IT will be a step into the unknown for Blackburn Rovers tomorrow when they head to Newport County for the first competitive meeting between the clubs.

But for young Rovers midfielder Darragh Lenihan he knows all about the danger posed by their lower-league FA Cup opponents.


Lenihan’s final game of a highly successful spell at eventual League Two champions Burton Albion last season ended with a 1-0 home loss to Newport.

But any disappointment he felt was swiftly banished when, on his return to Rovers, he was thrust into Gary Bowyer’s injury-hit first team.

Despite playing out of position at centre-back Lenihan impressed as he made three straight appearances at the end of the 2014-15 campaign.

The 21-year-old was offered a new three-year contract by Rovers in the summer. However, knowing he was reaching a critical stage of his career when time on the field was all important, he instead opted for a 12-month deal.

And any fears he had over a lack of opportunities would only have heightened after then manager Bowyer brought in a raft of centre-midfielders.

Indeed the only chance that Lenihan was granted under the former Rovers boss before his November departure came at centre-back in the Capital One Cup loss to Shrewsbury Town.

The Republic of Ireland Under-21 captain’s frustration would have grown further by Bowyer’s reluctance to send him back out on loan.

But since the arrival of Paul Lambert the Rovers Academy graduate’s prospects are looking up.

After catching the eye of the former Borussia Dortmund, Scotland and Celtic midfielder in behind-closed-doors games and while playing for the under-21s, Lenihan was told he would be going nowhere this month.

And on Saturday he was handed his first appearance of the Championship season as he came on the final 20 minutes at Cardiff City.

“I just need to keep working hard in training and give the manager a headache for his team selection and, if I do that, fingers crossed, I’ll get my chance,” said Lenihan, who has recovered from the back injury that ruled him out for most of December.

“At the start of the season my aim was to get more game time than I got last season. So it was frustrating because I wasn’t allowed to go out on loan and I wasn’t getting much of a chance here.

“But since the new gaffer has come in he’s given me faith by saying, ‘right, you’re staying, I’m going to value you more, and I’m going to give you more of a chance’.

“He threw me on with 20 minutes to go (at Cardiff). He had the likes of Corry (Evans) and Danny (Guthrie) to throw on but he chose me, so that’s a positive.

“I just need to keep working day in, day out and give the manager a headache when he is picking the team. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Lenihan is hoping to make his FA Cup debut tomorrow as Rovers attempt to end their run of three straight 1-0 away defeats.

But he has warned that Newport, who have insisted their rain-hit pitch will be in shape, will be no pushovers.

Lenihan said “It is going to be a tough game, a physical game, and we’ve got to match them.

“We have to bring our ‘A game’ because if we don't do that then we could be in trouble.

“But if everyone is on it I think we are more than capable of winning.

“We have to put these three games behind us, move on, stay positive, keep working hard, and hopefully we get the win.”