Ewood Park recorded its highest attendance of the season for this crunch clash and the stage was set for the inventive Hoilett to once again impress the crowd. Hoilett is affectionately known as ‘Junior’ in this part of the world, but inspiring recent performances under Steve Kean have seen the gifted athlete become an integral part of the experienced senior side. The cover page of Rovers’ matchday programme boasted the words ‘Hoil the Hero’ – such has been his importance to the team over the last few months. Rovers’ strikers are currently failing to find the net and the Lancashire side have also missed the creativity and goal-scoring presence of David Dunn, therefore it is Hoilett who is taking the lead role and helping to fire Rovers to safety.
And the 20-year-old showed a great level of awareness and concentration to grab his fourth league goal of the season against Alex McLeish’s Carling Cup winners. Almost out of nothing, Hoilett seized the ball from the feet of Birmingham defender Liam Ridgewell, sped rapidly past Ben Foster and coolly tucked the ball home from an acute angle with his left foot. During his relatively short spell at Ewood Park, former Rovers boss Sam Allardyce did not appear to show much faith in the promising starlet, yet under Kean, Hoilett is getting an extended run in the first team and the new boss is certainly making the most out of the winger’s splendid skill and petrifying pace.
Hoilett is clearly enjoying his football these days as his value increases and his popularity continues to soar, but the same cannot be said of another Rovers star. Former favourite Roque Santa Cruz, who is currently on loan from Manchester City, has failed to find the net since his temporary move in January. The Paraguayan striker once again struck the woodwork against Birmingham, just as he did against Tottenham some time ago, but things simply do not appear to be working for the former Bayern Munich man. His first touch and passing were particularly poor and Kean may now opt to use a different striker when Rovers next play.
Although Rovers will have targeted a win against Birmingham and the players will undoubtedly be disappointed not to have clinched the three points, Kean can take heart from the fact that his side are improving, albeit very gradually. Rovers are currently unbeaten in three games and have pulled further away from the relegation zone. Hoilett’s goal could well prove to be very crucial come the end of this nerve-jangling campaign.