Football: Kidd's narrow field of vision

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The Independent Online
IF, AS Brian Kidd insisted, nothing much in football can be achieved without risk, why adopt a system that had the effect of making his team nervous?

The answer, of course, is simple enough. Injuries, suspensions and loss of form have so eaten into Blackburn's confidence after the initial surge under Kidd's management that compromising measures are called for.

What Kidd had not taken fully into account before Saturday's 2-0 defeat at West Ham was a brooding response to the favoured strategy. "I agree with you," he said afterwards. "Out of necessity, we had square pegs in round holes and in our position that may have been asking too much. No matter how much I tell the players to be themselves the situation gets through to them."

Thus, at half-time, Kidd delivered a lecture on divisions of responsibility. "I told them that I am here to take the flak, so the way we had set out to play didn't mean that they couldn't express themselves."

Easier said than done but at least Blackburn stirred themselves enough to persuade West Ham that they were in more of a match than their gleeful exploitation of space on the flanks had suggested.

On receipt of Blackburn's team sheet Harry Redknapp did not know quite what to expect. It suggested a narrow midfield, so the last-minute instruction from West Ham's manager was to spread the ball wide. "There was so much space on Blackburn's left that you could have gone out and played there," I suggested. Redknapp gave this the consideration of a smile. "Not really," he said, "but they did give us a lot of room."

Used, interestingly, at right- back, Steve Lomas revelled in the luxury of room, repeatedly coming forward to link with Eyal Berkovic and Paolo Di Canio. Lomas will play for a month and get fewer untroubled touches.

If it was Blackburn's intention to stifle moves aimed at the centre of their defence, to leave so much space out wide was asking for trouble.

Coming out of what Redknapp described as "our first bad month for two years", to draw at Liverpool last week, West Ham picked up the impetus to go in front after 28 minutes when a move carried out by Lomas, Berkovic and Di Canio was finished off by Ian Pearce's far-post header.

Still Blackburn held wingers Ian Gillespie and Jason Wilcox tight in the narrowest of midfields, still they allowed Lomas to advance unhindered.

Three minutes after Pearce's strike Blackburn went further behind. Another right-wing move was easily converted by Di Canio. "Let's face it, I'm always wrong," Redknapp would say sarcastically. "Wrong to sell John Hartson, wrong to buy Di Canio."

Not wrong to expect more from West Ham after the interval. "I told them to go out and enjoy themselves but Blackburn showed more of their true selves. I can't understand why they are in trouble. They've got so many good players, strikers who cost millions. But how can you work things out in this game?"

One of those strikers, Kevin Davies, who cost pounds 7m, was one of three substitutes Kidd called on in the second half. Davies's introduction coincided with a revival that brought Shaka Hislop into the picture with alert saves from Damien Duff and Gillespie.

Top six again for West Ham; grim weeks ahead for Blackburn following three successive defeats.

Goals: Pearce (28) 1-0; Di Canio (31) 2-0.

West Ham United (4-4-2): Hislop; Lomas, Pearce, Ferdinand, Potts; Foe, Berkovic, Lampard, Keller; Di Canio, Sinclair. Substitutes not used: Minto, Cole, Moncur, Kitson, Forrest (gk).

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Filan; McAteer, Peacock, Broomes, Davidson; Gillespie, Dunn (Croft, 64), Jansen (Davies, 51), Wilcox (Duff, 55); Blake, Ward. Substitutes not used: Taylor, Flowers (gk).

Referee: S Dunn (Bristol).

Bookings: West Ham: Foe. Blackburn: Peacock, McAteer.

Man of the match: Berkovic.

Attendance: 25,529.

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