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Match Reports

Report: Rovers 2 Oxford United 1

Rovers finish the season with a flourish in front of packed out Ewood Park

5 May 2018

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A goal in each half saw Rovers sign off a sensational season in style with victory over Oxford United at Ewood Park.

In front of a packed crowd of almost 28,000 at a rocking Ewood, Rovers turned on the style, with Darragh Lenihan bagging his first ever goal for the club with a planted header just 12 minutes in.

Charlie Mulgrew missed a penalty late in the first half, and after James Henry equalised at the mid-point of the second, substitute Jack Payne made an instant impact as he scored the winner within a minute of entering the action.

Tony Mowbray made changes aplenty for the final game of the season against the U’s with David Raya, Ryan Nyambe, Derrick Williams, Elliott Bennett and Danny Graham all returning to the XI having either missed out on the squad or been on the bench for the last outing at Charlton.

Graham came off the bench at The Valley and earned a start, as did Dominic Samuel, whilst Nyambe made his long-awaited return having not played since picking up a hamstring injury against Blackpool back in March.

For the visitors, ex-Rover Simon Eastwood started in goal, as did another former Blackburn man in Todd Kane, who spent time at Ewood between 2013 and 2014.

Another former Rovers man in our ex-coach Karl Robinson was in charge for the U's, whilst Rovers' record appearance holder Derek Fazackerley is also part of Robinson's backroom staff.

With just a minute gone into the game, Cameron Brannagan had the first opportunity of the game as he unleashed a left-footed effort that whistled just past the returning Raya’s left-hand post.

But just 11 minutes later and it was Rovers who took the lead as Lenihan planted a terrific header beyond the despairing dive of Eastwood and into the bottom corner to hand Mowbray’s side the perfect start at a rocking Ewood Park.

Back at the other end and a shot from Henry was tame and drifted wide of Raya’s goal as Oxford looked for a quick-fire equaliser.

Rovers though were brimming with confidence and Armstrong was set to make it 2-0 but for Rob Dickie’s superb block to turn the striker’s shot over the bar.

The hosts were dominant but Raya had to be alert to grab a John Mousinho header at the second time of asking after a deep corner from Brannagan.

But a few minutes later and Rovers had a chance to add to their tally in the sun, but after Elliott Bennett was taken down in the box by Eastwood, the Oxford stopper got up and denied Mulgrew from the spot with a great save down low to his left.

Mulgrew’s penalty miss didn’t have too much of a negative impact on a rampant Rovers or our brilliant supporters, with Bennett then firing into the Bryan Douglas Darwen End just a moment later.

Rovers kept upping the ante and Eastwood did really well to tip Bennett’s rasping drive around the post before flapping at the resulting Mulgrew corner but being saved by the referee Carl Boyeson blowing for a foul in the build up.

The chances were continuing to come for Rovers, but after Samuel’s strike was beaten away by Eastwood, Oxford then forced an equaliser.

A rare attack from Robinson’s men saw Josh Ruffels’ low cross flicked on and into the back of the net from close range by Henry.

A Rovers response was needed and that was what came as Armstrong was twice denied by Eastwood before a double change saw Williams and Richie Smallwood replaced by birthday boy Amari’i Bell and Payne with 16 minutes to go.

And Payne produced within a minute of entering the action as he unleashed a strike which took a deflection before finding the top corner against his old employers to get the celebrations restarted.

And soon after it was almost 3-1 as Graham scored from close range but it was disallowed for handball from the striker.

But that was to be that on the afternoon and our season. With Rovers already promoted, the pressure was off, but with Wigan winning at Doncaster, the title went to the Latics.

But we’ll congratulate Paul Cook’s side and look forward to locking horns with them once again next term in the Championship.

Rovers: Raya, Nyambe, Lenihan, Mulgrew (c), Williams (Bell, 74), Smallwood, Evans, Bennett (Payne, 74), Samuel, Armstrong (Antonsson, 77), Graham.

Unused substitutes: Leutwiler, Whittingham, Downing, Travis.

Goals: Lenihan, 13, Payne, 76

Oxford United: Eastwood, Nelson (c), Brannagan, Ruffels, Dickie, Henry, Rothwell (Ricardinho, 74), Kane, Obika (James, 83), Mousinho (Ledson, 55), Napa.

Unused substitutes: Shearer, Long, Mowatt, Hopkins.

Booked: Eastwood, 41, Rothwell, 61

Goal: Henry, 65

Attendance: 27,600 (1,290 away)

Referee: Carl Boyeson


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