Salvation from Teddy Sheringham, that old master of the crucial goal. He changed the course of history for Manchester United in the European Cup final seven years ago; yesterday the occasion was a good deal more humble but no less important for Alan Pardew. The West Ham manager took a step back from the abyss of football management with a victory that owed so much to his 40-year-old maestro.
Alone on the touchline after Blackburn had narrowed his side's lead to one goal in injury time, Pardew may have felt his managerial career replay itself before his eyes as the clock ticked down. It is in those moments that careers are made or broken and Pardew has survived his test - for now. His run of eight consecutive defeats has been broken and some of the anxiety around Upton Park has been lifted.
There are so many complications to be resolved around his club - the takeover, the future of his two Argentine internationals - but Pardew was entitled to proclaim yesterday "a fantastic day for West Ham" after goals from Sheringham and Hayden Mullins. His name rang out from the home support long before West Ham had won this game, and afterwards too. Had this famously tetchy crowd turned on Pardew and his players it could have been very different.
The crowd made their feelings very clear from the start and Pardew admitted to a wave of emotion at the unequivocal backing from his fans. During some of their most nervous moments, the Upton Park crowd seemed close to finding someone to blame - the team perhaps, or the board - but Sheringham's intervention came at just the right time to give them something to cling on to.
He is a player who, Pardew said, the younger members of his squad "lean on" and there was much for the Sheringham connoisseur to admire in the way he dispatched the first goal. Bobby Zamora knocked the ball down to Yossi Benayoun, who sent a cross into the area and there, one yard ahead of his marker, was the old boy to plant a header into Brad Friedel's goal.
West Ham are out of the bottom three at last but to stay out they will need more finesse than they mustered yesterday. Even after Sheringham's 21st-minute goal they were not calmed, despite a poor Blackburn performance. Mark Hughes lost Jason Roberts after 29 minutes with what has subsequently been diagnosed as a broken metatarsal - the fifth on his left foot - which will keep him out of action for up to four months.
Blackburn's unbeaten Premiership run of five games was broken by Bolton last weekend and, after Wednesday's Carling Cup defeat to Chelsea, they did not provide a jittery West Ham with the most daunting opposition. Hughes grumbled later about the failure of his players to generate any kind of intensity and without that they are much less of a team.
In his programme notes, Pardew had written about the importance of adhering to West Ham's tradition of good football. For long periods of the second half, any kind of coherent football would have been a welcome relief. It was not hard to see where this talented young, and predominantly British, West Ham team had lost their way. There were some desperate attempts to cross the ball from Jonathan Spector at right-back and a constant, slow retreat as they sought to defend a one-goal lead. Then in the 73rd minute the match burst into life and became the fraught, unsophisticated Premiership shoot-out it had always threatened to be.
First West Ham survived only through a brilliant save from Robert Green, who stopped Lucas Neill's shot after McCarthy's flick-on from a corner. Immediately, the home side raced to the other end and Matthew Etherington played a ball from the left wing into the path of Zamora, unmarked and free on goal.
From the two nervous touches he took before shooting it was evident that this was a striker, without a goal in almost seven weeks, who was severely lacking in confidence. Waiting for Friedel to commit himself, Zamora ran out of time and struck his shot against the goalkeeper.
West Ham's second goal came 10 minutes from time from a corner that should not have been given - Marlon Harewood's cross had come off Zamora's elbow and bounced out. Etherington's corner skimmed the heads at the near post and was forced home from close range by Mullins.
The four minutes of injury time looked likely to be a cruel ordeal for West Ham even before David Bentley pounced to score on the rebound when McCarthy's shot was saved by Green. Later the winger flicked a header on to the roof of Green's net that, for a second, seemed to take a dangerous trajectory. By then Sheringham was resting himself on the bench, one more remarkable chapter in the Premiership's longest-running career.
Goals: Sheringham (21) 1-0; Mullins (80) 2-0; Bentley (90) 2-1.
West Ham United (4-4-2): Green; Spector, Gabbidon, Ferdinand, McCartney (Dailly, 89); Benayoun (Bowyer, 81), Mullins, Reo-Coker, Etherington; Zamora, Sheringham (Harewood, 77). Substitutes not used: Carroll (gk), Mascherano.
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel; Neill, Khizanishvili, Ooijer, Gray (McEveley, 81); Bentley, Mokoena (Gallagher, 72), Tugay, Peter; McCarthy, Roberts (Jeffers, 29). Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Henchoz.
Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).
Booked: West Ham McCartney; Blackburn Peter.
Man of the match: Sheringham.
Attendance: 33,833.Reuse content