West Ham United 4 Blackburn Rovers 2: Ashton faces fight for place as Pardew juggles with embarrassment of riches

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The Independent Online

Bobby Zamora wore the expression of a worried man as the fourth official signalled West Ham United's first substitution of the game. He tentatively cast his gaze towards the touchline, but breathed a sigh of relief - it was his strike partner Teddy Sheringham who would make way for Marlon Harewood.

Zamora's place is most at threat by the big-money arrival of Dean Ashton last week and, after an uneven performance in this FA Cup tie, he cannot have had too many complaints if he had been replaced after 71 minutes. Moments later, however, Zamora got the goal he craved. It also, Zamora must have hoped, reminded his manager, Alan Pardew, what an embarrassment of riches he now possesses in attack.

"Deano [Ashton] was watching the game and will know he will need to give 110 per cent," Zamora said. "Competition for places is good for us and keeps us all on our toes."

The result, one which dumped a poor Blackburn Rovers team out of their second cup competition in days, left Zamora reflecting on yet another home performance in which West Ham came from behind to win. "We have got a great spirit here," Zamora said. "We know stats on other teams and I am sure that they know our stats so when they come here and go a goal up, they should learn to keep things tight."

Steven Reid's ingenuity allowed Blackburn to take the lead just 25 seconds into this enjoyable encounter. The midfielder's blistering run from the kick-off saw him waltz past two defenders before feeding the ball into the path of Shefki Kuqi, who played a pass across the face of goal. David Bentley was on hand to force the ball in.

Pardew found it difficult to hide his frustration at his team's display, first bursting out of his technical area to try to retrieve the ball ahead of a hesitant ball-boy, then castigating the assistant referee after a decision went against his side.

Pardew then fished into his pocket for a scrap of paper, no doubt to make notes on a rather limp and lacklustre performance from his players when West Ham clawed their way back into the game on 33 minutes.

Zurab Khizanishvili, a bundle of nerves all afternoon, was adjudged to have handled in the penalty area. Teddy Sheringham cleverly chipped home a penalty down the centre of the goal with the Rovers goalkeeper Brad Friedel beaten.

Five minutes later, Pardew's furious note-taking ended. West Ham shed the lethargy of their first half-hour and took the lead after a fine move opened up the visitors' defence. Yossi Benayoun, smart and intelligent in possession, slid the ball into the path of Zamora, who laid it off for Matthew Etherington. The West Ham midfielder calmly slotted under Friedel. Pardew was a pleased man; even the assistant referee received an apologetic arm around the back.

Nigel Reo-Coker then played in Zamora with a neat throughball after the interval but, despite having time to settle himself, the striker's wayward effort brought groans from the crowd.

Blackburn's defensive deficiencies were again exposed by Paul Konchesky's ball across the face of the penalty area on 59 minutes. The unfortunate Khizanishvili turned the ball in. Six minutes later, the Rovers defender Lucas Neil netted a fine curling shot from outside the penalty area to give Rovers hope.

However, West Ham's passage into today's draw was secured through Zamora on 73 minutes, after he picked up Harewood's saved effort, firing the ball home into the open goal from eight yards.

Goals: Bentley (1) 0-1; Sheringham pen (33) 1-1; Etherington (37) 2-1; Khizanishvili og (59) 3-1; Neill (65) 3-2; Zamora (73) 4-2.

West Ham (4-4-2): Hislop; Dailly, Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Konchesky; Benayoun (Fletcher, 84), Mullins, Reo-Coker, Etherington; Sheringham (Harewood, 71), Zamora (Katan, 78). Substitutes not used: Bywater, Newton.

Blackburn (4-4-2): Friedel; Neill, Todd, Khizanishvili, Gray; Reid, Savage, Mokoena (Tugay, 73), Pedersen; Kuqi (Emerton, 60), Bentley (Johnson, 60). Substitutes not used: Enckelman, Nelsen.

Referee: M Atkinson (W Yorkshire).

Booked: West Ham Dailly.

Man of the match: Benayoun

Attendance: 23,700.

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