Blackburn ended 2011 on a massive high and went into the New Year with renewed confidence regarding their survival chances. But the bubble soon burst and Rovers were back to their losing ways as Stoke visited Ewood Park for the first game of 2012. Peter Crouch scored a first half double to secure all three points for the away side despite David Goodwillie pulling one back for Rovers in the second half.
Five days later Rovers travelled to Newcastle for the third round of the FA Cup. An injury time winner from Jonas Gutierrez booked the Magpie’s place in the fourth round.
Attentions turned back to the Premier League as Blackburn hosted Fulham desperate for three points. Yakubu was shown a straight red for a high tackle on Danny Murphy midway through the first half leaving many fans predicting a Fulham onslaught. But it was not to be as Rovers took a shock lead in first half stoppage time thanks to a Pedersen free-kick. After the break 10 men Rovers soon doubled their lead through talisman David Dunn. Former Rovers player Damien Duff pulled one back for the visitors before substitute Formica sealed the three points with a textbook angled strike.
During the January transfer window there were several comings and goings at Ewood Park. French Under 21 striker Antony Modeste was signed on loan from Bordeaux. Steve Kean also landed the signatures of Marcus Olsson, twin of Martin, and defender Bradley Orr in an attempt to bolster a failing Blackburn squad.
Going the opposite way saw several experienced players depart Ewood Park; Jason Roberts, Ryan Nelsen and Keith Andrews were all sold. In addition to these departures the future of Michel Salgado was bleak and so to was that of Chirs Samba, the want away defender was certain he would not play another game for Rovers but as the window shut his Blackburn future was up in the air as he remained a Rovers player.
Blackburn ended the month with a trip to Everton where both teams took a share of the points. Tim Cahill scored a controversial first half goal before David Goodwillie grabbed a deserved Blackburn equaliser.
The month started with yet another defeat. Steve Kean’s men hosted Newcastle who coasted to a 2-0 victory courtesy of a first half Scott Dann own goal and a late Gabriel Obertan strike. Leaving Blackburn to rue missed opportunities as David Dunn failed to convert a first half penalty, Blackburn were evidently missing the inform Yakubu.
Blackburn were struggling and visited Arsenal having already beaten them earlier in the season. Gunners’ striker Robin Van Persie put the hosts in front with less than two minutes on the clock. But Blackburn resiliently got themselves back into the game with a fantastic Pedersen free-kick. Arsenal responded with strikes from Van Persie and Chamberlain making it 3-1 with just 40 minutes on the clock. Moments later things went from bad to worse for Rovers as Gael Givet was shown a straight red card for a two footed tackle. After the break Blackburn fell to pieces as Arteta and Chamberlain scored before Van Persie completed his hat-trick. And as Blackburn thought things could not get any worse, there was even time for Arsenal legend Thierry Henry to make it 7-1 completing the rout.
Their next game saw Rovers host QPR in a relegation six pointer. Both teams were eager for a win but it was Blackburn who took all three points. Yakubu and Nzonzi both scored before QPR defender Onuoha scored an own goal gving the hosts a 3-0 lead going into half time. After the break substitute Jamie Mackie scored twice to set up a tense finale but the hosts held on for a vital three points.
Late in the month Chris Samba’s future was finally decided as the defender joined wealthy Russian side FC Anzhi Makhachkala after 5 years at Ewood Park.
Blackburn rounded off a poor month with a lacklustre defeat at the Etihad Stadium. City ran out 3-0 winners in a game they dominated from start to finish with Rovers failing to test Joe Hart in the city goal. Goals from Balotelli, Aguero and Dzeko sealed a deserved three points for Manchester City as they went in search of their first ever Premier League title. The defeat meant Rovers were still struggling at the foot of the table, and time was running out.
Blackburn went in to March knowing they had to start winning games if they wanted to have any chance of surviving the drop. They started the month with a point against Aston Villa. The away side took an undeserved lead through Charles Nzogbia before David Dunn headed home a late equaliser much to the relief of Steve Kean and the Blackburn faithful.
Rovers then travelled to fellow strugglers Wolves, with both teams knowing they had to win. Hoilett scored twice for Rovers with two good strikes earning the blues a crucial three points. Blackburn also recorded their first clean sheet in 30 Premier League games, a run stretching back to April 2011. The 2-0 win for Rovers meant their survival chances were reignited whilst Wolves looked destined for the Championship.
Next up Rovers hosted Sunderland in what promised to be an exciting match. Surprisingly Blackburn dominated and eventually ran at 2-0 winners securing another vital three points whilst recording their second successive clean-sheet, miracles do happen. Goals form Hoilett and Yakubu gave the Blackburn fans a glimmer of hope as Steve Kean’s men moved out of the bottom three, opening up a six point gap with back to back wins.
The month ended with a local derby as Rovers travelled to Bolton in another six pointer. Bolton were returning to Premier League action for the first time since Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch during their FA Cup clash with Tottenham at White Hart Lane. The world of football was watching on, intrigued to see how Bolton would cope after the horrific incident, and valiantly they did Muamba proud seeing off Rovers with a 2-1 win. David Wheater scored twice in the first half before Blackburn’s Steven Nzonzi pulled one back for the visitors. But the home side held on to claim all three points boosting their survival chances.
Blackburn went in to April three points clear of the relegation zone with just 8 games remaining. Manchester United visited Ewood Park on the 2nd of April with Blackburn looking to complete an unlikely double over Sir Alex’s men. Blackburn defended heroically and were unfortunate not to take the lead as Spanish goalkeeper De Gea pulled off a string of fine saves to keep out the home side. And in typical fashion Manchester United left it late to clinch all three points as strikes from Valencia and Young extended their lead at the top of the table whilst Rovers slumped back in to the bottom three on goal difference.
Rovers then travelled to West Brom and suffered their third successive league defeat sending Steve Kean’s men closer to the mire. A Martin Olsson own goal alongside goals from Fortune and Ridgewell secured a convincing 3-0 win for the Baggies as Rovers were wasteful in front of goal.
Liverpool then visited Ewood Park fielding a weakened side as they had their eyes on the FA Cup Semi Final against local rivals Everton. Despite Kenny Dalglish’s team selection Liverpool got off to a flyer as Maxi Rodriguez scored twice within the first 15 minutes before Liverpool goalkeeper Doni was sent off and a penalty awarded. Substitute keeper Brad Jones saved Yakubu’s tame penalty but the Nigerian made up for his error moments before the break heading home a Pedersen free-kick to hand Blackburn a life line. Half way through the second half Blackburn’s dominance was rewarded with another penalty, and this time Yakubu did not make any mistakes firing the ball home to level the game. Blackburn went in search of a winner but could not find a way past a stout Liverpool defence, instead the away side cruelly scored a late winner thanks to Andy Carroll. Blackburn’s survival chances took a major blow as they failed to convert their chances in front of goal.
With just five games remaining Blackburn travelled to Swansea in search of three points. But the Welsh side were no pushovers and ran out 3-0 winners as Blackburn lost their fifth successive league game. Sigurdsson and Dyer scored first half goals before Scott Dann rounded off a poor Blackburn display by putting the ball in to the back of his own net half way through the second half.
Whilst teams around them began to pick up vital points Blackburn were going down without a fight. Steve Kean’s men were slowly drifting towards the trap door as QPR and Wigan clambered out of the drop zone. Blackburn hosted Norwich knowing three points was a must. Goals either side of half time from Formica and Hoilett ended Blackburn’s run of five consecutive league defeats giving them a glimmer of hope.
Blackburn ended the month with an embarrassing 2-0 defeat to Tottenham at White Hart Lane. Steve Kean’s men became the first ever Premier League side to fail to muster up a strike on goal. Spurs dominated with goals from Van Der Vaart and Kyle Walker as Blackburn’s task of survival looked impossible with just two games remaining.
The task was simple, beat Wigan and Blackburn’s survival chances would go to the wire, but anything less would result in the former Premier League champions being relegated to the Championship after their 11 year stay in the top flight.
The atmosphere inside Ewood Park was intense as large sections of the fans chanted for the removal of Kean and club owners Venky’s as they saw their team go down without a fight. Blackburn failed to hurt Wigan as they rarely threatened and eventually Blackburn’s fate was decided as Alcaraz headed home a late winner for the Latics relegating Rovers.
So with Blackburn’s fate decided they travelled to Chelsea on the final day of the season. Both teams had nothing to play for but pride. Chelsea rested key players ahead of their Champions League final with Bayern Munich but recorded a 2-1 victory over already relegated Blackburn. Goals from Terry and Meireles secured the points for Chelsea despite a consolation goal from Yakubu in the second half.
It has been a disastrous season for Blackburn and manager Steve Kean. Not only have they dropped out of the Premier League but they have lost key individuals along the way and they really are a club in crisis. Throughout the season Blackburn were sloppy defensively which has cost them their Premier League status. Despite Blackburn’s positive goal scoring record, Blackburn shot themselves in the foot by being wasteful in front of goals on several occasions.
Blackburn are a club in crisis on and off the field. A mass exodus of players and staff is expected with no one quite sure what the future holds for a club who were once regarded as one of the best run clubs in the country. Bleak times ahead for Blackburn Rovers.
Original article at www.brfcfans.com along with Season Review Part 1.