West Ham Utd 4, Blackburn Rovers 1: Return of Ince spoiled by Hammers' fantastic four

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The Independent Football

Maybe Alan Curbishley does have a future at Upton Park, at least if his luck holds. After all, you just need to consider the evidence for the West Ham manager here yesterday. With the hosts leading 2-1, Blackburn wrongly had a "goal" disallowed for offside and shortly after half-time, Jason Roberts saw his penalty saved. If there was any further evidence needed that Curbishley's luck has suddenly changed for the better, Craig Bellamy, who was out for most of last season through injury, then came on and scored.

The problems for Curbishley had started by losing heavily at Manchester City a week ago. Then the Hammers had found themselves behind against Macclesfield in midweek in the Carling Cup before winning 4-1. They could have been 3-2 down here, but instead emerged with this deserved win, admittedly embellished by two goals in injury-time.

The West Ham manager was taunted in midweek with "You're being sacked in the morning," but Curbishley was given a second chance by the home fans. However, his counterpart Paul Ince is never granted an easy ride when he returns to this part of east London.

The new Blackburn manager is still vilified at Upton Park, even after all these years and he endured a miserable afternoon. He was greeted with cries of "Judas" when the Rovers team bus pulled up. If he had missed those chants, the West Ham fans made sure he heard the next bout of abuse. They refuse to forgive their former player for being photographed in a Manchester United shirt in 1989 before his transfer to Old Trafford was complete. It was less than a minute into the game when the refrain, "Stand up if you hate Paul Ince," rang around the ground.

Curbishley admitted he had been taken aback by the abuse he himself had received. "It's been a difficult week, with your fans having a go at you after two games. I've never heard of that," he said. However, he and his players responded positively.

Key to the first two goals was Julien Faubert, further proof that Curbishley's luck may be turning. The Frenchman was out virtually all last season through injury, but with 12 minutes gone he showed what they had missed as he dropped the perfect corner on to the head of Calum Davenport. The centre-back guided his header neatly past his former Tottenham team-mate Paul Robinson, having escaped the attention of Ryan Nelsen.

Eight minutes later and there was more evidence this team is playing for Curbishley rather than despite him. Faubert cut the ball back for Noble and his shot deflected in off the flailing shin of Chris Samba, despite Dean Ashton's claims he had got the last touch.

Rovers' response was almost immediate. After 22 minutes Valon Behrami had two chances to clear the danger from right-back but suddenly he was faced with Roberts. The forward turned both Behrami and Davenport and poked his shot in off the far post.

Now under pressure, the Hammers' first let-off came after 29 minutes, when Matt Derbyshire's touch past Rob Green was erroneously disallowed for offside, which infuriated Ince. Curbishley's second reprieve came two minutes after the interval. Carlton Cole handled Steven Reid's free-kick but Roberts wasted the spot-kick, hitting it low and weakly to Green's left.

Ince, who called his reception from the home fans "tepid", then bemoaned his team missing more chances, in particular Brett Emerton hitting his shot too close to Green. It proved to be their last chance to stop a ninth consecutive League loss at Upton Park.

In injury time Bellamy met a long ball over the top by Lucas Neill, his pace took him clear and he thumped it past Robinson. Two minutes later and Ince's humiliation, as well as Curbishley's relief, was complete when Scott Parker slipped a pass to Cole, who rolled the ball home.

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