Rovers Range

FORTUNES could not be much more contrasting for Argyle, compared to the last time they played Blackburn Rovers.

The Pilgrims arrived at Ewood Park rock bottom on Sky Bet League One, having notched just six points from their opening 13 games. 

To their credit, they came away with a battling draw, making their tally seven from 14 games. Four days later, Argyle won at Wimbledon, and things steadily began to pick up. 

Now, Argyle lie 13th, almost exactly as far from the play-offs as the drop zone. Their record since playing Rovers in October is played 16, won nine, drawn four, lost three. A return of 31 points from 16 games is a record few could match. 

Blackburn, mind you, have beaten it. Since Argyle left Ewood Park with a point, Rovers have gained 39 points from 17 games, with 11 wins and six draws. 

Rovers are second only, by a point, to Wigan in the league table, although the Latics do have two games in hand. 

Wigan left Home Park two weeks ago with a 3-1 win, but they fought hard to do it against a very game Argyle side, who barely resemble the team scratching for anything they could at Ewood Park.

“We were in a bit of a sticky patch,” recalls Gary Sawyer, “and going away to Blackburn in a sticky patch isn’t the best thing, but we had got a result against Shrewsbury and that gave us confidence.

“When we were bottom we didn’t feel like we were being cut adrift, which is rare because I’ve played in relegated teams and it does feel like you are adrift. 

“We have had a good run of games against teams around us, and that has brought us up. 

“I know you don’t want to blame it on stuff, but for with sendings off we played eight or nine games with ten men, for five of them for about 80 minutes. It’s not easy, and you get punished. We realised that. That was our own fault. 

“That, twinned with having seven ‘keepers in the first 15 games. It’s never going to help towards getting a consistency into our game.” 

Never was the goalkeeping crisis thrust into the spotlight as much as at Ewood Park.

At Blackburn, Argyle took the lead via a Graham Carey wonderstrike, only for Blackburn to level via Bradley Dack right on half-time. 

In the second half, apprentice goalkeeper Michael Cooper was thrust into action because of an injury to Kyle Letheren, and kept a heroic clean sheet to earn Argyle their point. 

“Coops did fantastic,” said Sawyer. “For a young kid of that age to be thrown into a big pressure game, he did fantastically, and it is good to know that you have a kid like that who can play for us.

“[Blackburn] are a good side. I think they will be similar to Wigan. Them and Wigan are the standout teams in the league. It’s going to be another big game. Hopefully we will get another big crowd and if we can do what we did against Wigan we will have every chance. 

“I don’t think we deserved to lose against Wigan, but you would probably put your hat on them getting promoted this season. 

“When you know they are going to be tough games everyone has to be on their mettle, against the top teams, to get something out of it.”