GARY Bowyer believes Blackburn Rovers passed an early examination of their character in winning 2-1 at Blackpool yesterday to stretch their unbeaten run in the Championship to 14 matches.
Rovers, whose last league defeat was on March 12, were cruising to their first victory of the new season after Rudy Gestede scored his second goal of the game two minutes after the restart.
But they were made to hold on in a frantic, end-to-end second half after a combination of poor defending and goalkeeping allowed Tomasz Cywka to halve the deficit in the 53rd minute.
And Rovers boss Bowyer said: “It was 100 per cent a test of our character.
“It was a key defining moment for the shape of our season and the players stood up, like we knew they would, to the challenge.”
Bowyer had warned beforehand that Pool, despite a shambolic pre-season, would be no pushovers.
And he was proved correct.
“We weren’t going to be kidded about the off-the-field activities that have been going on at Blackpool,” said Bowyer, whose decision to bring midfielder Lee Williamson on for striker Jordan Rhodes in the 74th minute proved crucial in snuffling out the fired-up home side’s hopes of an equaliser.
“We knew there’d be a hell of an atmosphere and we knew there manager would have done a great job getting the players together and organised so quickly and we knew we would be presented with a difficult challenge – and it was that.
“Overall I was delighted with our performance.
“The back four were outstanding and Jason Lowe in particular was magnificent.”
Bowyer also paid particular tribute to match-winner Gestede, centre backs Grant Hanley and Alex Baptiste – labelling captain Hanley, who was making his 100th league start for the club, a ‘warrior’ after he played on after picking up a knock – as well as Rovers’ inspirational 2,227-strong travelling support.
Bowyer said: “The fans were outstanding, particularly in the last 10 minutes when we needed them.
“They never shut up, they were brilliant.”
Pool boss Jose Riga, for whom it was his first competitive home match in charge, said: “If we’d scored a second I don’t think people could have complained.
“Physically we are not ready yet and we don’t have enough players still but the fans and the mentality of the players is good.
“Some players arrived only a couple of days ago and it’s a difficult situation. This is our third game of the season and we’ve only had one friendly against a team who aren’t at this level.
“We showed our players certain phases of play that we expected but we couldn’t always adapt to that because they just haven’t played with one another enough.
“But that will come, I believe it will.
“I need more players but I need quality and that is important.”