The first flower of spring appeared in my garden this weekend and although the arctic conditions at Ewood suggested otherwise, Rovers performance on Sunday warmed the heart to signal the beginning of the end of this nuclear winter.
The significance of the result cannot be underestimated. My prediction last week that the cut will be around 36 points, is looking rather pessimistic. The bottom five sides have won just five out of 66 away games between them. This is an extraordinary statistic. Never before has it been a simpler task to stay up.
The manner of the win was refreshing and hopefully the assurance of another season in this division should signal a more positive approach to games away from Ewood. It's only six weeks ago at Eastlands that the most loyal Allardyce advocator was questioning the judgement of the man. Those were dark days. So what has changed?
Four home wins on the trot have helped and statistics don't lie. Rovers are the fifth most in-form side in the league since the turn of the year. The much derided Pedersen has found his form and has provided an outlet from his set pieces and positional change. Martin Olsson has filled the void on the left and has provided the pace which we were crying out for.
Kalinic has also shown he has class and his ability to hold the ball up and bring others into play has won him many admirers. And the defence has played as a unit despite frequent changes of personnel, as was the case on Sunday. Thankfully the Admiral Nelson appears to be ok and will be able to take on the world in South Africa this summer.
All the above have contributed to the new found confidence but the biggest factor and turning point of the season came at Villa Park a month ago on an evening when we conceded 6 goals. The nation saw a side to Rovers that us season ticket holders had rarely seen. We were 2 up playing sweeping football and were not content to settle for what we had. The season up to this point had been epitomised by a negative 4-5-1 formation and a defence who were playing so deep that they needed a decompression chamber to recover after games.
We still played the same formation that night at Villa but proved that it could be effective if you had a guy who could hold the ball up and at least one wide man who had pace to get past his marker.
After all is said and done, nothing is perfect and there are still frustrations. Big Sam will always have his critics whatever position we find ourselves in the league, but he has more or less fulfilled his remit of preserving top flight status and deserves the credit for doing so.
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