Not Match of the Day but not quite that bad

Blackburn 0 West Ham Utd 0 WHEN your team are relegated to the final spot on Match of the Day then you know two things – that you are in for a very late night, and that the game was a load of old rubbish! – writes DAVE EVANS Certainly a 0-0 draw is rarel

Blackburn 0 West Ham Utd 0

WHEN your team are relegated to the final spot on Match of the Day then you know two things - that you are in for a very late night, and that the game was a load of old rubbish! - writes DAVE EVANS

Certainly a 0-0 draw is rarely an exciting encounter, and when you consider that neither keeper really had a shot to save in the entire match, then you could be forgiven for thinking this was a real stinker.

But there were many plus points to come from this game for West Ham. Centre halves Matty Upson, and in particular James Collins, were outstanding, especially when Blackburn looked for a late winner with a barrage of attacks.

Some of the passing in the first half among the midfield was absolutely mesmerising. At times they simply played Rovers off the park, and the Blackburn fans were getting increasingly frustrated, as their team failed to get a foot on the ball.

But pretty passes and strong defence does not often win you matches, and in the final third of the field West Ham failed to deliver the sort of display that a side looking for a spot in Europe would be expected to.

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It certainly wasn't Carlton Cole's fault. The big striker once again showed enormous strength, heart and power, but there was really only Luis Jimenez giving him any support, and too often the England man was forced to try and batter his way through three or four Rovers defenders while the other West Ham players looked on.

A goal in that first half when the Hammers were dominating possession would have made this a very different day against winless and nervous Blackburn, but the chance simply would not come.

There was only two minutes gone when Scott Parker played a long ball up to Cole who rushed his shot and hit it wide, and that long pass from Parker up to the big striker was to be an increasingly desperate attempt to get past the Black-burn defence - it never worked.

A superb passing move on 15 minutes, similar to the one that had seen Cole score the goal of the season at Wigan last season, ended this time in Cole's shot being blocked, and the striker went close again five minutes later when he muscled his way past Chris Samba and into the box, but could only shoot wide from an acute angle.

West Ham had most of the ball and were creating half chances, but it was Rovers who looked more dangerous on their rare sorties forward.

Samba nodded down for Jason Roberts, who could only direct the ball into the side-netting, while the big centre half had a go himself wh-ich flew just over the bar, and Keith Andrews' effort on 38 minutes was superbly blocked by the Collins - something that was to happen more and more often as the game went on.

"The first half was quite bright," said West Ham boss Gianfranco Zola. "Obviously, as the game went into the second half I knew that physically we were going to drop a little because of the game we played on Tuesday."

He was right. While West Ham should perhaps have been in front at the break, in the second half there was really only going to be one winner and that was Sam Allardyce's team.

The half had started brightly with Cole turning his man and firing a left-foot shot inches over, while Collins met a near post corner before shooting on the turn just over the top.

The introduction of Rovers sub David Hoilett gave some much-needed pace to the Blackburn attack and it was he who came closest to breaking the deadlock.

David Dunn found him on the left edge of the box, but he could only hit the side-netting, while his best chance came on 77 minutes and it was contrived by a terrible West Ham free kick.

With Upson and Collins waiting in the penalty area, Mark Noble tried a short free kick and when Jack Collison lost possession, Rovers broke at pace with the West Ham defence stranded at the other end.

Dunn fed Hoilett, but with just Green to beat, his chip sailed over the keeper's head and landed on the roof of the net.

It was a let-off and West Ham got another when Parker seemed to take Dunn's standing foot away in the box, only for the referee to wave play on.

The last 10 minutes were nervous ones for the Hammers, with only Parker's marauding forward runs and the pace of Junior Stanislas to give them any respite.

Andrews' overhead kick was gratefully grabbed by Green, Hoilett dragged another effort wide, while Collins made yet another last-ditch clearance as Samba crossed low towards Nikola Kalinic.

Collins had the last say which was fitting for a man of the match performance, as he blocked Samba's injury-time effort and in the end West Ham were grateful to hang on for the draw.

"We defended very well and that is very important," said Zola. "We have to work and improve going forward, because in the first half we had a couple of opportunities which, in my opinion, if West Ham want to go for high positions, we have to take.

"Considering that Blackburn is a very difficult team to play against and everything, I'm pleased and it's a good result. I know my team can do much better and we certainly will, but today I must be pleased. It's our third game in six days so it was very difficult."

That, of course, was tough. So was the publicity they have received since the Millwall game, but the toughest problem they faced on Saturday was once again self-inflicted. West Ham played Carlton Cole on his own up front, and that, I'm afraid, is never going to glean enough goals to fulfil Zola's ambitions.

Surely, it's time for the 4-4-2. If not, then that midnight spot on Match of the Day may be West Ham's for some time to come.

West Ham: Green, Faubert, Spector, Collins, Upson, Noble, Parker, Collison (Kovac 87), Stanislas, Jimenez (Dyer 66), Cole.

Unused subs: Kurucz, Gabbidon, Tomkins, Nouble, Hines.

Att: 23,421. Referee: Phil Dowd (5).

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