Blackburn 0 Wigan 1
Chicken run ... Blackburn striker Yakubu tries to catch the bird. Photo: AFP
Blackburn Rovers were relegated last night with rain, tennis balls and relentless derision falling on their beleaguered manager Steve Kean. Whatever Kean's limitations, it was a disgrace that Rovers' owners, the Venky's, did not turn up for this brutal denouement. This fine club has been left bereft by poor management on and off the pitch.
It was like the coliseum at times, Kean even requiring a bodyguard as Blackburn's 11 years in the Premier League ended. A chicken invaded the pitch in the first half, a fan threw his season ticket at the dugouts in the second half and 30 Rovers fans protested on the pitch at the final whistle. Kean had made a sharp exit. In the background, the giant screen read "Thank you for your support this season".
For Wigan, there was nothing but celebration. Antolin Alcaraz's late header guaranteeing survival for their jubilant fans, who had sung "I'm a believer" for much of this game.
Heartbreak ... Morten Gamst Pedersen reacts after Rovers are relegated. Photo: AFP
The first half had been notable mainly for the chicken run.
Inevitably the rooster became a darling on the social-media scene, having seven Twitter accounts by half-time. Yakubu took charge of the chicken situation, trying to usher the fans' feathered friend off the pitch but it ended up in the back of the net. Cue much hilarity and gags about the chicken being a target for Dinamo Kiev.
The chicken was in Rovers' colours, the home fans making a point about their anger with the Venky's regime. Blackburn's owners specialise in chicken meat processing. The owners had elected to stay away, a shame as they would have realised the strength of feeling against them. The anger was detectable outside the ground, and brutally inside.
Caustic echoes abounded of the Bolton game here, of the derision for Kean pouring down from all sides. "Kean out" was sung frequently. "We want our Rovers back," came the next chant. Then "There's only one Jack Walker" in memory of Blackburn's late, great benefactor. Venky's representatives should have been here.
After a three-minute chicken break, the game resumed with Wigan largely in control. Their 3-4-3 system seemed to flummox Blackburn, particularly Martinez's wide players Jean Beausejour and Emmerson Boyce, and the elusive runner, Victor Moses. Franco Di Santo, so instrumental in Wigan's rally, kept showing for the ball, kept looking to test Paul Robinson, who shovelled one shot away. Then Moses came calling, escaping Scott Dann, but failing to beat Robinson.
As Rovers fans chanted "no shots on target", Morten Gamst Pedersen lined up a free-kick on the right. It disappeared horribly wide, prompting chants of "that's why you're going down" from the Wigan fans. Some Blackburn fans joined in.
Rovers suffered a blow when David Dunn hobbled away, having sustained a knock in making one of countless tackles. Dunn is one of those Blackburn players who really cares for the club cause, and had been giving everything here, tackling hard, trying to create openings for Yakubu and Anthony Modeste.
Marcus Olsson came on in central midfield, and a further change was made at the break. Gael Givet was replaced by Radoslav Petrovic.
Rovers' tempo actually improved after the break, although there was another pitch invader, this time of the human variety. A Blackburn fan ran from the Darwen End and threw his season ticket at the dugouts.
It landed in Wigan's technical area and was a fairly empty gesture anyway, this being Rovers' last home game of the season.
Kean's players gave their fans something more positive to focus on.
Dann headed down for Yakubu to try his luck, the ball cannoning into a wall of Wigan bodies. Modeste, living up to his name, shot timidly.
Wigan broke out, storming down the other end. Di Santo headed down, Moses volleyed over, a wasted opportunity. Wigan almost conceded moments later. Boyce clearly caught Junior Hoilett, who fell to the ground, his run towards the ball clearly checked. Mark Clattenburg waved play on to Rovers consternation.
The vilification of the Venky's continued. From all corners of the ground it came. Wigan's fans responded with "there's only one Dave Whelan", a tribute to their owner, a former Blackburn player.
Blackburn were trying to mix up their attacks, occasionally going long. One hoof towards Yakubu appeared to have freed the Nigerian but Antolin Alcaraz cleared. Desperation began to creep into Blackburn hearts. They had to score. They had to win. Adding an apocalyptic backdrop to the occasion, a flare was lit in the Darwen End, the smoke drifting across the Rovers' box.
Then Wigan stormed towards Robinson's area. This time it was Shaun Maloney scampering through the middle, bringing his right foot back to shoot. Just as he was about to connect with the ball, Pedersen fouled him, taking a caution for the cause.
The weather reflected the bleak mood. Rain poured down and down. Kean did not flinch, standing on the edge of his dugout, the rain soaking his coat. Still he hoped. Modeste ran through, unleashing a low shot, collected easily by Ali Al Habsi. Their work-rate was better.
For Wigan, Moses should have been enjoying this weather. He drove in from the left but decided to take a tumble in proximity to Pedersen.
Clattenburg ran across and booked Moses for diving.
With time running out, Kean twisted again, sending on David Goodwillie for Bradley Orr. "Rooney, Rooney" chanted the Rovers fans, mocking Kean's assertion that Goodwillie shared similar footballing qualities to the Manchester United and England striker.
Blackburn's tactics would not have been found in any coaching manual.
They seemed vulnerable at the back, relying on three at the back, and only some spectacular goalkeeping from Robinson denied Moses. Then Boyce lifted in a cross and somehow the tiniest player on the pitch, Maloney, rose best but headed over.
Humiliation finally engulfed Kean. Hope left the building. With three minutes remaining, Alcaraz headed in Beausejour's corner. The boos intensified.
The Daily Telegraph, London