Football: Rovers' quality with width

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The Independent Online
Blackburn Rovers 3 West Ham United 0

ROY HODGSON knows a crisis when he sees one. The dispute over the Suez Canal and the Bay of Pigs invasion constituted a crisis in the eyes of the Blackburn manager. Lying four points behind third place after eight games of the season does not.

"The only crises I can remember were when I thought my life might come to an end because of nuclear war," the Blackburn manager said. "I would think it was a crisis if the club had lost its way, if there was lack of discipline or no quality players and no young players coming through."

Even Hodgson, though, had struggled to turn recent negative events into a convincing positive message. A lack of goals had dented confidence, injuries to all four strikers had upset the balance of his side and three sendings off in consecutive games had contributed to a run that had Blackburn in the bottom three and out of Europe.

So it was with no little hint of "I told you so" that he reflected on his side's most eye-catching performance of the season. "The major difference between this game and the matches against Chelsea, Lyons, Tottenham, and even Leeds, was the fact that we got the result. The league is very tight which means that if we continue to play good football I can entertain hopes of climbing up it," he said.

Blackburn's adversity has maybe proved to be a blessing in disguise. Forced into experimentation, Hodgson initially went for changes of personnel within a rigid 4-4-2 structure. But in selecting Jason Wilcox as a lone striker, even on the return of Kevin Gallacher, Hodgson has reintroduced the width which had proved so successful at the same stage of last season.

West Ham were stretched to breaking point, leaving many openings for Rovers' late runners from midfield, Garry Flitcroft and Tim Sherwood. In attempting to solve his own temporary shortfall, with four regulars missing, Harry Redknapp had created a system which did not suit the exponents.

"I had to play with a back four when the other system has stood us in good stead. We didn't seem happy with it," he confessed.

His defence contributed to the first two goals, Rio Ferdinand deflecting Flitcroft's shot away from Shaka Hislop and putting his keeper under unnecessary pressure when a hurried clearance was fired back into an empty goal by the Blackburn midfielder.

Blackburn's thrust continued to materialise from all directions and the third goal, a superb run and swerving shot from Callum Davidson, helped temper a pervading theory, a spin-off from Sutton and Gallacher's prolific partnership of last season, that the supporting cast needed to shoulder more of the scoring burden.

Goals: Flitcroft 10 (1-0), Flitcroft 47 (2-0), Davidson 68 (3-0).

Blackburn Rovers (4-5-1): Flowers; Dailly, Henchoz (Kenna, h-t), Peacock, Davidson; Gallacher (Dahlin, 65), Flitcroft, McKinlay, Sherwood, Duff (Johnson, 77); Wilcox. Substitutes not used: Croft, Filan (gk).

West Ham United (4-4-2): Hislop; Potts (Keller, 61), Pearce, Ferdinand (Hodges, 85), Dicks; Sinclair, Lampard, Moncur, Impey; Hartson, Wright. Substitutes not used: Abou, Coyne, Forrest (gk).

Bookings: Blackburn: Flitcroft. West Ham: Moncur, Pearce, Wright.

Referee: K Burge (Tonypandy).

Man of the match: Flitcroft

Attendance: 25,213.