Berg's bitter end

Click to follow
West Ham United 2

Porfirio 77, Berg 85 (og)

Blackburn Rovers 1

Berg 9

Attendance: 23,947

The post Dalglish-Harford era began as it had ended, in defeat. But whoever eventually fills the Ewood Park vacancy would have found some encouragement from the Blackburn performance. Rovers gave as good as they got and could have left with a point but for a freakish own goal that had the Upton Park faithful blowing victory bubbles for their third home win of the week.

For over an hour it seemed as if this fresh era was going to start with their first win of the season, but the resilience that the Eastenders brought to reclaiming the game was to prove unstoppable.

Graeme Le Saux's return to Premiership football after a 10-month absence because of a broken leg was to be marked by a fourth-minute booking for a foul on Michael Hughes. Whether it was that yellow card or a natural apprehension, the England full-back looked hesitant in his challenges, encouragement enough for Hughes and Hugo Porfirio to target Blackburn's left flank as a potential weakness.

But before this could bring any reward the Hammers found themselves behind after only eight minutes. Jason Wilcox's left wing corner was flicked on by Tim Sherwood across the goalmouth to an unmarked Henning Berg at the far post and all the defender needed was to stick out a leg and deflect a simple shot into Ludek Miklosko's net.

Encouragement enough, although Sherwood and Graham Fenton took their enthusiasm over the top to attract the referee's attention and four more yellow cards were shown before the first half was out.

Knocked out of their stride by that goal, West Ham struggled to find a rhythm, while Fenton's propensity to get on the wrong side of his marker caused occasional tremors in front of Miklosko. Ian Bishop and John Moncur were losing the midfield struggle and consequently Iain Dowie and Porfirio were denied anything like meaningful service.

West Ham's explosive start to the second half had to wait until the 76th minute for its reward but their determination to erase the memory of a shapeless first half saw Hughes force a great save from Flowers to deflect his 35-yard volley, a Dowie header and a Dicks' volley flying inches the wrong side of the woodwork - and all within five minutes.

Paulo Futre replaced Moncur in the 62nd minute and almost immediately shredded the visitors' defence only for Flowers to block Dowie's lunge.

The equaliser came in the 76th minute when Dicks's cross- field pass found Dowie wide on the right. The striker's measured square ball was met by the on-rushing Porfirio who gave Flowers no chance from six yards.

Just to remind Blackburn that this certainly wasn't to be their day, let alone their season, they lost to an own goal four minutes from time. The flying Stan Lazaridis hammered in another cross from the left and Berg hurled himself to clear only to beat his own goalkeeper with the best header of the game.