On the face of things, it looks as though the Imps have been well beaten tonight and in terms of the balance of play, that is the case.
After a tight first half in which City applied themselves well, Blackburn upped the ante after the break and didn’t give the visitors a look in. They had many first team players out and scored some good goals to put the game beyond the Imps.
However, consider this. Lincoln City made seven changes to the side that won 3-1 at the weekend, Adam Crookes and Juan Luque made their first starts for the club, Matt Green and Matt Rhead both got a start and there were appearances for James Wilson and young Ellis Chapman who was excellent in the middle of the park.
Blackburn made six. One of their goal scorers was Kasey Palmer, another starter from their Championship win against Brentford this weekend. So whilst they did make use of their squad, we did the same perhaps to a greater degree.
The first half wasn’t bad at all, City composed themselves well after conceding the early goal, with Ellis Chapman looking very assured. Juan Luque looked lively, if not a little naïve at times. His link up with Adam Crookes looked to be in its infancy, which is perhaps to be expected. Crookes made amends with a performance in which he improved significantly.
Remember, Blackburn haven’t lost this season but we matched them for a period of time. Losing the second goal did kill the Imps off though and after that, there was only one winner.
Danny Cowley explained the changes and his responsibility to the fans in his post-match interview with Rob Makepeace.
“I think it is always hard as a League Two club coming to a Championship club. we made a lot of changes which was a necessity tonight. It’s hard when you’re playing nine games in 28 days. You have to make the right decisions for the group and for the club long-term.”
“It’s hard as a manager because we had over 1,000 fans who have travelled hours to get here and that always plays on your conscience. We have to make the right decisions to allow ourselves to get into the best possible positions to compete on Saturday.”
“It’s really tough because you’re exposing young players and inexperienced players to very good Championship players.”
— Rob Makepeace (@rob_makepeace) August 28, 2018
Danny talks about learning and there was one big lesson we’ve learned as fans tonight, something that we haven’t seen from Danny before. He’s clearly prioritised the league over the League Cup, something that has never been the case. Last season there were some changes, but to drop Luque and Crookes in the side showed that Exeter is a priority.
I know Danny speaks of not wanting to lose and being disappointed. He talks about never accepting defeat and I get that, but if he was given a choice, do you think it would have been a win tonight or a win on Saturday. His team selection suggests Saturday is by far the more important game and honest fans would agree with the decision.
Is there much more point in picking over this match? Is there anything we can truly learn that will help us in assessing our chances going forward? Ellis gets better, he didn’t look out of place at all. Luque took his goal well and he’s a dirty diamond right now. One or two others maybe didn’t impress too much and Rhead did look to be a passenger for long spells. He’s a battering ram and will be far more effective from the bench, not from the start.
Danny perhaps summed things up best at the end of his interview with Rob Makepeace tonight,.
“If the EFL want us to value this competition, they’ve got to rethink their scheduling. If they schedule the second round after we’ve been Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday you’re going to get weakened sides others you’ll break players. I urge them to rethink their scheduling.”
As for this season’s competition, we now sit the rest of it out but if come May we’re in the top three, few of us will recall this as the crushing defeat the score line makes it look like.