West Ham 2.v.1 Rovers
29th October 2006. 16:00
A huge sense of foreboding seems to be amassing over Blackburn Rovers at the moment. Eleven days ago everything was looking great. The team had just completed a well deserved victory in Poland against Wisla Krakow to begin Group E in style and the fans were toasting to an eight game unbeaten run.
However, one devastating week in football and Rovers are reeling from three successive defeats, which has knocked us out of the League Cup, and a decimated squad.
Jason Roberts now joins Ryan Nelsen and Steven Reid, for a second time, in the doctor`s room.
Still a crisis can de diverted despite such a disparaging display at Upton Park.
Rovers never really got into a game that a week ago everyone would have expected them to coast through. In truth it was a poor match contested between two disjointed sides that looked nervous.
Mark Hughes made no less than five changes to his starting line-up with Tugay, Sergio Peter, Jason Roberts, Andre Ooijer and the surprise selection of Michael Gray. There was no place in the squad for Morten Gamst Pedersen, Shabani Nonda or Brett Emerton.
The first half got underway with both teams applying early pressure but devoid of any clinical finishing. Both sides suffered due to a lack of quality in the final third.
A number of corners were swung in at both ends before West Ham took the lead just as they were beginning to amount a concerted period of pressure. The goal scorer came as no surprise.
Teddy Sheringham has a good scoring record against Rovers and if anyone was going to give West Ham the lead it was going to be him. He duly obliged by heading Bobby Zamora`s smart cross over the stranded Friedel and into the net in the 21st minute.
The goal knocked Rovers` rhythm and just like in mid-week a serious injury further thwarted any efforts to re-establish form. Roberts was taken off on a stretcher after an innocuous clash with Jonathon Spector. He was replaced by Francis Jeffers.
Rovers were now all over the place. The players were nervous on the ball, play was disjointed and they looked a million miles from the side that should great battling qualities against Salzburg and Wigan.
The half ended with Rovers building their corner tally but never really troubling the hosts. West Ham also looked nervous but decidedly more threatening and would have been two up but for some wonderful defending from Sergio Peter.
Mark Hughes stirred his troops for the second half as Rovers cam out galvanised and took the game to West Ham.
There was some neat inter-changing between Benni McCarthy, Sergio Peter and David Bentley. It appeared that a Rovers goal would come from one of these sources.
Rovers continued to earn a number of corners but failed to produce anything from them. Sergio Peter then began to excel down the left with a number of teasing balls into the box narrowly failing to find a blue and white jersey.
Then in the 74th minute Rovers looked certain to score but for some excellent goal-keeping from Robert Green. Another Peter corner this time found a Rovers player, Lucas Neill, but his close range effort was superbly deflected by a reflex save from Green.
That was certainly the best chance Rovers had conjured and they were penning West Ham in their own half. An equaliser, it seemed, was just moments away.
However, the hosts threatened things to come after a long ball over the top released Zamora. With just Friedel to beat he lacked the composure to seal the win, firing straight at the giant American.
Nevertheless, the winner arrived just three minutes later from an unlikely source. It seems West Ham`s current plight is down to the fact that their most obvious attacking outlets have been failing. Perhaps Alan Pardew will now use his less conventional stars.
A contentious corner was given in favour of the home support even though the ball clearly deflected off Zamora before crossing the line. A near post flick-on presented Hayden Mullins with the easiest of chances to score his first ever Premiership goal.
That sucker-punch really took the wind out of Rovers` sails and the game was all but over; although not before David Bentley bundled in a consolation two minutes into injury time and Francis Jeffers glance a header just over the top in the dying seconds.
In truth it was a poor game and Rovers look worryingly out of form with the squad so stretched. The injuries are mounting and the form is declining, Hughes has a lot of work to do to prepare the team for Thursday`s UEFA Cup clash at Ewood Park.
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He looked lively through out and caused West Ham problems from wide positions. Also helped out admirably with defensive duties.
Andre Ooijer 6