Richard Jolly

Ewood Park

Around half an hour in and with their side leading, the Aston Villa supporters responded to a staple of the Ewood Park songbook, "Kean Out", with a cheeky chorus, ostensibly saluting the departed Robbie Keane but actually taunting Blackburn's manager.

"There's only one Keano," they chanted. Ridiculing Steve Kean has become a ritual at Ewood Park but this was a match where he emerged in credit, with a point procured because of his decisive action.

After an awful first half, he removed the ineffectual Mauro Formica and the execrable Radosav Petrovic. He introduced Marcus Olsson, who added much-needed pace, and David Dunn, scorer of the equaliser. The manager himself was the catalyst for a comeback.

Often accused of producing a particularly one-eyed interpretation of events, there was a bracing honesty to his analysis. "In the first half, we were really, really poor, probably as bad as we've been for a number of months," Kean said. "I don't think we could have got any worse. We had a few choice words at half-time."

Whatever its content, the talk rejuvenated a Blackburn side who had been limping to defeat. They responded with urgency and, courtesy of Dunn, were rewarded with a point. If fans tend to suffer during relegation battles, one came to Rovers' rescue. "He's a Blackburn supporter through and through; his whole family have been Blackburn fans all their lives," said Kean. "He knows what it means."

The equaliser denied the other under-pressure Glaswegian manager, Alex McLeish, the validation of victory. Yet it began so promisingly for him. Blackburn's defensive record constituted an open invitation to attack and, even in the absence of Keane and the injured Darren Bent, Villa responded.

McLeish put his natural conservatism to one side and played with more ambition. He restored the creative contingent of Stephen Ireland and Charles N'Zogbia to the starting lineup and the latter duly extended Rovers' unwanted record. They have not kept a clean sheet this season and, given the generosity of their back four, they are unlikely to.

Villa's goal illustrated why. Carlos Cuéllar strolled forward from the halfway line, unchecked for much of the way before he evaded Morten Gamst Pedersen's rather weak attempts to halt him, and found N'Zogbia. The Frenchman's shot, struck with vicious power, flew past Paul Robinson. "A great inspirational run from Carlos and a great goal," McLeish said.

It was only N'Zogbia's second strike since his £10m move from Wigan, a meagre return from a major talent. A third should have followed, the winger meeting Ireland's pass with a shot that Robinson clawed away.

"He could have had a hat-trick," McLeish said. "In the first half we were absolutely exceptional and could have been two or three up but we lacked that ruthlessness and that has blighted us this season."

They were thwarted, too, by the outstanding Robinson as Rovers' new captain constituted a one-man resistance; but for his 80th-minute save from Gabriel Agbonlahor, Blackburn would surely have succumbed. "If it wasn't for his performance, the game could have been beyond us," Kean said.

Yet after his intervention, Rovers rallied. "We got closer to Villa's midfield because we were miles off them," Kean said. They gained a foothold in the game and Scott Dann headed on to the roof of the net, while Shay Given parried Junior Hoilett's snap-shot and Pedersen's crisp volley. But the pressure told, with Bradley Orr crossing for Dunn to head in.

"He has got a very good head in terms of his intelligence and he stole in between centre-back and full-back," McLeish said. "He may be in his twilight years but he made a difference." So, in his own way, did Dunn's much-mocked manager.