Struggling Blackburn Rovers head into their weekend fixture against mid-table West Bromwich Albion knowing that a third consecutive Premier League defeat could be a huge blow in the battle for survival. The last time Rovers lost three games on the trot – ending with the disappointing home defeat at the hands of local rivals Bolton – much-maligned manager Steve Kean faced a flurry of abuse from the Ewood Park crowd. While there is unlikely to be such a reaction should Rovers taste defeat at The Hawthorns – given their precarious position and how little of the season there is left – it would undoubtedly dent Blackburn’s chances of survival.
Fortunately for Kean and Rovers, their upcoming opponents West Brom are also struggling for form. Despite winning two of their last three home fixtures, Roy Hodgson’s side have failed to collect maximum points from a game since their 1-0 win over Chelsea on March 3. The Baggies are currently stuck on 36 points and while many believe that will be enough to keep them up this season, Blackburn are just eight points behind them.
The gap between the two sides would have been smaller had Rovers held out for the final 10 minutes of their clash against table-toppers Manchester United on Monday. The Ewood Park outfit frustrated their illustrious opponents for 80 minutes, before Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young fired United to a 2-0 victory. Rovers’ encouraging display gave great hope to their supporters that there was enough quality in the side to ensure that they would avoid the drop. Many fans however believe that Kean’s lack of substitutions is costing the team crucial points.
The Scotsman failed to make a single change against the Red Devils on Monday, while Sir Alex Ferguson used all three of his substitutions to great effect. Some may argue that Kean’s failure to call upon any of his squad players to make an appearance was largely because his first-teamers were playing so well at keeping the visitors at bay for a large chunk of the game. If things are going as planned, why spoil the flow with a change? Others feel that some of Rovers’ players looked quite tired and that fresh legs would have made a big difference.
That was not the only game in which Kean has been reluctant to use his options on the bench. In the three previous fixtures before the United clash, the manager used a total of three substitutions. As had been pointed out in the Lancashire
In truth, the worry over a lack of substitutions only seems to be highlighted when results are not going to plan. Should Rovers use just a single substitute at the weekend and still manage to beat West Brom, then the debate is likely to fizzle out. If the visitors however fail to pick up maximum points and Kean does not make full use of the players on his bench, then even more people will be asking one question. Why?
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