Victory, unimpressively gained through headed goals by Brian Deane and their captain Christian Dailly, lifted West Ham to the fringe of the promotion play-off zone. A sell-out crowd for one of the less star-studded visiting teams demonstrates the zeal of the club's supporters but performances will need to be sharper if the goal of a swift return to the Premiership is to be achieved.
"At least we gave them something to go home and smile about," claimed their manager, Alan Pardew, who says he now sees things like ambition and hunger for success emerging, "things I didn't see when I first arrived. We are starting to get a nice spirit, not only among the players but among the staff I inherited."
Both goals came from corners, which had Pardew praising training-ground moves, but the Rotherham manager, Ronnie Moore, instead lamented what he identified as poor defending. "Much more of that and we are going to be in big trouble," he said of his side who have not won since Boxing Day.
Rotherham are low on the totem pole of fashionable clubs. On the Tube to Upton park a couple of West Ham fans politely asked a visitor, "Exactly where is Rotherham?" The answer is either in Yorkshire or in difficulties since, as Moore pointed out, he was only able to put four subs on the bench because five of his squad of 20 professionals are injured. "Then you see West Ham's programme with about 70 players on it," said Moore enviously.
The 11 who started for West Ham included Nigel Reo-Coker, recruited from that financially-stricken ship called Wimbledon at Milton Keynes. It was his debut, and later another Wimbledon refugee, Adam Nowland, also made his first appearance. Both impressed, which was more than could be said of a West Ham side which looked nervous whenever Darren Byfield launched his one-man raids at them. Fortunately, this did not happen often. Rotherham's saturation of midfield invited West Ham on, and they obliged.
Marlon Harewood had shots blocked in quick succession following a first-minute corner, then Michael Pollitt pulled off a brave block when David Connolly's one-two with Deane carried him clear inside the penalty box. They were in front after 15 minutes, Deane having a simple task when Michael Carrick's corner arrived on his forehead.
Almost the first touch of the ball for David James's replacement, Stephen Bywater, making his first home appearance for three years, was when he picked the ball from his net after 23 minutes. Byfield and Tomas Repka were hurt in a collision, the West Ham defender requiring a head bandage. Byfield, who recovered more rapidly, immediately found himself free on the right to cross to the far post where Richard Barker's excellent diving header was only partially stopped by Bywater. The ball rolled towards goal and Repka's desperate intervention only drove it deeper into the net. To have the score debited to him as an own goal merely added insult to Repka's nasty injury.
However, West Ham always looked capable of a second. It came just short of the hour as Dailly, having seen one header blocked by Pollitt, put away his second effort when another corner reached him without interference from Rotherham's defenders.
West Ham United 2
Deane 15, Dailly 59
Repka og 23
Half-time: 1-1 Attendance: 34,483