Blackburn Rovers 4 West Ham United 2
These days, Ewood Park is something of another world for Blackburn, a palace in which, away from their troubles, they seem invincible, in the Premiership at least.
West Ham, beaten once in nine games previously, became the fifth visiting side to be trounced in consecutive matches there, a run in which the champions have scored 21 goals, including seven against Nottingham Forest, and conceded four. It is easy to be impressed until you look at an away record of two points from 24.
"It was the same for Leeds after they won the championship," Ray Harford, the Blackburn manager, said, as if offering the fact as some sort of consolation. "Of their 21 away games, they drew seven and didn't win one until the last game of the season. They won 12 and drew eight at home." He let the statistics hang in the air for a moment as if about to deliver some profound truth. There was none, only the somewhat needless reassurance that Blackburn were "trying to put it right". But as yet, it seems, they do not know how. "Every away game is like a different challenge," Harford added. "I would think that winning your home games and drawing away just about puts you in the top three, but we're not even doing that yet."
As a post-match observation, it was a fairly meaningless ramble, quite in contrast with what had happened on the field, where for the first half hour especially, Blackburn were superb and West Ham, who had surrendered only four goals in total in seven other away games this season, mesmerised. Alan Shearer, on the way to the seventh hat-trick of his Ewood career, opened with two state-of-the-art finishes, Mike Newell added a third of equal merit and the points were in the bag.
From there, West Ham might have gone Forest's way, but after going four down to a Shearer penalty they responded well, scoring twice in the closing 16 minutes. But for a miraculous save by Tim Flowers from Iain Dowie, the finish could have been more interesting.
How long, then, before Harford finds some answers? Rosenborg Trondheim's visit on Wednesday, drawing a welcome line under the Champions' League, promises to be a hollow affair, but home games with Middlesbrough, Manchester City and Tottenham before the year is out should offer pertinent benchmarks. In between, journeys to Coventry and Wimbledon must surely prove that the other world need not be so unlike their own.
Goals: Shearer (3) 1-0; Shearer (15) 2-0; Newell (30) 3-0; Shearer pen (64) 4-0; Dicks pen (74) 4-1; Slater (85) 4-2.
Blackburn Rovers (4-3-3): Flowers; Kenna, Berg, Hendry (Warhurst, 50), Le Saux; Sherwood, Bohinen, Batty; Ripley, Shearer, Newell. Substitutes not used: McKinlay, Mimms (gk).
West Ham United (4-4-2): Miklosko; Breacker, Rieper, Potts, Dicks; Harkes (Slater, 66), Bishop (Hutchison, 80), Williamson, Hughes; Cottee (Boogers, 71), Dowie.
Referee: K Burge (Tonypandy).
Booking: Blackburn: Berg.
Man of the match: Shearer.