In-form Blackburn Rovers pulled five points clear of the relegation zone after recording back-to-back wins and clean sheets in the Premier League for the first time under much-maligned manager Steve Kean.
Despite losing the likes of experienced trio Jason Roberts, Ryan Nelsen and the influential former captain Chris Samba since January, Rovers’ younger stars have played fearlessly in an attempt to turn their fortunes around. Two consecutive shutouts suggest that natural central midfielder Jason Lowe has grown into his role at right-back, while Scottish centre-back Grant Hanley – who started the season as fifth choice behind Samba, Nelsen, Gael Givet and Scott Dann – is slowly gaining admirers.
In addition, the Olsson twins – Marcus and Martin – have bamboozled opposition full-backs with their blistering pace down the left flank, while anchor man Steven Nzonzi and Argentine midfielder Mauro Formica have continued to work hard for the cause. Of all the talented youngsters however, it is Junior Hoilett who is once again taking many of the plaudits for Rovers’ improved form.
The 21-year-old Canadian looks likely to leave Ewood Park when his contract runs out this summer, but it is clear that he has a crucial role to play in the battle for survival before season’s end. Kean has allowed the creative attacker to play in behind prolific frontman Yakubu in recent weeks – a tactical decision which seems to have worked wonders as Hoilett has scored three excellent goals in his last two games.
Even though Hoilett is likely to attract more attention from top-flight teams across Europe after his impressive recent displays, he may leave with Rovers’ fans blessings should he continue to play a crucial role in avoiding relegation.
Hoilett and co will travel to Bolton on Saturday, knowing that a third win on the spin would put them eight points clear of their local rivals with less than a quarter of the season to go. While a Rovers defeat would not be enough to send them back into the drop zone, it would almost certainly see supporters begin to panic about their survival chances once again. Kean may have impressed much of the outside world by guiding Rovers back up the table again, but in truth, the remaining doubters will only be proved wrong when safety is assured.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Bolton v Blackburn