Paul Wheelock column: Rovers pay penalty for own failings
ROVERS paid the penalty in more ways than one on what was a thoroughly frustrating evening at Oakwell on Tuesday night.
Gary Bowyer was right to rage at the referee after yet more spot-kick decisions went against his side.
That’s three penalties conceded by Rovers in their last three league games – only one of which was a certain spot kick.
During the same period they have had five strong appeals of their own turned down.
Boss Bowyer’s ire, then, is understandable.
But poor officiating is not the only reason why Rovers have fallen five points off the top six going into what is now a must-win home match against Blackpool.
No their inability to close a game out, and to apply pressure when they have their foot on an opponent’s throat, is proving just as costly.
It happened against Derby County on Saturday and it happened again against Barnsley on Tuesday.
True it is hard to keep a team as good as Derby down for 90 minutes.
But there can be no excuses for not putting a relegation-threatened side like Barnsley to bed.
What made it all the more perplexing was that Rovers were excellent in the first half.
So good was their passing and movement, it led Tykes manager Danny Wilson to admitting his strugglers had been taught a ‘lesson’.
So why such a contrasting performance in the second half?
Some credit has to go to Wilson who, like Derby boss Steve McClaren did at the weekend, changed his team’s shape and made effective substitutions.
But even then Rovers should have gone on to record a win which would have moved them up to seventh and as high as they have been in the Championship all season.
It is a times like this when Rovers – by and large a youthful side – could do with more experience.
Players who could drive them up the pitch when they are getting too deep.
But experience does not come cheap, especially in the January transfer window, and Rovers simply do not have the money even after shipping out an incredible 15 players this month.
Such is the legacy of the club’s horrific overspending of the summer 2012 they now have to contemplate selling one of the handful of players – captain Scott Dann – who does have that timed-served know-how.
Given Rovers have a capable and an equally experienced centre-back to replace Dann if he does go in Matt Kilgallon, it would make financial sense.
But you could counter that by suggesting that letting your skipper leave when you are in a fight for a play-off place does not make football sense.
But the fact that Rovers are in the fight at all should not be underestimated given the mess that Bowyer inherited.
Against the backdrop of the chaos of last season, finishing in the top six would be nothing short of remarkable.
But to do that Bowyer and his players are going to have to punish weaker teams like Barnsley and this weekend’s visitors Blackpool.
They have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
But the odd refereeing decision wouldn’t go amiss too.
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