Relegation-threatened Blackburn Rovers remained second-bottom in the Premier League following a thrilling 3-3 draw against local rivals Wigan Athletic on Saturday afternoon. Struggling Scot Steve Kean has often argued that his side have been extremely unfortunate at times this season, but their failure to secure all three vital points from what anxious fans had dubbed a ‘must-win game’ was by no means down to a lack of luck.
In fact, it is Roberto Martinez’s Latics who will have felt hard done by, especially after a precious victory was snatched from them following a 99th minute penalty that was converted by Yakubu. Furthermore, Rovers’ equaliser to make it 2-2 – a close-range header by Junior Hoilett – was controversial and should not have stood following Morten Gamst Pedersen’s decision to dribble with the ball directly from a corner kick in the build-up to the goal. It left the under-pressure Kean ecstatic, but predictably, Martinez was fuming.
The Spaniard wasn’t the only angry man inside the DW Stadium. Rovers’ playmaker David Dunn was sent off shortly after the break after picking up a second yellow card for an unnecessary, reckless challenge. What Dunn was thinking when he made the tackle will never be known, but it certainly seemed as though the visitors would face an uphill battle from that point on. Bizarrely, Kean’s side did better without their midfield maestro and won the second-half.
Regardless of their fighting spirit and their courageous performance after going down to 10-men, the fact is that Rovers failed to win yet again and have now collected a meagre tally of seven points from a possible 36 this season. A continuation of such poor form would see them relegated. The former Premier League champions will have to start winning games and fast, or they could face the embarrassment of slipping down in to the Championship come May.
One of Kean’s major problems since he took charge last season has been the fitness of his players. More often than not, Rovers have been unable to field a full-strength back four due to injuries. Not surprisingly they are having major defensive issues. The Lancashire outfit have conceded 27 goals this season – only Bolton have shipped more. Rovers need the commanding figures of Chris Samba, Ryan Nelsen and Michel Salgado to find some fitness and then remain in good shape for the remainder of the season.
Despite defensive lapses, fans’ protests and Rovers’ current league position, there has been one major positive for Kean so far this term. The form of Nigerian striker Yakubu has been extremely encouraging – the former Portsmouth, Middlesbrough and Everton man now has five Premier League goals to his name in a Rovers shirt. Yakubu was signed on transfer deadline day in the summer for a fee reported to be in the region of around £1.5m and he is proving to be a real bargain. Kean will need his star striker to keep on producing the goods if Rovers are to stay in the top flight.
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