IN the second part of our review of Blackburn Rovers’ season, Chris Flanagan looks at the end of a dramatic season at Ewood Park.
WITH Gary Bowyer in caretaker charge, Rovers started 2013 with a 3-0 home win over Nottingham Forest.
Then came an FA Cup triumph over Bristol City, played in front of only 5,504 at Ewood Park.
Rovers had announced that Bowyer would remain in charge until the end of January but that plan changed midway through the month as a deal was agreed with Blackpool to bring in Michael Appleton as the club’s new boss.
It did not prove popular with all of the squad, many of whom thought Bowyer deserved longer in charge, and Danny Murphy struggled to hide his feelings in an interview after a draw at Wolves in Bowyer’s last game at the helm.
Appleton’s first match was a home loss to Charlton in front of owners Venky’s, with Anuradha Desai’s husband hit by a snowball thrown by a fan before the match.
The new manager’s first win was a 3-0 triumph in the FA Cup fourth round at Derby but there was frustration on the final day of the January transfer window as Rovers missed the deadline to sign DJ Campbell and Jerome Thomas.
ROVERS made it three wins in a row with home victories over Bristol City and Ipswich to give them hope of forcing their way back into play-off contention.
Appleton did bring in DJ Campbell in a loan deal from QPR but West Bromwich Albion opted against allowing Jerome Thomas to join on a temporary basis.
Free agent Lee Williamson was also signed and his arrival was quickly followed by the loan captures of Karim Rekik and David Bentley, returning to the club where he starred before a big money switch to Tottenham.
A draw at Brighton was then followed by the undoubted high point of Appleton’s reign as Rovers boss, with Colin Kazim-Richards netting in 1-0 win at Arsenal in the FA Cup fifth round.
Rovers ended the month though with one point from three games against Hull, Leeds and Leicester.
ROVERS started March by signing Cameron Stewart and David Jones on loan from Hull and Wigan respectively.
But their first game of the month was a disaster as they fell 3-0 down at home to Peterborough inside only 27 minutes as Dwight Gayle netted a shock hat-trick. The game eventually finished 3-2.
Danny Murphy was replaced as captain by Scott Dann but a draw at Millwall in the FA Cup quarter finals gave them real hope of a date with Wigan in the semi finals at Wembley.
That hope was dashed three days later though as Danny Shittu’s goal gave Millwall victory in the replay at Ewood Park, in front of only 8,635.
Rovers were then in real danger of not only slipping into the relegation mix but also losing to Burnley for the first time in 34 years before David Dunn’s dramatic late equaliser sent Ewood Park into delirium.
But it was not enough to save Michael Appleton, who was surprisingly sacked after only 67 days in charge later that week.
The move threw the club back into turmoil. Gary Bowyer stepped in as caretaker for a second time, put in charge until the end of the season, and drew 1-1 at home to Blackpool on Good Friday.
ROVERS’ winless run extended to 11 games as they were beaten 3-0 at Cardiff before slipping to a 3-2 loss at Sheffield Wednesday.
The Hillsborough defeat put Rovers in the Championship’s bottom three and left fans with deep fears of a second successive relegation.
Many supporters were then left puzzled as Gary Bowyer was asked to travel to India with Paul Agnew and Derek Shaw to meet the owners ahead of a crucial home game against Derby.
But Bowyer returned saying reassurances he had received from the owners would help the squad, and Rovers beat Derby 2-0 before following that up with victory over Huddersfield.
A 4-0 loss at Watford kept them in the mix but then followed a comeback triumph at Millwall that put Rovers five points away from the relegation zone with only two games left to play.
A home draw against Crystal Palace then left them effectively safe.
But there remained issues off the field, with internal problems played out in court during Henning Berg’s £2.25m claim against the club. Berg won the case, but before that Rovers’ own lawyers admitted the club was ‘out of control’ and ‘a shambles’.
They added that Shaw was operating without the authority of the owners and was subject to a disciplinary investigation over Berg’s contract.
Rovers finished the season in 17th place in the Championship after a 1-1 draw at Birmingham on the final day.
Jordan Rhodes netted again but his tally of 29 league goals left him one behind Championship top scorer Glenn Murray, of Crystal Palace.
Rovers finished four points clear of the bottom three, but three points adrift of Burnley.
Off the field Derek Shaw and secretary Ian Silvester travelled to India to meet the owners, but Shaw’s future remained unclear after the talks.
Both returned to England and went back to work as normal.