Bolton still in danger despite defeating a Blackburn Rovers outfit that continues to toil

Bolton Wanderers’ win over Blackburn Rovers on Tuesday night may yet spell the end of the line for Rovers manager Steve Kean, but the Wanderers boss Owen Coyle went a long way towards saving his reputation and his side’s Premier League future with the three points.

When the two teams met a year ago, in what proved to be the final match of the Sam Allardyce era at Ewood Park and the ushering in of the age of Kean, Bolton’s 2-1 victory took them to sixth in the table. An 88th minute Stuart Holden goal cancelled out El-Hadji Diouf’s 87th minute equaliser, after Fabrice Muamba had put the Whites in front. Fast-forward a year and the same score line only succeeds in keeping Wanderers off the foot of the table on Christmas Day. Now two points clear of bottom side Blackburn, but still three points adrift of 17th placed Wolverhampton Wanderers, Bolton’s fight against relegation is not over. In many ways, it is just beginning.

The January transfer window is sure to prove decisive for Bolton. Gary Cahill is widely expected to leave but with debts of £110m, bringing in a replacement may prove beyond Coyle. Central defence is also not the only position the manager needs to strengthen – the profligacy on show at Ewood Park, when a counter-attacking Bolton spurned chance after chance to put the game beyond the ragged Rovers, suggests that additional, more reliable firepower is required, as well as perfecting the supply since so many promising positions were wasted by an over-hit cross. Reliable firepower and better supply however costs money that Bolton do not appear to have and, as Coyle’s compatriot David Moyes is discovering, centre-forward is the most difficult area to scrimp and save.

Blackburn at least have a prolific goal scorer in Yakubu, who notched his 11th goal of the season in the second-half against Bolton. The Nigerian, signed from Everton late in the summer transfer window, has scored nearly double the goals of the player second on the Blackburn top scorers list, Ruben Rochina, and more than half of Rochina’s goals came in the Carling Cup. In the league, Yakubu is the only player to have scored more than three goals this season, and it is the striker’s goals that have kept Kean in his job this long. Without them, it is difficult to see who Blackburn could turn to to find the net, particularly since David Goodwillie, Kean’s other summer striking signing, has yet to score in the Premier League.

The loss to Bolton not only dealt Blackburn’s hopes of Premier League survival a hefty blow but it also ratcheted up the pressure on the under-fire Kean. With his position now described as ‘untenable’ by former Rovers striker Kevin Gallacher and no end in sight to the barracking from fans, the responsibility for saving Blackburn’s top-flight status may not be Kean’s much longer. It is surprising Kean has held on for a calendar year, given Venky’s sacked Sam Allardyce barely two months after assuming ownership of the club, with Rovers losing three of the last five games under the current West Ham manager. However, as Kean’s Bolton counterpart Coyle can attest, one victory makes the picture much rosier.

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