Blackburn Club Focus – Addressing defensive frailties the key to Rovers survival

Having been knocked out of the FA Cup by Newcastle United at the Third Round stage of the historic competition last month, struggling Premier League side Blackburn Rovers were not involved in any football over the weekend. The Lancashire outfit, who defeated fellow relegation rivals Queens Park Rangers last time out, currently sit in 17th place in the top-flight table, after collecting just 21 points from their opening 25 games. And while their record in front of goal is superb – Rovers have racked up 37 goals so far this term and only the present top five have scored more, manager Steve Kean may have spent the weekend trying to solve their defensive problems.

Rovers have conceded more goals, 56, than any other team so far this campaign – at an average rate of 2.24 goals per game. Kean will be worried by that statistic, particularly when you consider that the Ewood Park side shipped just 59 goals during the whole of last season. Rovers have failed to keep a clean sheet since the slender 1-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers last April. That record may need to change if the former Premier League champions are to stay up this term.

January signing Bradley Orr told the Lancashire Telegraph : “Obviously if someone offered you a 2-1 or a 3-2 win, you would say yes. It’s just vital that we win. But it would be great if we can keep a few clean sheets between now and the end of the season, because that would help us get results. It would give us a good chance of getting the wins we need. Any clean sheet is important and we would love to start doing that.”

With Chris Samba injured, Gael Givet suspended and Ryan Nelsen released last month, Kean may be forced to pair Grant Hanley and Scott Dann at the heart of Rovers’ defence once again at the Etihad Stadium. Orr is expected to start at right-back, while Swedish star Martin Olsson is likely to retain his place at left-back. Given that Kean may not have a couple of his first-choice defenders available; it is difficult to see where the next clean sheet will come from. However, Rovers appeared to be on course for one at half-time during the last game against QPR, though the visitors pulled back two goals in the second half to spoil their chances of that happening.

While it seems that Rovers’ best hopes of staying up will be to rely on the likes of Yakubu to keep on scoring, that could be a dangerous game to play, particularly if the Nigerian striker picks up another suspension or an injury. If Rovers are to stay up, they may need to start mixing up their scoring sprees with some much-needed clean sheets. Perhaps a weekend without action will have allowed Kean to organise his leaky defence.

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