'Safety's in our hands,' says Kean after overdue victory

Blackburn Rovers 1 Bolton Wanderers 0
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The Independent Football

Rookie manager Steve Kean will take his Blackburn team to West Ham next week feeling that one of the Premier League's stranger subplots might produce the ending he has been gambling on after all.

A first win in three months means that, even in Kean's conservative estimation, survival in the top flight is now probable rather than possible after Blackburn increased their points tally to 38, three clear of the relegation zone, with three more games to pass the 40-point line which again appears likely to be the safety threshold.

When Blackburn's Indian owners took the controversial decision to promote Kean from his role as first-team coach to succeed Sam Allardyce as manager, the young Scot wanted to reshape Rovers along his own lines, replacing his predecessor's pragmatic approach with football of a more expansive, expressive style.

Such ambitions were always likely to be difficult to pursue and the risk for Kean was that results would go against him and the Venky's group, exercising their influence from thousands of miles away, would run out of patience with him and that he would go the same way as Allardyce.

Without a win since January, he must have feared for his job at times, but the defeat against Manchester City last week, which most neutrals thought was tough on Blackburn, seemed to have a galvanising effect.

They had a scare when Rodrigo Moreno hit the woodwork early on but once ahead through Martin Olsson's goal after 20 minutes, Blackburn always looked relatively secure against a Bolton side who played with the air of a team for whom the home straight has little at stake.

It was only a second goal of the season for Swedish winger Olsson but he was always a threat along the left for Blackburn against a defender in David Wheater who was playing out of position at right-back.

When Michel Salgado picked him out with a diagonal pass, following a mistake by Moreno, he went past Wheater and his left-foot shot from the edge of the penalty area swerved past goalkeeper Adam Bogdan.

The combination almost brought off a repeat, with Wheater again in trouble, but Bogdan, who had been picked for his first Premier League start since September in preference to first-choice Jussi Jaaskelainen, dived to his right to save at the foot of a post.

Bolton, showing four changes from the side beaten by Fulham in another end-of-term performance, did not muster much by way of response until late in the match, when substitutes Martin Petrov and Ivan Klasnic tried gamely to lift a flat display.

Blackburn had several chances to put the result beyond doubt, the best of which fell to substitute Mame Biram Diouf, after Morten Gamst Pedersen's pass was prodded into his path by defender Gary Cahill, and to Steven Nzonzi, who headed over from close range after Olsson's perfect cross.

Kean bemoaned his side's failure to secure the second goal but his defence rarely gave him cause for concern. Chris Samba and Phil Jones coped well with Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander down the middle. The only gloomy note for the home side was a knee injury for Salgado, who was carried off midway through the second half.

Defeat against Bolton spelt the end of Allardyce's reign in December. Kean has avoided that fate but it remains to be seen whether he retains the faith of Blackburn's owners after putting them through the mill.

"I don't know if a win at West Ham will make us safe," Kean said. "It depends how results go next week. But we can look after ourselves by getting our own points. We performed with a lot of spirit, attitude and togetherness, which were probably the words that brought us all together."

Attendance: 28,985

Referee: Mike Dean

Man of the match: Olsson

Match rating: 6/10