City 0 Blackburn 1

TOM Field and Timothee Dieng stood gaping at each other in confusion as the ball ran harmlessly out for a goal kick.

The Frenchman had expected his left back to overlap on the pass but the City loanee had misread the message and stood his ground.

That moment captured the afternoon in a nutshell as the loud, proud home record disappeared with a bit of a whimper.

We knew the longest unbeaten league run had to end at some point and 31 games is still a figure well worth crowing about.

Also, losing to a side fresh out of the Championship and hotly tipped to go straight back up hardly sticks in the craw as much as the defeat to bottom club Colchester nearly 18 months earlier that had prefaced the marathon unbeaten stretch.

But you would expect City to go down all guns blazing. On Saturday, somebody had forgotten to pack any ammo.

Not that Blackburn exactly peppered Colin Doyle's goal – the header that settled a bitty encounter typically came via a deflection to wrong-foot the keeper.

But there was a streetwise edge to Rovers, an understanding in what they were supposed to be doing, which held the advantage over the disjointed hosts.

There is something lacking with City right now, something that even two opening victories could not paper over.

Stuart McCall knows it just as well as the 21,403 crowd who ensured the atmosphere lived up to the occasion, if not the spectacle itself.

Against Blackpool and Gillingham, City were good in parts. This time, only the arrival of Charlie Wyke to add some much-needed muscle late on prompted some hope for the fans.

You quickly realised that for all the varying options at McCall's disposal, Wyke is the glue that sticks the attack together.

McCall may have dismissed any suggestion that City inquired about taking James Hanson back – and Blackburn boss Tony Mowbray kyboshed their apparent interest afterwards – but this was an afternoon crying out for someone like him.

Until Wyke barged his way into the fray, Blackburn's imposing defenders Charlie Mulgrew and Elliott Ward had enjoyed 70 minutes of unopposed heading practice.

Mowbray had done his homework as the visitors ensured City had no free ticket to play out from the back. They forced the clearances to go long with the inevitable outcome from the mismatch of inches.

City fans buoyed on arrival by the news that Omari Patrick had penned a long-term deal to ward off any potential raids then saw the youngster and Dominic Poleon bounce off the wall of blue and white halves.

There were only two occasions, both in the first half, when City threatened to get in behind the Blackburn backline.

Jake Reeves, a quieter figure than in previous games, wriggled promisingly into the box until Mulgrew shut him down.

Then Shay McCartan, who made little impression throughout, went to ground in stages under the challenge of Corry Evans and got a yellow card for his troubles.

Patrick almost found a hole on one occasion when Dieng's header from a free-kick dropped into his path but an instinctive stab from six yards out flew straight to keeper David Raya.

Blackburn, slated by Mowbray for their casual efforts the previous week against Doncaster, delivered the miserly response their manager had hoped for.

Bradley Dack's creativity – but you should expect that for a £750,000 outlay in League One – did stand out among the hard slog around him.

But for all his probing until forced into an early exit with a tight hamstring, Blackburn did not mount undue pressure on the City goal.

The breakthrough came two minutes after the restart.

Craig Conway's run was bright, as was Dominic Samuel's anticipation to reach his cross just ahead of Nathaniel Knight-Percival. But it needed a chunk of good fortune, flicking off Field to change the course of the header and leave Doyle beaten.

McCall shook things up with a triple change as Wyke was joined by Alex Jones and Paul Taylor.

But the most likely route to rescue a point – and preserve the record – came from any willingness from referee Peter Bankes to give a home penalty.

The official, who usually does games in the Championship, was twice urged to point to the spot for handling offences.

The first one struck Evans as Wyke tried to bring down Tony McMahon's cross. Then in stoppage time, the whole place roared for a whistle when a Matt Kilgallon pot-shot pinged up against Peter Whittingham.

"I thought there were two penalties," said Kilgallon, who was yellow-carded for his protests over the second non-call. "The referee gave them a lot and missed a few tackles.

"Then I got booked for shooting my mouth off – but it's hard when you're out there in the heat of the moment. I think it was the way I ran up to him but I couldn't believe he'd missed it.

"I've known Whittingham for a long time and he swore he never hand-balled it.

"But as I hit it as hard as I could, it just looked like he leant forward into the ball and it hit the top of his bicep.

"It's not like it's just hit his hand and I think it was similar with Corry Evans. He jumps up and it's another one that looks unnatural.

"But I knew it was going to be a scrappy goal that won it. They didn't really have any chances.

"They looked to hit Samuel up front with his pace. But Percy (Knight-Percival) and I gave ourselves two yards and tried to be clever and I thought we dealt with it.

"We didn't create anything either but they showed guts to stay in there and really battle, considering they probably haven't got a lot of confidence at the minute."

You sense that first win will now kick-start the charge from Blackburn that most observers expect. It's how City react to the first defeat, especially at Valley Parade, that is the bigger question.

Wyke's return to arms is key and it would be no surprise to see him pushed into a start against Walsall next time.

Equally crucial is whether McCall can find that formula he needs to get this present team of parts playing as a whole.