing football. We took the lead after the break, when Metcalf latching onto a Harvey McCreadie backheel, but a Derek Dougan strike took the game into extra time. Metcalf would not be denied, though, and took advantage of a goalkeeping error to put Wrexham back in front in the 109th minute, before completing the scoring and his hat trick 2 minutes later.

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This has been a season of renewing acquaintances with old friends, but this fixture takes that to extremes. The last time we faced Blackburn Rovers was in March 1982.

We were fighting a doomed battle against relegation that season, which would end with relegation after our first four years (and at the moment only four years) in the second tier.

However, we claimed a notable scalp at the Racecourse as on-loan wide player Dennis Leman, who had an impressive spell with us after moving from Sheffield Wednesday, scored the only goal.

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We’d drawn 0-0 at Ewood Park earlier that season, as we endured a prolonged dry spell in front of goal. At the final whistle we'd gone 8 hours and 38 minutes without scoring, although we'd thought we'd ended the drought when Dixie McNeil hit the net, only to find Frank Carrodus had been flagged offside.8 We'd finally score 37 minutes into our next match, at Cardiff City, although appropriately it was a Bluebird defender who finally scored for us! We lost that lead anyway, losing 3-2.

and the campaign before we’d also claimed a point at Blackburn thanks to a late goal by Dixie McNeil which secured a 1-1 draw.

Indeed, we’ve a terrific record at Ewood Park to defend on Monday. We’ve played 8 games there and have only lost once, back in August 1971. It was our first league match against the Lancastrian giants, and we were trailing 2-0 at the break. Gareth Davies pulled one back two minutes after the resumption, but there were no more goals.

Our one win at Blackburn came in May 1974. We started quickly, with Arfon Griffiths striking after just two minutes, but five minutes after the break Rovers equalised. Wrexham kept going, though, and Billy Ashcroft scored the winner with 19 minutes left.

With seven thousand Wrexham fans travelling north, we might challenge the largest crowd for this fixture, 21,1290, set in 1975 when we fought out a late season draw

#DATAANORAK

Blackburn have the worst record in The Championship when defending set pieces, having conceded 12 goals, so they probably wouldn't want to come up against a side of set piece specialists... Wrexham have scored more set piece goals than any other team in League Two, and have also had a division-leading 142 shots from dead ball situations. 

POTENTIAL MILESTONES

Ben Tozer's 600th career match.

Andy Cannon's 275th career appearance.


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