Blackburn Rovers progressed to the third round of this season's Carabao Cup after defeating Danny Cowley's Imps at Ewood Park. City fought back from an early setback when Joe Nuttall opened the scoring, but The Imps were to equalise through a first goal for Joan Luque on his first competitive start, but ultimately the Championship hosts proved to be too strong as they ran out winners thanks to second half goals from Danny Graham, Paul Downing and Casey Palmer.
The Imps started the game with a much changed side from the one which defeated Notts County going into the Caraboa Cup 2nd round tie against their hosts, who themselves shuffled their pack after defeating Brentford at Ewood Park on Saturday. City were backed by around 1,000 supporters who made their way over to East Lancashire as the game got underway.
Rovers put the pressure on early in the game with Joe Grayson and Craig Conway both putting dangerous balls into the Imps’ penalty area, which were despatched from danger. Moments later though the hosts were to take the lead, a good block in the area from a second Conway centre in from the right, the ball fortuitously dropped to the feet of Joe Nuttall who swept home past Sam Slocombe.
City got themselves organised and pressed for the equaliser quickly, Jason Shackell nodding a corner into the heart of the Rovers box which Matt Rhead battled for but the hosts hacked the ball clear. Ellis Chapman perfectly read a cross midfield ball to purposefully stride forward in possession, before hitting a grass cutting effort which flew wide of David Raya’s left hand upright as The Imps continued their quest to restore parity. Following a wonderful ball from Michael O’Connor who pinged a 35 yard pass wide onto the left flank where Joan Luque gladly took possession before hitting a low drive which Raya did well to save at his near post.
Rovers had been on the backfoot for quite some time before another opportunity came their way, Paul Caddis linked with Danny Graham but the shot which was heading towards the far post was well blocked by James Wilson.
Staying patient and looking for the opportunity, the Imps were to get themselves a deserved equaliser. The combination of Rhead and LUQUE were to create the opportunity and the Spaniard wasn’t denied a second time by Raya as his low effort arrowed into the goal from inside the penalty area, his first goal for City in his first start for the club.
The Imps’ tails were clearly up and they were playing with confidence against their Championship hosts, with the travelling army of supporters behind Slocombe’s goal in fine voice. City were frustrating Rovers, forcing errors with their hard work and industry all the while limiting their chances of anything like a chance to get back ahead in the tie, Amari’i Bell chanced his arm from distance but it wasn’t to trouble the City goal. Conversely, City were to have Raya diving to his left as Matt Green smashed a volley from close range into the side netting just ahead of the break to end a good half for Danny Cowley’s men.
Blackburn Rovers 1 The Imps 1
Blackburn came out pressing high up the pitch right from the restart and were to spurn a good chance within the opening minute, a ball into the box was met by the head of Nuttall but his effort went wide of goal. Almost immediately though City were forging a path to goal of their own as Green was to get a shot away in the Rover’s area but it was blocked before it got to Raya in the home goal. The end to end stuff continued as Bell then lashed a volley wide of goal, and there was only 180 seconds gone in the second half at this point.
That intense pace continued and the home side were to profit, Danny Graham sliding home after being put in on the right-hand side of the penalty area. The goal boosted the home side and Rothwell tried to extend their lead, running onto a ball at the edge of the Imps’ area, his effort however went high into the crowd.
The home side continued their pressing game and, on the hour mark they were to get their third goal of the game which was arguably a little cruel on the determined Imps. Paul Downing guiding home Caddis’ pass from the edge of the area giving Slocombe no chance.
City made a triple substitution as they looked for a way back into the tie, while the home side were looking hungry for more, Conway trying a curled effort which just crept wide of the far post.
The pace of the game slowed somewhat as it entered the final quarter, but Harry Anderson was doing his best to inject some pace down the City right flank but with Rovers doubling up on the midfielder, it was too difficult to make the breakthrough.
Rovers were to score their fourth of the game via the boot of Kasey Palmer, the Chelsea loanee who came on as a second half substitute curling home a perfectly executed free kick from 25 yards, over the wall and into the goal. The travelling Imps’ supporters were still doing their all to urge their side forward and were applauding when Slocombe made a fantastic save from Caddis who had cut in from the right before unleashing a low shot which was heading goalwards.
City’s attempts to give their supporters a second goal to celebrate came to no avail as the Championship side saw out the game efficiently to head into round three of this season’s Carabao Cup.
Blackburn Rovers 4 The Imps 1
1 David RAYA
2 Ryan NYAMBE
8 Joe ROTHWELL
10 Danny GRAHAM
16 Paul CADDIS
17 Amari’I BELL
24 Joe NUTTALL
25 Paul DOWNING
27 Lewis TRAVIS
32 Craig CONWAY
35 Joe GRAYSON
13 Jayson LEUTWILER
6 Ritchie SMALLWOOD
26 Darragh LENIHAN
28 William TOMLINSON (80’ for Travis)
31 Elliott BENNETT
34 Dan BUTTERWORTH (72’ for Graham)
45 Kasey PALMER (60’ for Rothwell)
GOAL: Nuttall 5’ Graham 50’ Downing 61’ Palmer 77’
24 Sam SLOCOMBE
4 Michael O’CONNOR
5 Jason SHACKELL
9 Matt RHEAD
10 Matt GREEN
12 Ellis CHAPMAN
15 James WILSON
19 Joan LUQUE
20 Adam CROOKES
23 Neal EARDLEY
26 Harry ANDERSON
21 Grant SMITH
2 Kellan GORDON
7 Tom PETT (63’ for O’Connor)
8 Lee FRECKLINGTON
11 Bruno ANDRADE (63’ for Luque)
14 Harry TOFFOLO
29 John AKINDE (63’ for Rhead)
GOAL: Luque 28’
Booked: O’Connor 51’
Referee: Geoff Eltringham
Assistants: Nick Greenhalgh & James Mainwaring
4th Official: Martin Coy
Attendance: 5,211 (1,214 Imps’ supporters)