"Made in Blackburn, destroyed in India" read several of the banners on display outside Ewood Park before kick-off yesterday as a fans' protest march from the town hall reached its destination. Yet however prevalent the discontent among Rovers supporters – and "We want Venky's out" was the song they chorused even in victory – they at least headed home with a glimmer of hope for their team's survival prospects.
Steve Kean's patched-up team earned a precious win over Norwich City yesterday that lifted them above Bolton Wanderers into 18th place with three games to play. Mauro Formica and Junior Hoilett, scoring either side of the interval, provided the goals and it was a victory that was ultimately richly deserved. "We had one focus today and it was pretty simple, the focus was to win and to get three points for Blackburn Rovers and that's what we've done and that's all I'll say on the matter," said Kean of his players' response to a run of five straight defeats and the latest swirl of negative headlines around the Lancashire club.
Even here, they were without arguably their best midfielder, Steven Nzonzi, amid rumours of a fresh fall-out. Kean explained afterwards that Nzonzi was on the bench because his "physical stats have started to tumble, which suggested he is needing a rest" and instead praised his "six or seven candidates for man of the match".
These were led by Gaël Givet, back to bolster Rovers' central defence after his own conciliatory talks with Kean, and battling on like Bradley Orr after a painkilling injection at half-time. That forwards Yakubu and Hoilett shrugged off their own respective hamstring and tendon problems to play left Kean musing that Rovers were "on their last legs" yet, encouragingly, the spirit was willing. "We felt if we went positive and with the two out and out strikers in Yakubu and Hoilett and David Dunn in that in attacking midfield position, we felt we could ask questions of Norwich's back four and we did," Kean said.
"It has given us something. The target in our remaining four games was to try and get something from every game," added the Scot, whose side have trips to Tottenham and Chelsea to come, sandwiching a home meeting with Wigan.
Rovers made a nervy start and there was a let-off for the home side when James Vaughan, finally fit to make his first Norwich start after last summer's arrival from Everton, missed his kick when the ball sat up for him in the home box. Jonny Howson then went close on the half-hour when he advanced to within shooting range and forced a fingertip save from Paul Robinson with a swirling drive.
Yet with half-time approaching, Rovers came to life as an attacking force. Yakubu provided a warning shot when Morten Gamst Pedersen nodded a Hoilett cross back into the six-yard box and the Nigerian, with an acrobatic overhead kick, sent the ball spinning against the foot of the post. Yakubu was involved again when the breakthrough came, bringing the ball forward down the inside left channel and laying it off to Pedersen whose first-time cross was dispatched coolly on the volley through the legs of John Ruddy by the unmarked Formica. "It was a poor goal from our point of view," lamented Norwich manager Paul Lambert. "There were five of us and one [Blackburn] man in the box."
Hoilett's strike early in the second half secured the points. The Canadian had scored in spectacular fashion when the sides met at Carrow Road and he did it again, cutting inside from the left flank and curling a wonderful strike beyond the grasp of Ruddy and inside the far corner of the goal. It was Hoilett's seventh goal of the season and underlined why he is expected to attract some high-profile suitors when his contract expires this summer.
Norwich had fought back from two goals behind to hold Blackburn 3-3 in October and Lambert sought a change of fortune with the introduction of Steve Morison and Aaron Wilbraham. The latter tested Robinson with a shot on the turn and might have ensured a tense finish had he got his head to Ryan Bennett's shot across goal. Instead Blackburn had their points, leaving their fans to get back to chanting against Venky's.
Blackburn (4-1-3-2): Robinson; Orr, Dann, Givet, Marcus Olsson; Lowe; Formica, Dunn (Martin Olsson, 62), Pedersen; Hoilett (Petrovic, 82), Yakubu (Modeste, 75).
Norwich (4-4-2): Ruddy; Martin, R Bennett, Ward, Drury; E Bennett, Howson, Hoolahan (Pilkington, 59), Surman; Holt (Wilbraham, 66), Vaughan (Morison, 59).
Referee Kevin Friend.
Man of the match Hoilett (Blackburn).
Match rating 6/10.