Blackburn 3 West Ham 2: Sparky Dickov ignites Blackburn and inflames West Ham

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The Independent Online

Paul Dickov may be the gentlest of souls off the pitch, but on it he could start a row in a silent monastery. Pugnacious, belligerent and a downright pain, he squeezes every ounce of talent from his small frame partly by getting up the nose of every team he plays.

Yesterday he trampled on West Ham's patience, not only by winding up every defender he got near, but by scoring twice. With tempers flaring all around him - eight players were cautioned - Dickov kept his head to earn Blackburn their first win in the Premiership since 5 November. The visitors, you can rest assured, were thoroughly fed up last night.

They scored the game's best two goals through Bobby Zamora and Marlon Harewood, felt aggrieved about the penalty that dragged Blackburn back into the match, and came away with nothing. "The game hinged on the softest of penalties," Alan Pardew, the West Ham manager, said. "There was no way Tomas Repka handled intentionally. I asked the referee afterwards and he said it was hand to ball, but I can't believe it."

The incident went much as Pardew described it. West Ham had taken the lead just before half-time when they turned defence into attack in the blink of an eye. Paul Konchesky found Harewood, who passed in such a way that Zamora had only a fraction of a second to get a shot in. His striking instincts honed by his excellent goal against Birmingham on Monday, it was all he needed, and he thumped Harewood's pass beyond Brad Friedel's reach.

As Blackburn had not scored in the Premiership for more than five hours, the visitors were sitting pretty until a long throw hit Repka on the arm in the 55th minute. There appeared to be no intent but the referee thought otherwise, and Dickov added to the Hammers' grievance by converting the penalty.

Cue a final 35 minutes that wholly eclipsed the largely dreary proceedings before it. Dickov gave Blackburn the lead a minute later when he turned in Morten Gamst Pedersen's cross that had ballooned off Konchesky's boot. West Ham then equalised when Zamora contrived a delicate chip and Harewood thumped in a header, and the match could have gone in either direction.

Harewood blazed over when he was clear, Robbie Savage hit the bar for the second time with a free-kick and there were further penalty claims at both ends. With 14 minutes remaining, Shefki Kuqi struck the decisive blow. The Finn won an aerial duel with Christian Dailly and barrelled his way past two powder-puff challenges before volleying into the roof of the net.

"Shefki is a great option for us, it's why I brought him to the club," Mark Hughes, the Blackburn manager, said. "He's whole-hearted, gives you everything he's got and he's a big physical specimen who unsettles defenders." In short, or should that be long, he is an elongated version of Dickov.

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