Watford 1 West Ham United 1: Hammers on top of table as Zamora makes point

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The Independent Football

In football, one man's tragedy is another's opportunity. So it has been for Bobby Zamora.

Until Dean Ashton's ankle gave way at Old Trafford last week, on the eve of his England debut, Zamora was looking at a season on the bench. Instead, this morning he is the embryonic Premiership's leading scorer with three goals in two matches.

His goal last night denied Watford a deserved first victory over the Hammers in 21 matches dating back to 1985 and left them with one point from six on their return to the Premiership. Two matches into last season, Watford had one point but finished it with promotion, so Aidy Boothroyd was not disheartened after worrying the FA Cup finalists for much of this slow-burner of a game.

"It was a good performance. We'll build on it," he said. "We should have won. On another day we might have got four."

Watford, surprisingly, had failed to sell out their Premiership return but they had attracted several stellar names. Steve McClaren, Sir Alex Ferguson, Martin O'Neill and Sam Allardyce occupied a knot of seats in the half-condemned main stand. One hopes their conversation kept them entertained because the first-half football would not have.

It was the Academy against the Bash Street Kids but for an hour it was the crowd who felt they were in detention. Not that Watford's football was nasty, violent or thuggish - the only bad tackle came from West Ham's Paul Konchesky. It was, however, "direct".

There is room in football for all nature of styles and to an audience who grew up on Graham Taylor's achievements there will be few complaints, but it was not to the visitors' liking. West Ham supporters are raised on a different ethos and Alan Pardew's team tried to play through their five-man midfield - a consequence of re-inforcing the central defence. This, though, was a match in which they desperately missed the muscle of Ashton, not least in defending set-pieces.

In a dire first half, the Hammers' best chance followed a Watford error but Marlon Harewood dallied after dispossessing Chris Powell and was ushered away by Jay DeMerit. Watford's clearest opening followed a 70-yard run by Hameur Bouazza down the left flank. Marlon King met his cross with a deft volley but struck the far post.

King's next pot-shot hit the jackpot, a sweetly struck shot whipping past Roy Carroll from nearly 30 yards. Watford exulted, a little too much, for while their heads were in the clouds Konchesky delivered a cross which Zamora converted.

"If I was a neutral I would have to say Watford deserved to win," said Hammers manager Pardew, "but we're top of the League and we'll take that while we can."

Watford (4-4-2): Foster; Doyley, DeMerit, Shittu, Powell; Bouazza (Priskin, 73), Mahon (Spring, h/t), Francis, Young; King, Henderson. Substitutes not used: Lee (gk), Malkay, Stewart.

West Ham United (3-5-2): Carroll; Collins, Ferdinand, Gabbidon (Benayoun, 66); Paintsil, Bowyer, Mullins, Reo-Coker, Konchesky; Zamora (Cole, 83), Harewood (Sheringham, 66). Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Dailly.

Referee: M Atkinson (W Yorkshire).