BLACKBURN // As truces go, even the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact lasted longer. The temporary ceasefire called by the Blackburn Rovers fans, regular and vocal critics of both their manager, Steve Kean, and their owners, Venky's, survived for barely 50 minutes.
Then hostilities resumed again, hatred was evident and Blackburn, for the second successive week, lost to a late goal. In one respect, Peter Odemwingie pilfered the points for West Bromwich Albion. In another, however, it was utterly deserved. West Brom exerted control from the off, were more fluent and finished with a flourish.
Blackburn were abject, bereft of ideas in attack and incapable of fashioning chances with anything other than long-ball football. This marked a year of Kean's management, and the awful anniversary rather summed up the Scot's reign.
It is a year in which Rovers have gone from a respectable, if scarcely exciting, mid-table team to the Premier League's basket case, one with a mere four wins in 30 games, without a clean sheet in eight months and riven by internal disputes. The Blackburn civil war is none too civil.
After James Morrison's lovely opener, the choruses of "Kean out" began. Following Odemwingie's wonderful winner, they reached a deafening volume. And yet, bizarrely, Kean clings to his job; perhaps for one more game but maybe, given the turmoil at Ewood Park, indefinitely. Tuesday's derby with Bolton Wanderers, the division's other stragglers, assumes monumental proportions for both clubs.
"Massive," said Kean. "I can understand the fans' frustrations. I need to get points. I'm under no illusions that my job is based on us being in a much better position than we are now. But we feel we can turn it around."
West Brom, beaten by Wigan Athletic last week, already have, propelled into mid-table by what their coach, Roy Hodgson, called "two very, very good goals."
The first was delightful. After Chris Brunt's corner was half-cleared by Steven Nzonzi, Morrison responded with a swivelling volley from 20 yards. The winner was almost as impressive, Odemwingie strolling past Morten Gamst Pedersen and David Goodwillie to curl a shot into the far corner.
"We left it late but before that we had massive opportunities," said Hodgson, reflecting on a sequence of near-misses. In comparison, Blackburn could not muster a shot on target for 70 minutes. Then, out of nothing, they scored. Not that Kean can claim any credit: this was a goal straight from the Sam Allardyce handbook. The goalkeeper Paul Robinson turned playmaker, his punt forward being met by one central defender, Christopher Samba, with a towering leap, and touched over the line by the other, Scott Dann.
Odemwingie's subsequent strike allowed the victorious manager to be magnanimous. "It is too easy to put all the ills of a football club down to one man," said Hodgson, himself sacked by Blackburn 13 years ago.
A similar fate may await Kean. "I always feel we're just about to go on an unbeaten run and the fans that are grumbling are going to be overtaken by the noise of the positive fans," he said. For some, that is optimism. For others, delusion.