Harrogate Town 0 Blackburn Rovers 8: Sulphurites routed in second round of Carabao Cup

Jack Muldoon had Harrogate Town's two best chances during Wednesday night's Carabao Cup thrashing by Blackburn Rovers. Picture: Harrogate Town AFC
Jack Muldoon had Harrogate Town's two best chances during Wednesday night's Carabao Cup thrashing by Blackburn Rovers. Picture: Harrogate Town AFC

The League Two Sulphurites were outclassed in all areas by their Championship opponents, with Jon Dahl Tomasson’s men never looking anything but in full control of Wednesday night’s second-round clash after netting a couple of early goals.

Simon Weaver’s team selection suggested that this weekend’s league clash with Barrow was more of a priority than progression to the third round, with just two of the outfield players who started Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Morecambe keeping their place.

And while Town’s strongest XI would still have begun the contest as huge underdogs, a packed Wetherby Road will surely have been expecting their team to approach a fixture against higher-profile opposition with a bit more intent.

Rovers’ extra quality on the ball was evident immediately from the first whistle, though Harrogate did look reasonably comfortable during the opening exchanges, only to fall behind with 10 minutes gone.

Following a spell of patient build-up play by the visitors, the ball broke for Jacob Garrett wide on the left-hand side of the home box and he calmly shot across Mark Oxley and into the far corner.

Things got even worse just three minutes later when Will Smith, on his first appearance of the season, failed to deal with John Buckley’s ball over the top, presenting Sam Gallagher with a one-on-one opportunity he never looked like passing up.

Town did almost pull one back within 60 seconds, Jack Muldoon showing strength and tenacity to force his way through on goal before firing a low effort against the legs of Blackburn stopper Leo Wahlstedt.

The former Premier League champions remained very much in the ascendancy and, having passed up a couple of half-chances to extend their lead, made it 3-0 in the 34th minute.

Gallagher’s neat through-ball saw Andy Moran race into the box and dance past Oxley before composing himself by the byline and cutting the ball back from the right for Buckley to finish from close range.

Harrogate should have reduced the deficit moments later, but the lively Muldoon again failed to convert a one-on-one opportunity, sending his finish narrowly wide after he was played in by the raiding Abraham Odoh.

Weaver’s men would still have had it all to do had that golden chance been taken, but 3-1 at the interval would have had a much better look about it than the 4-0 half-time scoreline they were faced with heading back into the changing rooms.

And it was all too easy for Rovers to stretch their advantage, Dilan Markanday turning inside on the right of the area and stroking a low effort beyond the despairing dive of Oxley.

Town made a triple substitution at the interval, with Sam Folarin, Luke Armstrong and former Blackburn defender Anthony O’Connor second period entering the fray.

Those changes made very little difference to proceedings, with the second period just as much of a stroll in the park for the visiting side.

Less than a minute after the resumption substitute Zak Gilsenan almost made it 5-0, clipping the top of the cross-bar following some good work down the right flank by Garrett.

But, just four minutes later, Rovers did register their fifth of the evening, Buckley sending Oxley the wrong way from the penalty spot after Warren Burrell’s foul on Sondre Tronstad.

With Harrogate offering far less as an attacking force than they did before the break, it looked as if it would be a case of them waiting to discover how many Blackburn wanted to score during the last half-an-hour.

The visitors continued to cut their hosts open almost at will, Markanday whipping a strike from range just past the upright as the scoreline threatened to reach humiliating territory.

And number six did materialise with 66 minutes on the clock, Gilsenan bending a 20-yard free-kick around the Town wall and beyond the motionless Oxley.

Still Rovers did not relent and they went 7-0 up in the 72nd minute, Thomas Bloxham slotting home after George Thomson was dispossessed deep inside Harrogate territory.

The onslaught continued and Blackburn notched for the eighth time on 75 minutes, some neat interplay presenting James Edmondson with the opportunity to race right though the heart of the home defence and shoot past Oxley.

With chants of “this is embarrassing” ringing out around the ground, Rovers broke through again in the 81st minute, however on this occasion Oxley managed to produce a good block to thwart Gilsenan.

The overworked Harrogate goalkeeper made another good one-on-one save with full-time approaching, throwing out a hand to turn Edmondson’s shot behind for a corner and preventing further damage.