Report: Buckley and Brereton screamers see Rovers sign off with a win

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John Buckley celebrates opening the scoring for Rovers
John Buckley celebrates opening the scoring for Rovers

Rovers signed their season, and Tony Mowbray’s reign, with two stunning goals in the sunshine to win 2-1 at Birmingham City.

Had Rovers’ goal of the season prize not already be announced, then the first half strikes from John Buckley and Ben Brereton would have been the two to contest the award.

For Buckley it was back-to-back goals on the road, while Brereton made it 22 in 34 Championship starts and cap a mightily impressive 2021/22.

It wasn’t Rovers’ most vintage displays, unable to keep a clean sheet as Kristian Pedersen pulled a goal back for the hosts late on, but a result that saw them finish eighth with 69 points, six shy of the play-off spots.

The Rovers team reflected those under contract for next season, but showed only three changes, as James Brown made his debut, with recalls for Daniel Ayala and Tayo Edun.

Darragh Lenihan was the only player out of contract in the matchday 18, while none of club’s loanees were involved as Dilan Markanday and Jack Vale were brought into the squad.

There was undoubtedly an end of season feel to proceedings, the pitch bathed in sunshine, and the early stages lacking any signs of a full throttle tempo.

Rovers did fashion the first chance of the game after seven minutes, Harry Pickering delivering a cross from which Sam Gallagher swivelled to hook goalwards, though Neil Etheridge was well placed to save.

Good work from Ryan Hedges on the right saw him deliver a cross, with Ben Brereton disappointed not to get his header on target after his movement saw him get infront of Maxime Colin.

Hedges, making his third successive start, was picking up some clever positions drifting in from the right, with the main moments of quality coming from the Welshman. At the midway point of the half he had no hesitation when working the ball onto his left foot, after being found by Brereton, to shoot, with his fiercely hit effort beaten away by Etheridge.

There was similarly no doubt in Buckley’s mind when presented with a shooting opportunity in the 29th minute as Rovers took the lead. He opted against taking a touch to lash a shot goalwards from 30 yards that nestled into the top corner.

Rovers weren’t having things all their own way, though much of their own making when giving the ball away cheaply, with first Scott Wharton and then Ayala needing to make good interceptions in the box to stop Lyle Taylor getting a shot away.

When they did manage to string a succession of passes together, there looked plenty of space for them to work in going forward.

Hedges had a great chance to make it 2-0, and cap an impressive first half, but when freed by Gallagher, he put the ball over from eight yards, unmarked.

Brown had stood up well to the test of Onel Hernandez for the most part, but was caught out five minutes before the break, twice fouling the winger who managed to play on, but his pass to Taylor saw the striker fail to hit the target.

That wasn’t a fate befitting Brereton’s strike on the stroke of half time as Rovers doubled their advantage. Space opened up for the Rovers’ top scorer, who lined up a curling strike from 25 yards that took everyone by surprise as it landed in the top corner.

Tony Mowbray will have been pleased with aspects of his side’s first half display, but knowing that they could use the ball better.

With that in mind, as well as a booking for Edun, he sent on Bradley Dack for the start of the second half.

They needed a one-handed Kaminski save however moments after the re-start to keep their clean sheet intact, Taylor found free at the far post from a deep corner, but the Belgian clawed it behind for a corner.

Corners appeared to be Birmingham’s best hope, a 57th minute set play saw Kristian Pedersen beat his marker to the ball, though Kaminski was able to hold comfortably.

Rovers hadn’t shown much as an attacking force in the second half, that until Brereton was teed up by Pickering to have a go at goal from the edge of the box, this one along the floor, with Etheridge across to palm it to safety.

Hedges then had an excellent chance to make it three, found again by Gallagher, though Etheridge was equal to his attempts to lift the ball over him as he spread himself wide to block.

Dilan Markanday was Rovers’ next change, on in place of Brereton, the January signing making his first appearance since being injured on his debut.

Jack Vale was sent on for the final 13 minutes, moments after Taylor thumped a free kick over from the edge of the box before the hosts did find a way back into the game.

Pedersen made a break forward from left back, getting through some weak Rovers challenges before a sliding challenge on Wharton saw him divert the ball into the corner.

Rovers hadn’t taken the chances to wrap the game in which ensured the hosts were in it until the end, Markanday having a great chance to seal it when played clean through, but Etheridge was again there to thwart.

The full time whistle was greeted by a swarm of home supporters making their way onto the pitch to protest against their ownership, the Rovers players making a quick exit down the tunnel as the season ended in bizarre fashion.

Birmingham: Etheridge, Colin, Robert, Gordon, Pedersen, James, Bacuna (Hall, 59), Sunjic, Chong (Bellingham, 59), Hernandez, Taylor (Hogan, 90)

Subs: Trueman, Friend, Woods, Graham

Rovers: Kaminski, Brown, Ayala, Wharton, Pickering, Travis, Buckley, Edun (Dack, 46), Hedges, Gallagher (Vale, 77), Brereton (Markanday, 66)

Subs: Eastham, Dolan, Rankin-Costello, Lenihan

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