Blackburn Rovers 1-1 Sheffield Wednesday: Rothwell snatches a point for Rovers
Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images

Joe Rothwell's solo effort rescued a point for Blackburn Rovers as they drew 1-1 with Sheffield Wednesday at Ewood Park on Boxing Day.

Rovers controlled the majority of the possession throughout the fixture, however, they fell behind thanks to Adam Reach's distanced effort before the break.

The Owls defended well for the most part, but they failed to deal with Rothwell's moment of brilliance, allowing him to stroke past Keiren Westwood with 15 minutes left to play. 

Story of the match

Adam Armstrong had the game’s opening chance just a mere three minutes into the game. The 15-goal forward held off Tom Lees before hitting a bobbling effort which was grasped by Westwood at the second attempt.

Moments later, Sam Gallagher managed to find a way through a negative Wednesday backline, playing a give-and-go with Lewis Holtby, but he had possession taken away from him due to a well-timed challenge from Joost van Aken.

Chances were extremely rare in this fixture, with Tony Pulis’ side sitting back and absorbing waves of attacks from the home side, who dominated the possession stats.

Wednesday’s first chance of the game came from a Callum Paterson long throw, which was subsequently turned high and wide off the boot of Josh Windass.

Blackburn’s main passage towards goal came from holding the ball on halfway before sending balls over the defence from deep, however, Wednesday were aware of the danger, and these attempts often resulted in nothing.

Against the run of play, Wednesday took the lead in the 41st minute through a stunning Reach effort.

A Barry Bannan thump upfield caused a mix-up between Daniel Ayala and Barry Douglas, which saw the latter head the ball into the back of Ayala. The ball fell to Reach, who set himself before picking out the top left-hand corner from 25 yards.

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On the stroke of half-time, Windass was played through on goal with a lofted ball upfield, however, Ayala’s pressure ushered the winger away from goal before Windass hit a shot across the target and wide.

The visitors came out in the second half much better, creating several chances to extend their lead.

Six minutes after the restart, a tackle from Reach deflected into the path of Windass, but his initial effort was blocked on the edge. Ryan Nyambe’s attempted clearance struck the back of Darragh Lenihan, falling kindly for Windass, who volleyed wide on the turn.

Moments later, another mistake from Douglas almost created a second goal for Reach. Bannan’s threaded ball was poorly controlled by the left-back, allowing Reach to take advantage before he drilled an effort into the side-netting.

On the hour mark, Bradley Dack made his much-anticipated return after more than a year out with an anterior cruciate knee ligament injury. He created the Blue and Whites’ best chance just minutes later.

Dack held possession on the edge of the Wednesday box before threading the ball into the feet of Armstrong. The forward, with his back to goal, sharply spun his man before striking the post from around the penalty spot.

Rovers equalised with 15 minutes remaining. Rothwell picked up possession from deep. He then proceeded to slalom his way through several Wednesday bodies before stroking the ball past the goalkeeper.

Westwood was then forced into a save just three minutes later to keep the scores level. Armstrong wrong-footed his man before trying to bend a shot past Westwood, who was equal to the chance, pushing the ball wide of the target.

The Owls thought they had gone back ahead through Lees, who headed home from Paterson’s lofted ball into the area, but he was judged to have been offside and the goal was ruled out.

Then, with five minutes remaining, Armstrong found himself in a lot of space as he accelerated forward before he fired wide after pressure from Liam Shaw.

The point for the Owls means that they are now only three points from safety. Blackburn, however, remain five points away from the playoff spots.

Takeaways from the match

The return of Bradley Dack

The anticipated return of Dack came after the hour point in the match. This was Dack’s first involvement for Rovers since their goalless draw with Wigan Athletic just over a year ago to the day, where he was stretchered off after damaging his anterior cruciate knee ligament.

Dack quickly slipped back into his creative self, setting up Armstrong’s effort which cannoned off the post just four minutes into his come back. 

He played just over 30 minutes at Ewood Park, hoping to regain his match speed and restore to his former self - a bonus for Tony Mowbray's side's playoff push. 

A defensive partnership starting to blossom

Pulis’ side looked solid defensively as they shut out a creative Blackburn side, who have scored 35 goals this season. 

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A particular strong link at the back looks to be the cohesion between Lees and Chey Dunkley. Both have complemented each other well since Dunkley’s inclusion after recovering from a double leg break. Both were supported by van Aken and Shaw, who replaced the Dutchman in the second period, and as a three they were hard to break down.

The goal conceded, however, will prove to be a low point, due to Rothwell’s ease at getting through, but, overall, Pulis will be pleased with the performances of Lees and Dunkley. 

Man of the match

Rothwell was outstanding in the centre of the park for Blackburn.

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Rovers produced some magnificent passing football and it was his recycling of possession that made them tick in the centre.

Rothwell managed to maintain a pass success rate of 93% - the best of any starting player – and made two key passes in the fixture.

He also earned Rovers their point with a sublime solo run and finish.  

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