Date: 29th February 2008 at 11:36am
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Mark Hughes has moved to back his star striker Benni McCarthy and indicate that the form of Benni McCarthy could prove crucial if Blackburn are to qualify for Europe.

In a public backing of the striker, who has not scored in open play since October, but who did net two penalties against Bolton last Sunday, Hughes believes there are mitigating circumstances for the South African`s patchy form.

McCarthy scored 24 times last season and his performances this have not been as impressive, with the former Porto ace dropped on a number of occasions by Hughes.

“It`s been a difficult season for Benni – there are a number of factors for that,” Hughes told Setanta Sports News.

“On occasions he has played well and not scored, on other occasions his form`s dipped and he`s had to go out of the team.

“On other occasions, I`ve played him in different positions which sometimes affects his ability to get into the box.

“His general work is fine though. He comes in every day to training with a smile on his face, he wants to work and we hope he`s going to have a good end to the season because he will be crucial in determining whether or not we qualify for Europe.”

McCarthy’s enduring value to Rovers was evident when the club disclosed talks with the 30-year-old`s representatives about a new long-term contract for the striker, despite him having over two years to run on the agreement he signed the summer before last.

Rovers have also held preliminary talks over a new contract for the similarly hot-and-cold Morten Gamst Pedersen.

Pedersen, who scored his first league goal in a year for Rovers against Bolton last Sunday, has, like McCarthy, over two years remaining on his current deal but the Norwegian seems ready to commit his future to the Ewood Park club.

‘It is a good club, we have good people around us and we have a good squad,’ he added.

‘They [the club and his representatives] have been talking but we have to see what will happen. I try to focus on my football and let other people do those things.

‘I just want to work hard and maybe I deserve what I get.

‘I like it here. I have been doing well so hopefully there are going to be some more good years.’

 

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