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Rovers boss Bowyer eyes a shut out at Ipswich Town
THE dust had barely settled on Saturday’s rousing 1-0 win over Leeds United when Blackburn Rovers manager Gary Bowyer sat his players down in the dressing room and set them a challenge.
And that challenge is to keep a clean sheet away from home – starting at Ipswich Town tonight.
It should, in theory, be straightforward enough seeing as Rovers have had no problems with shutting out the opposition at Ewood Park.
Since half-time in the 4-1 victory over Bolton Wanderers on August 31 they have conceded just one goal – Simon Church’s superb volley for Charlton Athletic – in front of their fans.
That is a remarkable run of six-and-half games and more than nine hours of football where they have conceded just the once.
But when Rovers hit the road something happens.
You have to go back to October 3, 2012 and 27 matches for the last time the club kept a clean sheet on their trips around the Championship in a 0-0 draw at Nottingham Forest.
In defence of the young side Bowyer has assembled since taking over as Rovers boss in May, 19 of those matches came last season when Rovers were a very different team.
But it is in an inescapable fact that their inability to keep it tight on their travels this season is one of the major reasons why they are not closer to the play-off places.
Bowyer said: “At home we’ve been magnificent and that’s five clean sheets out of the last six at home.
“So in terms of our home form and the defensive side of things we’ve been magnificent.
“Full credit to the defenders and to Jake Kean, who pulled off an outstanding save on Saturday.
“But we have to transfer that to our away form – and that’s the challenge we set the players straight after the game on Saturday.
“If we can keep a clean sheet at Ipswich we’ll have a really good chance of winning the game.
“We’ve just got to focus on everything we’ve done in training and carry that out on the road.
“I don’t think there’s any magic formula because it’s at home or it’s away – the game is still the same. We’ve just got to go with the same mindset on the road.”
The win over Leeds moved Rovers up to 13th and within five points of the top six.
Bowyer is aware of exactly where his side are in the tight and congested table – but only by accident.
He said: “I looked at the table at the weekend for the first time and it already looks ridiculous in the sense you can go from 14th to something like sixth or from 19th to 10th or something.
“I looked at it by mistake as our analyst put it on my desk.”
Asked why he had not examined the standings previously, Bowyer said: “Because it’s December. We focus on the performance heavily and keep working away at that.”
But championship owners are certainly looking at the table.
Over the weekend Wigan Athletic, Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley parted company with Owen Coyle, Dave Jones and David Flitcroft respectively.
And Bowyer knows consistency is the key to keeping hold of your job in a competitive Championship.
The Rovers boss added: “People have lost their jobs this weekend and that’s the disappointing side of this industry.
“We’ve just got to keep focusing on performances and working as hard as we can.
“The key word is consistency. It’s something we’ve managed to do at home, especially in terms of clean sheets, now we have to do it on the road.”
Tonight’s match gives Rovers the perfect opportunity to record their second away success of the campaign.
Mid-table rivals Ipswich have failed to win any of their last three matches at Portman Road but did win 1-0 at Charlton on Saturday.
“They’ve got a good team, they’re well organised and they’ve got a fantastic manager, so we know it’s going to be a tough place to go,” said Bowyer.
“But on the back of the weekend and the character that we showed, we’re looking forward to it.”
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