After a performance to suggest the players do not believe in the manager came the demonstration indicating the supporters do not trust the owners.
Around 50 Blackburn fans congregated outside Ewood Park with a protest song that will echo as far as the Indian city of Pune. "We want Venky's out," sang the fans who had serenaded their late owner, Jack Walker, during the match.
But then dissent is becoming a habit at Ewood Park. Christopher Samba was stripped of the captaincy by Steve Kean. In awarding the armband to Ryan Nelsen, however, Rovers' new manager promoted one of Venky's more eloquent critics from the ranks. No wonder Blackburn's display was so incoherent.
Robert Huth and Marc Wilson scored the goals that took Stoke up to eighth amid indications that Sam Allardyce's sacking has left Blackburn rudderless. In attempting to rebrand Rovers, Kean is discovering that it is easier to change formation and personnel than style of play. A diet of long throws and long balls led to long faces at Ewood Park. "It's difficult when you come to Blackburn because they get a lot of balls into the box," said Tony Pulis, the Stoke manager, scarcely suggesting a new era has begun.As it was, most of Rovers' attacks were stopped too easily and they never started to get to grips with the electric Matthew Etherington. Stoke were the more fluent and the more potent.
Without Samba, because of a fitness test, Blackburn displayed uncharacteristic frailty against set pieces. It was apparent when Ryan Shawcross flicked on a Rory Delap throw for Etherington to shoot wide from close range. "How Matty's missed that chance I don't know," lamented Pulis. Nevertheless, tThe winger redeemed himself with a corner that Huth headed in. "We felt Gaël Givet was blocked off," Kean said. "That's hard to deal with."
Whatever the validity of the goal, as Pulis said: "We created a lot of chances." From one of a series of terrific crosses from Etherington, Kenwyne Jones was thwarted by Paul Robinson, who produced a wonderful save and, for good measure, denied the Trinidadian again a couple of minutes later.
Robinson's job, however, was one of damage limitation and he was helpless when the deficit was doubled in added time. Two replacements combined, Ricardo Fuller squaring the ball for Wilson to finish calmly.
Stoke are becoming a model of quiet achievement. That was Blackburn's lot when they finished 10th last season but it was an understatement when Kean said of their current predicament: "There has been upheaval." A brief chant of his name was an unconvincing attempt at backing from a small section of Rovers fans. They were rather louder in voicing their disapproval of the new board. "I can understand the frustration of fans because we've lost a home game," Kean added. "It is to be expected that they will vent their feelings." Whether it is understood or appreciated in India remains to be seen.
Man of the match Matthew Etherington (Stoke City)
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