Whatever the circumstance or the overwhelming emotions of the evening, it was difficult to escape the scrutiny Steve Kean's position is increasingly under. Compounding a dreadful run, Premier League Blackburn were dumped out the Carling Cup by the Championship side Cardiff City.
It was only 17 days since Gary Speed was involved in his last game of football and that Wales' 4-1 defeat of Norway at the Cardiff City Stadium gave this quarter-final added resonance.
They applauded the national manager, sang his name and honoured him with a minute's silence. Of course, competition seems meaningless in such situations, but still there was a tie to play and Cardiff advanced to the last four in some style.
For Kean, the visit of Swansea on Saturday surely takes on critical importance. He rested five of his first team, perhaps with that game in mind. It was a call that some will call brave, though many more will label symptomatic of a manager who has lost his way.
"Saturday's massive for us – hence the reason for the five changes tonight," said Kean, who revealed he was meeting with the owners, Venky's, today to discuss "transfer targets". "We have to get back to winning ways in the league." He then made a statement, which will surprise and very likely anger the support. "We have forfeited our chance in this competition to get to a cup final and now must treat Saturday as a cup final. It has to kickstart our season."
Credit should be given to Cardiff for a display which encapsulated their league form. Only three places separate Malky Mackay's side from the Premier League's bottom team and their contrasting fortunes were all too obvious. Cardiff are now just one step from their fourth visit to Wembley in as many years. The memory of the 2008 FA Cup final burns bright.
"It was an emotional evening for everybody," said Mackay. "We wanted to get through to the next round not just for us but as a tribute to Gary Speed – to put Wales into the semi-finals of the Carling Cup."
It took Kenny Miller 19 minutes to break the deadlock. The Scotsman ran on to Aron Gunnarsson's through ball before unleashing a clinical finish. Thus a strong start by the visitors gave way to panic. Five minutes later, Miller almost doubled the score. The striker skipped down the byline, flummoxed Mark Bunn but hit the upright. A mêlée ensued from the rebound, but somehow Blackburn cleared.
Cardiff's second, five minutes into the second spell, verged on the inevitable. Anthony Gerrard rose to meet Peter Whittingham's corner and Slovakian Filip Kiss got a touch.
By then both sets of supporters were singing "sacked in the morning". Heaton did his part to add to Kean's misery when again denying a David Goodwillie header. Before the long journey back north there was time for the Blackburn faithful, who travelled in impressive number, to chant "Shearer, Shearer" plus a few renditions of "Keano out, Keano out".
"It's never nice if the fans are being negative," said Kean. "But when you're focused on the game it doesn't affect me. We all want the same thing. We want the club to move up the table."
Cardiff City (4-5-1): Heaton; McNaughton, Taylor, Gerrard, Turner; Cowie, Whittingham, Gunnarsson, Kiss (McPhail, 78), Conway (Ralls, 83); Miller. Substitutes not used Marshall (gk), Earnshaw, Quinn, Mason, Blake.
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Bunn; Hanley, Givet, Dann, Lowe; Pedersen, Petrovic (Rochina, 70), Dunn, Blackman (Roberts, 80); Formica, Goodwillie (Yakubu, 80). Substitutes not used Robinson (gk), Vukcevic, Anderson, Henley.
Referee M Atkinson (W Yorks)Reuse content