Crouch brace sends Kean hurtling back down to earth
Blackburn Rvrs 1 Stoke City 2
If it is true that a manager stands and falls by the labour of his players, then there was a flash of irony during this game.
Trying to compete for possession as Blackburn trailed, Morten Gamst Pedersen's momentum propelled him into the technical area where Steve Kean stood, urging his team to launch one final attack.
The turf was sodden and Pedersen slid, taking out the Scot.
The crowd chortled and once he had wiped his hands, so did Kean. He will need to retain his sense of humour if he is to last because Rovers are not getting better, despite the most unexpected of victories over Manchester United 48 hours earlier.
However, the fans did not barrack him this time. Their support of the team was absolute.
"The fans were excellent today," Kean said. "They really helped us. It's important with so many young players in the team."
Peter Crouch scored two volleys to take him beyond 100 Premier League goals as the visitors secured the win thanks to their robust defence and ruthlessness in converting anything that resembled a cross.
Yet it was Blackburn, imbued with confidence from their Old Trafford heroics, who began in a more threatening manner.
Then, they fell behind and, despite David Goodwillie's reply after Crouch's second, they were paralysed by the task of rescuing a two-goal deficit.
Stoke knew what Blackburn would do -- that Pedersen would hurl long from a throw-in, aiming for Chris Samba, to create chaos in the penalty box.
It was therefore essential that all but one Stoke player was defending within 18 yards of the goal at such moments, to stop Blackburn's bludgeon, Yakubu.
First the Nigerian forced a corner from which Samba struck the bar. Then he was wrongly penalised when, from another corner, Samba scored only for Lee Mason to rule it out for a mysteriously absent foul on Thomas Sorensen.
The decision must have been hard to take. Later, Ryan Shawcross' arm was wrapped so far around the shoulders and chest of Samba, it appeared they were lost friends on a wintery walk. But no penalty was awarded and soon, Stoke were ahead.
Damien Whitehead found space and targeted Crouch, who had time to chest the ball down, turn and volley home. He then repeated the act shortly before half-time from another chuck, this time by Matthew Etherington. (©Daily Telegraph, London)