Blackburn Rovers will be forced to look anxiously over their shoulders as this intriguing Premier League season comes to a close after Steve Kean’s side let a precious lead slip against bottom side West Ham United at Upton Park on Saturday afternoon. The visitors took a well-deserved lead through the much-maligned Jason Roberts after just 12 minutes – the first time a striker has scored for Rovers since Nikola Kalinic’s goal against Aston Villa back in February. However, the Hammers, who desperately needed something from the game to boost their own chances of survival, hit back with 12 minutes remaining to steal a vital point.
A Rovers win would have all but secured Premier League football for next season. Nonetheless the ever-positive Kean insists that this point still takes them a step closer to safety. For a team that had taken just a single point from their previous seven away games, a draw against Avram Grant’s battlers is by no means a bad result. However, with Blackpool, Wigan Athletic and Wolverhampton Wanderers also unbeaten this weekend, Rovers could still be sucked into the bottom three before this topsy-turvy season is out.
If the Blues do stay up by a point, then they will have towering Congolese defender Chris Samba to thank for it. As West Ham put Rovers under extreme pressure towards the end, the robust centre-back put on a defensive masterclass to deny the hosts a winning goal. The 27-year-old has been a commanding presence at the back for Rovers since he joined the club for a fee of just £400,000 in 2007. His love affair with the Lancashire outfit looks sets to continue for many more years as he recently signed a long-term deal which will keep him at Ewood Park until 2015.
Samba was one of the most effective defenders in the top-flight this weekend. The former Hertha Berlin man made 14 successful clearances and five crucial blocks – more than any other Premier League player in the last round of games. Two of those terrific blocks were made during injury time in the second-half and allowed Rovers to leave London with a deserved point. With highly-coveted teenage sensation Phil Jones currently injured and club captain Ryan Nelsen out for the rest of the season, Samba will need to keep up that excellent level of performance for the last two games of the campaign in order to make sure that his side stay up.
Rovers are currently only three points above the relegation zone and although they are just a point away from reaching the traditional safety mark of 40 points, survival is not guaranteed just yet. The Blues face Manchester United at Ewood Park this weekend, where defeat at the hands of Sir Alex Ferguson’s title-chasers could see the relegation battle go down to the last day. However, if Rovers can hold out for something against the Red Devils, then they would probably be safe before the final weekend of the season. The manager, players and fans will be hoping for that to be the case.