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Report: Rovers 1 Southend United 0

Graham goal the difference against the Shrimpers in another hard fought win for Rovers at Ewood Park

7 April 2018

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Danny Graham's 16th goal of the season was the difference as Rovers made it four wins in a row with a narrow victory against Southend United at Ewood Park.

On his 100th appearance for the club, Graham stooped just before the hour to nod home from close range to be the match-winner in a tightly contested battle in East Lancashire.

Rovers had to cling on at times, but the points are more important than performances at this stage of the season and it was the hosts who took them.

Marcus Antonsson dropped to the bench and Craig Conway returned to the starting XI for the clash against the Shrimpers in the only change from the side which started against MK Dons earlier in the week.

Jack Payne was available from the bench against the side where he started his career, whilst the game still came too soon for Darragh Lenihan, with Paul Downing partnering Charlie Mulgrew - another ex-Southend man - at the heart of the Rovers defence.

Graham was appearing for his landmark appearance for Rovers, whilst fellow forward Adam Armstrong was going in search of his 10th goal in as many games.

For the visitors, former Burnley winger Michael Kightly started on the wing, whilst another ex-Premier League player in Michael Turner was a centre back for Chris Powell's visitors.

In a flat start, Rovers were dealt an early blow, with Bradley Dack having to leave the field with what looked like a slight hamstring pull and Payne came on against his old side just 11 minutes into the encounter.

It was a pretty lacklustre early display from Rovers and it was the visitors who had the first chance of the game, with David Raya alert to hold onto Simon Cox's flick on at the near post after Kightly's corner found the experienced frontman.

Rovers were struggling to get going in the game but just after the half hour mark, Graham went down in the box and the ball fell nicely to Conway, who blazed into the Darwen End.

At the other end, Jason Demetriou raced clear of his man and went through on goal, but with Mulgrew putting him under pressure, the right back fired over Raya's upright.

The chances were beginning to come for Rovers and Southend skipper Ben Coker nearly skewed into his own net after a low cross into the six-yard area from his former team-mate Payne.

With a couple of minutes remaining the best chance of the half came to the hosts. Armstrong was played in by a perfect Elliott Bennett pass and after he couldn't fire goalwards the ball sat up kindly to Graham whose effort was grabbed at the second attempt by goalkeeper Mark Oxley.

It was a decent start to the second half from the hosts and Graham nodded down a Bennett cross but couldn't beat Oxley at the back post as the score remained 0-0.

A moment or two later and Graham had another chance, but after a crafty ball from Conway, the striker saw Oxley out to deny him from breaking the deadlock once again.

But it was third time lucky for Graham and Rovers and it was the two wily old foxes combining again as Conway's lovely dink to the back post was perfect for Graham, who was there to celebrate his milestone match by heading home from a couple of yards out.

It was just what the home side deserved for a good second half display and Graham grabbed his 16th of the season in all competitions to put him level with Dack at the top of the goalscoring charts.

But work still needed to be done and Southend came again with substitute Theo Robinson testing Raya with 22 minutes left to play.

A well worked corner found Derrick Williams at the back post a few minutes later but he could only lash wide from close range when he really should have hit the target.

The visitors weren't done and away manager Powell opted to throw everything forward to get an equaliser, with the double change with eight minutes to go seeing two more attackers thrown into the action in place of flankers Kightly and Stephen McLaughlin.

It was a nervy ending to the game, with the visitors from Essex throwing everything at Rovers in the late stages of the game in a desperate search for a late equaliser.

Just when it looked like there was no time to go, in the final minute a flurry of chances fell the visitors' way, which included a heroic save from Raya before Mulgrew came out of nowhere to lash off the line and ensure victory went the way of Mowbray's men, who continue their charge at the top of the league.

Don't forget that Rovers are next in action on Tuesday night at Gillingham and tickets remain for the trip to Priestfield. You can purchase yours by clicking here.

Rovers: Raya, Bennett, Downing, Mulgrew (c), Williams, Smallwood, Evans, Armstrong, Dack (Payne, 11), Conway (Antonsson, 74), Graham (Samuel, 78).

Unuses substitutes: Leutwiler, Whittingham, Caddis, Bell.

Goal: Graham, 58

Booked: Smallwood, 84

Southend: Oxley, Demetriou, White, Turner, Coker (c), McLaughlin (Fortune, 82), Yearwood (Robinson, 66), Mantom, Timlin, Kightly (Harrison, 82), Cox.

Unused substitutes: Bishop, Wordsworth, Ferdinand, Wright.

Attendance: 13,186 (674 away)

Referee: Andy Woolmer

 


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