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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jan 1, 2012

Yakubu form gives Kean hope

Blackburn Rovers manager Steve Kean believes the goal threat of veteran striker Ayegbeni Yakubu can help steer his side to Premier League safety.

Despite being forced to play a lone attacking role for a team that has been battling against relegation for most of the season, the Nigerian has still managed to notch an impressive 13 goals this season, 12 of them in the league.

Yakubu added another two during Blackburn's stunning 3-2 win at Manchester United on Saturday.

It leaves him fifth in the Premier League scoring charts, and only five adrift of Golden Boot favourite Robin van Persie, whose performances at Arsenal have attracted such attention this term.

Van Persie's importance to the Gunners cannot be understated. But the same is also true of Yakubu, a bargain £1.5 million arrival from Everton on transfer deadline day.

"It is fairly obvious,'' said Kean. "When you see the amount of goals he has got now, we are desperate to keep him fit.

"We look after him. He is in as good a physical condition as he has been in his career and we manage him during the week.

"There are times when we need to give him an extra recovery day because of the amount of mileage he is doing.

"We don't ask him to run to the channels. We just ask him to play the width of the box. We know if we can give him good service, he can get himself some goals.''

And history suggests that could give Blackburn a valuable edge in their battle for survival. For the clubs who end up sliding into the Championship are usually the ones who struggle to score.

"We don't have a problem scoring goals,'' said Kean. "We always score. We have scored in every single away game this season.

"The problem we have is the amount of defenders we have injured. We have never had a settled back four and we have still to get a clean sheet.''

The next test comes against Stoke at Ewood Park on Monday.

When Kean left the stadium less than two weeks ago after taking fearful stick from his own supporters following the defeat to fellow strugglers Bolton, there were plenty who felt he would never return.

Yet, in one of the most amazing efforts in what is turning into a bafflingly unpredictable season, Rovers have steadied the ship by claiming four points from trips to Anfield and Old Trafford.

That they have done so with an injury list the equal of anything Sir Alex Ferguson could complain about in the aftermath of yesterday's game just makes it all the more remarkable.

Seventeen-year-old Welshman Adam Henley has enjoyed a start to his professional career he could never have imagined, given he can count Liverpool and Manchester United as opponents for his first two full games at senior level.

And, so well have the likes of Henley and yesterday's matchwinner Grant Hanley acquitted themselves that Gael Givet, who is set to return after a procedure to correct an irregular heartbeat, and David Dunn, back after a hamstring strain, cannot be guaranteed their places for the Stoke encounter.

"Sometimes you get thrown in and you have to deliver,'' said Kean. "Now we have the added advantage of having players back for the next game but it is going to be hard for them to get back into the side.''

It provides Blackburn with fresh belief they can avoid the drop, even if their position remains a dangerous one.

"The Bolton game was horrible because I felt we let ourselves down,'' said Kean. But the last two games have proved that you write us off at your peril.''

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