Another defeat means Tuesday is D-Day for Kean
Blackburn Rovers 1 West Bromwich Albion 2
Sunday 18 December 2011
Blackburn are offering a mince pie to every supporter at Tuesday night's game with Bolton, although only the head of Steve Kean is likely to be enough to drag people through Ewood Park's turnstiles.
This was Kean's first anniversary as Blackburn manager and there will not be a second. The only question is when he will be put out of his misery, and unless he can oversee victory over Bolton – not on the face of it one of football's more difficult tasks – it is likely to be this week.
The fans who have hounded him since the start of the season had declared a Christmas truce. The one on the Western Front in 1914, which involved a football being kicked around with rather more purpose than Blackburn displayed in the first half, lasted longer than this one. The moment Albion, who had not won at Ewood in 20 years, took the lead, the abuse came down from the stands like an alpine avalanche.
Had Jack Walker been alive, it is likely Kean would have been fired immediately after a defeat that made West Bromwich look like a low-budget version of Barcelona. It was a fate endured by Roy Hodgson in the aftermath of a 1-0 defeat by Southampton in November 1998, and he drove away from Ewood Park in tears. Walker is long dead, John Williams, the chairman who saw Blackburn through the past decade, has been paid off and the club appear paralysed as the freight train bound for the lower divisions thunders on.
However, the decision by the club's owners, Venky's, to appoint the Israeli "super-agent" Pini Zahavi as an advisor does not bode well for Kean's immediate survival. If they want a replacement, Zahavi at least will know where to look – for a price.
Part of the reason there has been so much anger aimed at the Scot has been his refusal to publicly accept that the club are in a crisis that could wreck them completely. There was a hint of his usual self-delusion afterwards as he mused that he kept feeling Blackburn "were about to go on a long unbeaten run", but there was also an acceptance his time may be up after 37 games and 32 points.
"I am under no illusions," he reflected. "I know my job depends on the team being in a better position than we are now. If the Bolton game wasn't massive before, it is absolutely critical now."
Perhaps because he had scored four times in their previous home game, against Swansea, perhaps because their confidence had gone completely, Blackburn's only ambition appeared to be to lump the ball up to Yakubu Ayegbeni, a tactic Albion expected and were prepared for. Their goal did come from a Route One ball from Paul Robinson, nodded down by the hulking figure of Chris Samba and turned in by Scott Dann's outstretched leg. However, apart from a desperate flurry near the end, the move for that equaliser was their only serious effort.
Albion were altogether better and, if they were fussy and overelaborate in front of goal, the two they scored were undeniably spectacular. The first came from James Morrison, a product of Middlesbrough's famed youth academy who was good enough to play in a Uefa Cup final as a teenager. Steven Nzonzi attempted to clear a corner and the midfielder, on the edge of the area, met it cleanly on the volley. "Stand up if you want Kean out," came the chant, and Ewood rose to its feet.
Injuries meant that Blackburn had no specialist left-back, and although Morten Gamst Pedersen performed manfully in a makeshift role, he was fatally exposed in the final moments as Peter Odemwingie cut into the area.
A specialist would have tried to force the striker on to his right foot and away from goal but Pedersen allowed him too much space, and the shot was venomous and on target.
There was one minute left, and for Kean there may be only one game.
Blackburn (4-1-4-1): Robinson; Lowe, Samba, Dann, Pedersen; Nzonzi; Formica, Vukevic (Roberts, 62), Dunn (Hanley, 62), Rochina (Goodwillie, 79); Yakbubu.
West Bromwich (4-2-3-1): Foster; Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Shorey; Scharner (Dorrans, 81), Mulumbu; Brunt, Odemwingie, Morrison; Long.
Referee Mark Clattenburg.
Man of the match Morrison (West Bromwich).
Match rating 7/10.
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