THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Premier League ~ Blackburn Rovers fans continue the protests
A 3-1 win, despite playing much of the game with ten men, would normally leave a warm glow around the victorious club. But Blackburn Rovers are different. Before Saturday's game against Fulham, the Rovers fans staged a 24-hour protest at Ewood Park against Indian owners, Venky's, culminating in an organised march. The disagreement between fans, board and Jerome Anderson, the agent involved in the sale of the club and many of the subsequent transfers, is being played out in the public eye.

In an interview on Sky Sports last week Anderson suggested the protesters are "not real supporters". He has now threatened legal action against several online message boards and comment sections being used by Rovers fans to air their views. The organisers of the protests said on Saturday: “A smear campaign against the supporters has been in full force in recent weeks, but at all times we have remained calm and kept our dignity. Our supporters have been protesting because they care and are worried about the club's long-term future under our absent owners stewardship.” Victory over Fulham lifted Steve Kean's side out of the relegation zone, but the problems at Ewood Park go much further than what is happening on the pitch.

Championship ~ Barnsley leapfrog Leicester City
Talking about takeovers that haven't quite gone to plan, Leicester City fans will be looking uncomfortably at the Championship table this week. Their 2-1 home defeat to Barnsley meant the South Yorkshire club leapfrogged them into 14th place. Given the amount of money lavished on the Leicester squad, it is a surprise that these two teams are close in the league. Matt Mills cost over £4.5 million, Jermaine Beckford close to £3m and numerous others have cost over £1m. In contrast, Keith Hill's Barnsley have been assembled for less than the price of the Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel and they seem to be revelling in their underdog status this year.

Having beaten Leeds United 4-1 on New Year's Eve, they have cemented their role as a hard-working side that play good football on the counter-attack. Inconsistency means they will probably finish mid-table this year. Leicester, meanwhile, need to find their identity. Nigel Pearson is yet to work out his best team and complaints that the squad is still too small mean yet more spending is on the horizon. Leicester will need an extremely strong second half of the season to mount any kind of promotion challenge and they don't look capable of getting close to that at the moment.

League One ~ Stevenage push on without a manager 
When Graham Westley left his management position at Stevenage for Preston North End last week, he probably thought he was moving up in the world. In fact, with the way Stevenage are playing, they could finish higher in the league than Westley's new club. A win over a poor Rochdale team might not be too much to shout about, but the manner in which Stevenage did it – winning 5-1 and looking extremely destructive – impresses.

The result keeps Stevenage above Carlisle in the last League One play-off place. One defeat in ten games, including a 6-1 win over Colchester United and a win over Reading in the FA Cup means that one of the division's smallest clubs is making a big impact. They have already beaten Charlton Athletic, Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday at Broadhall Way this season, with MK Dons and Huddersfield Town – the other two teams above them – to visit before the end of February. Automatic promotion is unlikely, given the form of the leaders, but Stevenage will be eager to get into the play-offs and see what happens. Westley, meanwhile, will be wondering how to make up a gap of six points and take his new Preston side above Stevanage and into the play-offs.

League Two ~ Northampton Town's revival is on hold
Having ended a 14-match winless streak last weekend, optimism was high at Sixfields on Saturday, despite Northampton facing a strong Southend side. In his seventh game in charge, Aidy Boothroyd left Northampton's top scorer Adebayo Akinfenwa on the bench and picked four loanees. He was rewarded when Northampton took an early lead though defender John Johnson. Southend pulled level, but moments later West Brom loanee Saido Berahino’s breakaway goal earned the Cobblers a 2-1 half-time lead. The lead lasted until the 65th minute, when keeper Freddy Hall collided with Southend striker Liam Dickinson to give away a penalty. Dickinson converted, making it 2-2. The home fans would have been content with a point from this fixture, but their hopes were dashed in a brutal fashion. Northampton's defence crumbled, allowing Southend to score three in the final ten minutes of the match.

The 5-2 scoreline shattered Aidy Boothroyd’s "revival", sending Southend top and Northampton bottom. Northampton fans were left dreaming of what could have been. Optimists can say the team held their own for an hour against the league leaders. However, huge defensive questions hang over the squad. They have now gone 18 matches without a clean sheet and have conceded 16 goals in the last ten minutes of league matches this season. Perhaps Boothroyd’s men were unlucky to face such tough competition so soon after finding their feet, but a much more telling fixture awaits against fellow strugglers Barnet next weekend.

Serie A ~ Javier Zanetti is still going strong
It feels like Javier Zanetti, Inter's 38-year-old full-back, has been around longer than football itself. However – and Paul Scholes might want to take note of this – as long as he can still produce the quality he has no intention of retiring. On last night's performance in the Milan derby, he won't be leaving any time soon. Having soaked up the pressure, Inter hit AC Milan on the counter-attack in the second half.

Zanetti's powerful surge down the right had the Milan defence on the back foot before his cross-field pass found Diego Milito, who duly put the ball into the bottom corner. The 1-0 win gives Inter an outside chance of mounting a title challenge and hands Juventus a one-point advantage over AC Milan at the top. Tom Hocking & Tom Shepherd

Comments (2)
Comment by geobra 2012-01-16 13:39:28

On December 7th a WSC Daily article on Inter, written by yours truly, carried the headline 'Could the reigning world champions be relegated?' Since then they have won 6 out of 6 and cannot be ruled out of the race for the title. The kiss of life?

Comment by santos_l_halper 2012-01-16 16:11:57

I must admit I only saw the first half of the Milan-Inter game, and even then I only kept one eye on it. But Milan and Allegri were badly exposed, as far as I could see. All I remember was Milan being repelled, then rebuilding, then being repelled again by the Inter defence. I still think it's Juve's to throw away, despite their weekend stutter.

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