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  • Blackburn 1-1 Westham: Stanislas great-finish

    Life after Sam Allardyce did not start in the way Blackburn Rovers' owners planned as they were held to a 1-1 draw by struggling West Ham in one of only two Premier League games to beat Britain's big freeze.
    In a match that took time to get going but ended with a flourish, Rovers took the lead thanks to a messy finish off the knee of defender Ryan Nelsen following an error by debutant goalkeeper Ruud Boffin, before Hammers sub Junior Stanislas levelled with a more conventional goal.

    Both teams had chances to win it but a draw was a fair result, one that keeps the Hammers bottom and puts Rovers joint-10th on points and goal difference with West Brom and Blackpool but behind the promoted duo by a single goal scored.

    With matches at Arsenal, Birmingham and nearby Wigan called off because of snow, this clash went ahead although at the expense of many empty seats.

    Some of the absentees were in protest though, with Rovers fans angry at the shock sacking of Allardyce and those present using song to criticise owners Venky’s.

    The Indian processed chicken company inexplicably fired Allardyce, claiming his style of football was unattractive and that he was not the man to take the club to the top-five placing the self-confessed football novices believe is achievable on limited resources.

    Venky's did not have a replacement lined up, instead giving assistant Steve Kean his first managerial role for the foreseeable future - Chris Coleman's former sidekick at Fulham and Real Sociedad is a client of sports management company SEM, whose partners Kentaro advise the Indians on football matters.

    An unsurprisingly cagey first half did not come alive until its latter stages, with the first half hour only marked by a Morten Gamst Pedersen free-kick that deflected over, an eighth-minute injury Jason Roberts on his return to the team, and some comedy goalkeeping by stand-in Boffin as he escaped embarrassment for an ill-advised dribble in his own penalty box.

    Boffin, a 23-year-old who has spent most of his career in the Dutch second division, was in for Robert Green after the England keeper failed to recover from minor surgery in time, missing his first match since the 2006-07 season.

    The 6'5" Belgian did well later in the half though, holding on to another Pedersen free-kick and palming a dangerous high ball clear under pressure.

    Down the other end, Paul Robinson had little to do until a minute before the break, shinning a Luis Boa Morte drive wide after he was put in by the lively Frederic Piquionne, who himself fired wide from a similar position.

    The pattern continued, with Rovers asking most of the questions but hardly stern with their interrogation as most of their posers were set-pieces.

    The manner of Rovers’ opener was ironic at best given the reasoning behind the owners’ decision to sack Allardyce - that they wanted attractive football.

    After Boffin flapped wildly at a Pedersen corner, Brett Emerton put in a cross that Nelsen prodded home only for the Hammers keeper to save brilliantly. But with the woeful Tal Ben Haim uninterested in reaction and James Tomkins flat on his back, Nelsen prodded the ball home with his knee - even after Benjani had kicked air with a comedy swing.

    It was a farcical goal that prompted Under-fire Hammers boss Avram Grant into a risky attacking change, with Stanislas and Carlton Cole brought on as they switched to a 4-3-3 for the final half hour.

    Grant’s speculation worked too, as first Matthew Upson put a Stanislas ball against the post, while Piquionne headed inches over from a corner.

    They got the equaliser their ambition deserved when, after a skilful, driving run from the typically-determined Scott Parker, Stanislas rifled a superb finish from left to right that Robinson was helpless to stop.

    Rovers immediately rallied, with David Dunn having an effort chalked off due to a foul by Nelsen on Danny Gabbidon, but Grant lent credence to reports that he must win one of the next three matches or lose his job by bringing on a fourth forward, Benni McCarthy.

    The former Blackburn striker was handed a superb opportunity to silence the jeers of his old fans when, with six minutes left, he miscontrolled an excellent through ball from the increasingly influential Parker.

    The Hammers had another half-chance on the break, again led by Parker who found Piquionne, although the Frenchman’s cross was well-defended by substitute defender Grant Hanley, on for the injured Phil Jones who had himself replaced Chris Samba.

    But the final few minutes saw Blackburn closest to a winner as Pedersen flashed excellent free-kicks just wide of the far post on two occasions.

    Four minutes injury time were not enough though as the spoils were shared, leaving Grant - if rumours are to be believed - needing a win either at home to Everton or away at Fulham.
    Reda Maher / Eurosport


    Team Line-up:

    Blackburn Rovers: Robinson, Salgado, Samba, Nelsen, Givet, Emerton, Mame Diouf, Dunn, Pedersen, El-Hadji Diouf, Roberts; Subs: Bunn, Kalinic, Mwaruwari, Hoilett, Jones, Olsson, Hanley
    West Ham United: Boffin, Ben-Haim, Tomkins, Upson, Gabbidon, Barrera, Parker, Dyer, Behrami, Piquionne, Boa Morte; Subs: Larkins, Reid, Cole, McCarthy, Spector, Faubert, Stanislas


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