Monday analysis: It’s all about taking three points

Rovers Federico Macheda celebrates his third goal in two starts.
Rovers Federico Macheda celebrates his third goal in two starts.
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Again it turns out that performances are not everything.

Much of the talk in the build-up to the trip to Hillsborough centred on Rovers not getting results that performances warranted.

Now another game can be added to that list. Only this time, the outcome was much more positive.

At times, particularly during a drab first half, Rovers were as poor as they have been all season. Their lauded fluidity and energy were gone as the hosts dominated possession.

But ultimately, they returned home with all three points after delivering a second-half hammer-blow from which the struggling Owls could not recover.

Not quite smash and grab. This was winning without playing well, which is exactly what Rovers needed.

The start to the season has appeared stronger than it has actually been and that is entirely down to performances.

Paul Dickov has breezed into the club carrying a desire to play football in the ‘right’ way and everyone - from players through to supporters - has bought into that philosophy.

So defeat at Watford is a gallant one, draws against Wigan and Nottingham Forest a disappointment.

As good as it is to watch, a season of such a pattern would likely result in one thing - relegation.

Some teams will not cope with what Rovers bring, as Blackburn proved, and there are plenty of weaker opponents ready to face.

But it is certainly nice to know Rovers have retained from last season the ability at times to claim victory without the frills and thrills.

With the potential for three points from a game in hand, Rovers’ standing in the Championship begins to look much stronger, much more deserving of their overall showing since their return to the second tier.

Saturday’s result played a major role in that despite not being reflective of the real Rovers.

At no point did the game really feel like a derby. The atmosphere was flat for long periods, only igniting when the long-suffering Hillsborough crowd were given something to be positive about.

On the pitch, there was little of the blood and thunder you would expect from a meeting of neighbours. Barring a couple of late challenges in the first half, it was rather tame.

Dickov had been bold with his team selection, opting again for the three-man attack that caused Forest so many problems a week prior,

though Richie Wellens did not play quite as advanced a role.

But 4-3-3 simply did not work. There were few rapid counter-attacks because Rovers did not see enough of the ball. It is a system which is fuelled by possession.

Wednesday were much the better side in the first half, keeping possession well until they reached the final third where their creativity was worryingly poor.

When Rovers did win the ball back, there was a lack of width to move it quickly forward.

A change was desperately needed at the break and Dickov responded, removing the poor Dean Furman to introduce James Coppinger and a standard 4-4-2 formation. Coppinger made a massive difference, not just with his width but his composure on the ball.

He could feel particularly aggrieved at missing out on a starting berth in recent weeks after producing his best run of form for some time for Rovers.

But he staked his claim for a recall with another excellent performance.

Wednesday still slightly edged things after the break but continued to lack truly clear-cut chances. And the hosts were punished with a goal from a player boss Dave Jones admitted he tried to sign. There will have been more than a little envy from the Owls bench when Federico Macheda converted his most simple of chances on 71 minutes, his third goal in two starts.

Coppinger was allowed freedom on the left to loop in a cross, with Macheda rising under little pressure to nod home from six yards. Job done.

A feather in Rovers’ collective cap was the fact they became the first side this season to shut out Wednesday. Defensively they were strong, refusing to panic under pressure, with Paul Quinn in particular impressing on his first start since the opening day.

And in the end Rovers could easily have taken home a much bigger win. Chris Kirkland made a fine double stop to twice deny Richie Wellens from a well-worked corner and substitute Mark Duffy will have been kicking himself for missing a glorious chance, ensuring the lead stayed at one.

The final whistle brought jubilant celebrations from the Rovers bench and players, clearly demonstrating that Dickov has retained something else from last season’s title side - togetherness.

The three points meant so much to the group, a sign that things are falling into place.

While it was not the result this showing justified, it was a result that collectively a number of this season’s unrewarded performances deserved.