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REPORT | Blackburn Rovers 4-1 Wrexham AFC

Red Dragons bow out of FA Cup despite Cannon’s opener at Ewood Park

29 January 2024

Match Reports

REPORT | Blackburn Rovers 4-1 Wrexham AFC

Red Dragons bow out of FA Cup despite Cannon’s opener at Ewood Park

29 January 2024

Andy Cannon’s thumping goal had Wrexham fans dreaming of another famous FA Cup outing but an accomplished Blackburn Rovers snuffed out hopes of an upset with an accomplished comeback at Ewood Park.

Cannon’s thunderous finish broke the deadlock to the delight of the 7,338 travelling Wrexham supporters, but Blackburn showed their EFL Championship quality to turn the game around.

Sammie Szmodics levelled, Sam Gallagher put Rovers in front and Szmodics’ second just before half-time put the hosts in firm control.

Sondre Tronstad’s deflected strike just before the hour-mark then extinguished any hopes Wrexham had of a second-half comeback

Wrexham manager Phil Parkinson watched the match from the Ewood Park stands as he served a one-game touchline ban for accumulating too many yellow cards.

With Will Boyle also suspended after the loss at Newport County nine days earlier, Eoghan O’Connell returned in defence and fit-again Cannon replaced James Jones in midfield.

If the Red Dragons were under any illusion as to the size of the task in front of them prior to kick-off, Blackburn’s blistering start soon laid it bare.

In the third minute, a brilliant passing move carved open the Wrexham defence but, from Gallagher’s pass, Szmodics dragged his shot wide at the near post.

Moments later, Ben Tozer had to be alert to hook the ball clear off the line as Arthur Okonkwo was beaten to a through ball on the left of the area.

O’Connell was the next to block well, this time from Gallagher on nine minutes – closing down his shot from eight yards out to make amends for giving the ball away to start the move.

Wrexham remained patient though, and after a spell of possession earned their first sight of goal on 17 minutes when Cannon snatched possession deep in Rovers’ half and won a free-kick 30 yards out. Paul Mullin thumped his shot through the wall but Aynsley Pears saved and held.

Two minutes later, the Red Dragons were in front.  Elliot Lee snatched possession this time and, with with Mullin occupying his man, Sam Dalby took over to feed Cannon on the right. Cannon took a touch to get the ball out of his feet and rifled a fierce shot beyond Pears to spark delirium in the away end.

Sam Gallagher shot over on 22 minutes as Rovers looked to respond, but the hosts were grateful to Pears for keeping the score at one just moments later.

First Pears saved from Cannon’s low effort and, after James McClean hooked the rebound goalwards, the keeper stuck out a hand to turn his shot over.

Blackburn stifled Wrexham with a long spell of possession, however, and were rewarded on 32 minutes when Gallagher’s reverse pass picked out Szmodics, and his shot deflected in off Cleworth.

Two minutes later, Rovers had turned the game on its head – Gallagher received a quick throw-in, played the ball inside Tozer and chased his own pass to coolly slot beyond the onrushing Okonkwo.

Szmodics then got his second and Blackburn’s third in the first minute of stoppage time – beating the offside trap to run onto a long ball and finish across goal into the bottom corner.

Mullin had a chance to reduce the deficit with the final kick of the half, when McClean was brought down 25 yards out, but the striker’s free-kick was well over this time.

Wrexham were caught at the back just two minutes after the restart, but recovered their shape well to restrict Arnor Sigurdsson to a curling shot from the edge of the area which flew over.

Blackburn got their fourth on 59 minutes, taking full advantage when Max Cleworth slipped on the touchline. Szmodics took over and fed Gallagher and, though George Evans did brilliantly to block his shot, it fell kindly for Tronstad – whose shot looped over Okonkwo off Elliot Lee.

Lee nearly scored in spectacular style at the other end on 68 minutes – pouncing on a loose ball in his own half with Pears well off his line but, though his 60-yard shot had the distance, it drifted just wide.

Wrexham turned to fresh legs in the form of Jordan Tunnicliffe, Jacob Mendy and James Jones – replacing O’Connell, Ryan Barnett and Cannon on 69 minutes.

And Jones found space to shoot on his left foot from outside the area in the 72nd minute, but Pears saved low to his left; in truth, Jones may have had better options to pass.

At the other end, Szmodics received a low pull-back to shoot, but Cleworth blocked well on 76 minutes. Blackburn’s top scorer was desperate for a hat-trick and shot wide across goal moments later after a good passing move.

Ollie Palmer and Jake Bickerstaff replaced Mullin and Dalby for the final 12 minutes plus stoppage time.

The pair immediately combined to win a free-kick on the left wing, but it came to nothing for Wrexham.

And ultimately, Blackburn saw the game out to ensure it is they that will face Newcastle United in the fifth round. For Wrexham, the focus is now squarely on the league - starting with Saturday's trip to Salford City.

Line-ups

Blackburn Rovers: Pears, Rankin-Costello (Atcheson 83), Hyam, S.Wharton, Sigurdsson (Markanday 89), Tronstad, Garrett (Ayari 65), Moran, Dolan (Chrisene 65), Szmodics, Gallagher (Telalovic 65)

Subs: Wahlstedt (GK), Ennis, Gamble, A.Wharton

Wrexham: Okonkwo, Cleworth, Tozer, O’Connell (Tunnicliffe 69), Barnett (Mendy 69), Cannon (Jones 69), Evans, Lee, McClean, Mullin (Palmer 78), Dalby (Bickerstaff 78)

Subs: McNicholas, McFadzean, Hayden, J.Davies

Referee: Andrew Madley

Attendance: 18,169 (7,338 away)

Bookings

Blackburn: Garrett (51, foul)

Wrexham: none


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