Rovers sacrifice style in survival battle

STEVE KEAN can only hope Blackburn’s owners think the further and higher you can kick a ball, the better you are.

Rovers’ first win in three months pulled them three points above the relegation zone and they also have favourable goal difference as they head into the final three matches of the season.

Kean discussed how his players “needed” to beat Bolton rather than “wanted” the win and at this stage of the season, getting the points is really all that matters.

But after dumping Sam Allardyce in order to play more attractive football, where does this leave ‘The Blackburn project’?

Even Martin Olsson, who scored the only goal on Saturday, admits it’s time to ditch “the fancy stuff”, either meaning passing football is not winning football — Barcelona could probably dispute that — or that Blackburn’s players are just not capable of playing in such a way.

Blackburn’s midfielders had plenty of time to ponder such matters as the ball sailed over their heads time and again against Bolton.

But it looks as though the real test will come next season, assuming that Blackburn will do enough to avoid the drop to the Championship.

What is required for that remains to be seen, with a trip to West Ham next weekend before a home game against Manchester United and a final day clash at Wolves.

There are those who believe even one more point will do it but there is also a school of thought that even that might be beyond them.

But the odds on them going down lengthened after this win and Olsson accepts that the final three matches will not be easy on the eye.

“Sometimes you can play all that fancy stuff but you just have to work hard, dig in and win games. I think we did that against Bolton,” the Swedish youngster said.

“We stuck together and I think togetherness is probably the most important thing for us now. (The owners) came in to see the players in December or January, but that was it. There was nothing else.

“We’ve got some experienced players and we don’t need to hear that from the owners. We know exactly what trouble we’re in. We’re old enough to know what we’ve got to do.

“We could feel the fans’ frustration as well when we kept losing games and not scoring goals. Hopefully we’ve turned it around because we’ve got a lot of experienced players who are strong mentally. We’ve just got to stick together now.”

Kean thinks that one more win will do it but, for the first time, he has hinted at the strain that the last three months has put on him.

“I don’t know how much I’ve aged, I’ve had a few more grey hairs so I’ve had to take the clippers down a notch to get rid of them,” he said.

“Certainly there’s pressure when you’re not winning every week but this group of players will give us the points that I’m sure will be enough over the next couple of weeks.”

A workhorse midfield of Brett Emerton, Steven Nzonzi, Jermaine Jones and Olsson will probably just about do enough but goals will not be flowing on the evidence of the weekend.

The starting line-up had managed just 16 and Benjani and Jason Roberts may be able to leap for Paul Robinson’s huge clearances and chase the flicks but they are probably the most unconvincing pairing in the league.

And having seen Niko Kalinic and Mame Biram Diouf come off the bench before him, Roque Santa Cruz must be wondering where his career is heading.

The only goal came with a flash of brilliance from Olsson, who made the most of the space afforded him by David Wheater to squeeze a shot into the bottom corner.

That Wheater was shunted out to the right is typical of the current set-up at Bolton, where Owen Coyle must produce depth to go with a decent starting XI.

“You’d certainly look to have a couple more bodies than we’ve had this year,” he said. “We haven’t got huge numbers and that will hurt us at different times.”


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