x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Kean's welcome present at Rovers is an injury crisis

The start by caretaker manager of Blackburn Rovers was marred by injuries to three key players, including the teenage defender Phil Jones.

Paul Robinson of Blackburn cannot save the shot by Junior Stanislas of West Ham.
Paul Robinson of Blackburn cannot save the shot by Junior Stanislas of West Ham.

BLACKBURN // Steve Kean's start to life as caretaker manager of Blackburn Rovers was marred by injuries to three key players, with Phil Jones, the teenage defender, in danger of missing the rest of the season.

The 18-year-old came on as a substitute during yesterday's 1-1 draw with West Ham United at Ewood Park but lasted only 10 minutes before hobbling off after falling awkwardly in a challenge with Carlton Cole.

Kean confirmed last night that Jones, who is considered one of England's brightest prospects, has suffered a serious knee injury, while Jason Roberts damaged a hamstring and Christopher Samba was also forced off.

"I think Phil Jones is going to be a long-term one," said Kean. "He's got quite a bad knee injury, it'll probably be four or five months, which is terrible.

"He'll have an examination and probably have surgery [today]. Jason Roberts has picked up a hamstring injury. We don't think Chris Samba is as bad, it's a slight twist in his ankle."

On paper, a home tie against the league's bottom team was an ideal start to life in charge for Kean following the shock sacking of Sam Allardyce on Monday.

Staff at Ewood Park spent all yesterday morning clearing snow from the pitch and surrounding areas to ensure the game could go ahead - one of only two Premier League matches that did.

There was clearly plenty at stake for both sides but the first half provided little to warm the freezing fans, with late efforts from Frederic Piquionne and Luis Boa Morte the only real goal threats.

Blackburn upped their level after the break and a short period of pressure ended with Ryan Nelsen scoring the scrappiest of goals in the 51st minute.

Brett Emerton's cross caused chaos in the West Ham defence and, after Benjani Mwaruwari missed his kick from three yards out, the ball fell to Nelsen. Ruud Boffin, the rookie keeper, made a superb save from his initial effort only for the defender to guide the ball into the net off his thigh.

It was rough on West Ham, who were easily the more creative side, and their luck appeared to be out again when Matthew Upson's snap-shot hit the outside of a post.

But the visitors showed perseverance and grabbed a deserved equaliser 12 minutes from time.

Gael Givet ended a brilliant run from Scott Parker by diverting the ball into the path of Junior Stanislas,a substitute, who crashed a shot into the far corner.

Fortune was on the side of West Ham shortly afterwards as David Dunn put the ball into the net only for Mike Dean, the referee, to penalise Blackburn for foul play.

Kean had no complaints with that decision but was left to reflect on a missed opportunity as Rovers failed to make it four home league wins in a row.

"We're slightly disappointed," he said. "Getting in front, scoring the first goal, we hoped we could get two or three so the lads are disappointed. They feel as though it's points dropped rather than winning a point. But we were left with a very offensive team with no holding midfielder, so I suppose a point, taking all that into consideration, is not too bad."

Injuries were also an issue for West Ham boss Avram Grant, who gave Boffin his debut after Robert Green failed to recover in time from a minor operation to remove a cyst, while Valon Behrami aggravated a hip problem in the warm-up. Despite that, Grant felt his team were unlucky not to win and praised the players for the attitude they showed in coming back from a goal down.

Grant said: "I think we deserved three points today. We created chances, we created half-chances, we hit the post. The positives are I was very impressed by the spirit of the boys. They gave everything.

"With all the problems, needing to change the team at the last moment, we fought and we almost won. We were the better side and I liked it very much because I know top teams who miss two or three players and they have a problem."