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Paul Wheelock column: Gary Bowyer right to stick Tom Cairney out wide
GOOD news Rovers fans – Corry Evans should be back in full training by the end of the week. Bad news for some of you – that could mean Tom Cairney starting more matches on the right-side of midfield.
A number of Rovers supporters have let it be known on Twitter timelines, Facebook pages and messageboards that they would like to see Cairney operate more from his natural position in the centre of the park.
But let me state my case – I like him playing out wide.
Just because he starts on the right does not stop him from cutting inside and taking a game by the scruff of its neck as he proved so magnificently in the 1-1 FA Cup draw with Manchester City at Ewood.
Nor does it prevent him from popping up in and around the box to get on the end of chances.
That was evident in the first half against Doncaster on Saturday when Cairney wasted two – one in particular – golden opportunities to score his first goal since August.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a strong case for the talented 22-year-old to be moved into middle permanently.
Anyone who had the pleasure of watching his outstanding performance in the New Year’s Day win at Leeds would testify to that.
But the imminent return of Evans – another bargain buy from Hull City – complicates matters.
If the Northern Ireland international resumes the form he was in prior to the untimely injury he sustained while playing for his country, then he has to be one of the first names on Gary Bowyer’s team-sheet.
A real tempo setter, before his two-month lay-off Evans was starting to show that he can have a huge influence on matches at both ends of the field.
Given his ability to get ahead of the forwards – think his run from deep and unselfish pass to set up Leon Best’s goal at Bournemouth – Bowyer may be tempted to partner Evans, when he is back fully fit, with a more defensive-minded midfielder like Jason Lowe or Lee Williamson.
That would mean Cairney remaining on the right if Bowyer chooses to play a 4-4-2 formation – and, given the impact Rudy Gestede is beginning to make, that has to be a big possibility.
And who to play on the left? At this moment in time it has to be Ben Marshall who, after a slow start to his Rovers career, is now looking like the real deal.
But where do David Dunn, Chris Taylor and Josh King fit into that team?
Dunn, when available, remains a talisman, the industrious and versatile Taylor could play anywhere across the midfield and do a job, while King’s explosive pace down the flanks is a key attribute Rovers do not otherwise possess.
They are nice selection headaches for Bowyer to have – and for the rest of us to debate.
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