The homecoming wasn't much of a do after all. West Ham's new co-owners David Gold and David Sullivan were given a warm welcome by fans on their first Upton Park outing but the cold reality of their team's plight was all too evident during a thoroughly miserable match.
Gold, a lifelong Hammer, told us in his programme notes how he used, as a seven year old, to "bunk into the old Chicken Run for free at half-time" and by the finish yesterday he looked like he'd gladly have turned back the clocks, while Sullivan gave a shake of his substantial headwear. Two together for £50 million in the directors' box was looking pretty steep.
Without a win since Boxing Day and struggling horribly for goals, this could be another fraught relegation battle for Gianfranco Zola's team, with vice-chairman Karren Brady's cost-cutting measures at the back of the mind. "I was expecting a little bit more quality," said Zola, He wasn't alone. "The tension got to us a bit and everyone is a little nervous. We didn't play a good game and they defended with a lot of players behind the ball."
That was true, though it was Rovers who were the more likely winners. "We dominated the second half but needed to be more clinical in front of goal," Sam Allardyce, the Blackburn manager said, referring to a missed chance by the substitute Jason Roberts late on and two for Martin Olsson, the first of which drew an excellent save from Robert Green, who was the busier of the two England hopefuls in goal.
There was also a strong second-half penalty claim when Gaël Givet's effort appeared to strike Mark Noble on the arm before Carlton Cole cleared the danger. "You would hope the referee or an assistant might have spotted that," moaned Allardyce.
The first half was dreadful. A Julian Faubert cross gave the excellent Chris Samba, returning from suspension to Blackburn's defence, a rare uncomfortable moment and Alessandro Diamanti tested Paul Robinson's reactions from a free-kick. Jonathan Spector also saw an enterprising run into the Rovers box brought to a halt by a wall of blue and white shirts.
But it was the visitors, buoyed by back-to-back League wins, who came closest to breaking the deadlock, when Morten Gamst Pedersen sent a free-kick crashing against the bar three minutes before a well-received interval.
It seemed Pedersen and Nikola Kalinic, among the goals for a revitalised Rovers side of late, were capable of conjuring something. Zola, though, is desperate for firepower and he will look forward to partnering Cole, back from an ankle injury, with Benni McCarthy, whose arrival from Blackburn is expected to be sealed today.
Diamanti's free-kick was tipped over by Robinson but it was Rovers who should have returned with the three points when Roberts got away from James Tomkins only for Green to save his close-range shot.
The new Hammers hierarchy were grateful for small mercies.
Referee: Peter Walton
Man of the match: Pedersen
Match rating: 5/10Reuse content