THERE was a spell during the second half of Saturday’s full-blooded Lancashire derby at a raucous and blustery Bloomfield Road that Rovers were rocking and in danger of seeing their lead blown away.
Having been gifted a way back into a match that looked beyond them after Rudy Gestede plundered his second goal of the afternoon two minutes into a breathless second half, Blackpool had their tails up and their fans roaring.
Had they managed to notch an equaliser at that stage there is every chance that Rovers’ proud unbeaten league run would have come to an end.
Make no mistake, just two games into the new Championship season, this was a serious test of their mettle.
But thanks to good old fashioned bottle, an inspired substitution from their manager, unwavering support from the stands, and a sprinkling of fortune that all teams rely on when their backs are to the wall, it was a test that Rovers passed to record their first win of the campaign.
It was hard-fought win, there is no doubt about that, but a deserved one all the same.
And as strange as it sounds, given we’re just over a week into the new season, a needed win, too, given the events of midweek.
There is no question the optimism and positivity that is back at Ewood Park was dented, if only a little, by the manner of the Capital One Cup exit to Scunthorpe United.
It was a passionless performance totally out of keeping with the ethos Gary Bowyer has instilled at the club and the second string side who delivered it rightly came in for criticism.
Bowyer’s choice to make 10 changes for the tie was also questioned by supporters.
But there could be no complaints over the Rovers boss’s bold team selection on Saturday and it was his decision to replace Jordan Rhodes with Lee Williamson 14 minutes from time which helped his team see out the game and stretch their unbeaten league run to 14 matches.
In a division as unrelenting as the Championship that is a seriously impressive record.
But Bowyer will know it is a record which will be consigned to the history books sooner rather than later if Rovers continue to give needless goals away.
Whereas the strikes conceded in the 1-1 draw with Cardiff City, which opened the Football League campaign, and in the 1-0 defeat to Scunthorpe were down to switching off at set-pieces, Tomasz Cywka’s effort for Blackpool was a result of a comedy of errors involving Corry Evans, the otherwise outstanding Grant Hanley, and Paul Robinson, who endured a real Jekyll and Hyde afternoon.
For the next 21 minutes – before Williamson’s arrival – it was anyone’s game and only a fool would have taken their eye off it.
And only a fool would have believed that Pool were going to be anything less than competitive.
Yes their line-up contained 10 home debutants and yes it was the first time this season that they had been able to name a full substitutes’ bench this season after a shambolic summer.
But as Bowyer had warned beforehand their squad does not lack for quality or quantity and it was clear from the first whistle they were fired up.
Indeed the hosts edged the opening exchanges with David Perkins dragging wide from 20 yards after a loose pass from Evans prevented him with a shooting opportunity.
The visitors took their time to work their way into the contest but, after Rhodes saw a sharp turn and shot saved by Joe Lewis, they opening the scoring in the 26th minute courtesy of a razor-sharp first-time finish from Gestede.
The towering targetman, by heading clear from a Pool corner, had actually started the lightning-fast counter-attack which ended with him blasting the ball sumptuously and confidently into the back of the net from 12 yards.
And, after captain Hanley had fired over from a corner, the man of the match doubled his tally almost immediately after the restart.
Craig Conway was the provider as he took a pass from Markus Olsson and whipped over a wickedly inviting cross toward the back post for Gestede to plant a firm header low past Lewis.
Rovers, at that point, were totally in control and had an appeal for a penalty turned down when it appeared Gestede had been shoved over in the box.
But they allowed Pool to halve the deficit in the 53rd minute when Hanley and Evans got in each other’s way and Cywka’s 18-yard drive squirmed underneath the body of Robinson.
And, after Conway whistled a shot inches past the post, it nearly got worse for the former England number one when he allowed a speculative attempt from Tony McMahon to slip through his fingers.
Robinson regained his composure to tip the ball on to the post. He was indebted, however, to the excellent Jason Lowe for getting back and blocking Ishmael Miller’s follow up.
To Robinson’s credit he went on to make crucial saves from Nathan Delfouneso while at the other end the tireless Evans hit the upright following another swift break led by the jet-heeled King.
But, despite Gestede having a good chance in injury-time to complete his hat-trick, there was to be no further scoring as Bowyer shored up his over-run and tiring midfield by bringing on Williamson.