West Ham need two wins after Blackburn draw
Thomas Hitzlsperger’s strike saves blushes
West Ham 1 Blackburn 1
A second half Thomas Hitzlsperger strike saved West Ham’s blushes as they salvaged a 1-1 draw against Blackburn.
But all the talk will be of Robbie Keane’s incredible second half miss when the scores were level.
The Irish international, who came on as a second half substitute, shot wide from two yards out and in turn spurned the chance to push the Hammers to within one point of safety.
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The importance of that error is unlikely to be known until the end of the season, but with seven points likely to be needed from their remaining three matches, wins at Wigan and at Upton Park on the final day of the season are required to stay in the top flight.
This stalemate proved how tactically inept Avram Grant was as manager. His initial 4-3-3 formation left both full backs exposed, while his insistence on playing Demba Ba wide left was mind boggling.
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Ba has scored five goals since arriving at the club, yet Grant still plays him wide left.
After a horrific 45 minutes Grant changed to 4-4-2, but within 15 minutes changed to 4-2-4 with Keane, Cole, Piquionne and Ba all on the pitch.
Needing a win, the hosts created precious few chances and although Christopher Samba was magnificent for the hosts, their back four were hardly pushed.
The game began at a frenetic pace and in just the second minute Blackburn had a great chance to take the lead.
Mame Biram Diouf played in Morten Gamst Pedersen who was somehow left unmarked on the edge of the area.
There was little pressure on the winger and with the whole goal to aim at, he somehow shot wide.
Two minutes later and West Ham went even closer when Manuel Da Costa’s header from a cormer was cleared off the line by Pedersen.
However it were the hosts who were looking far more dangerous and they took the lead after 13 minutes.
Luis Boa Morte lost possession in midfield to Jermaine Jones, who powered forward and played in Brett Emerton on the right.
Wayne Bridge failed to close and the Australian curled in a delicious cross which was poked home by Jason Roberts from close range.
It was a poor goal concede and Rovers continued to threaten.
David Hoilet, like a number of wingers who have faced West Ham this season was having a field day out wide, with Lars Jacobsen regularly exposed one on one by the pacy Canadian. 4-3-3 was just not working for the Hammers.
causing Diouf played in Pedersen from the edge of the and despite a lack of closing down shot wide.
The game had lost its early tempo, but two minutes before the break West Ham sparked into life as Freddie Sears forced a decent save from Paul Robinson, while Boa Morte’s well directed volley would have tested the former England stopper were it not deflected wide by Ba.
It took 45 minutes for Grant to realise the system was not working and finally reverted to 4-4-2 with Sears and Boa Morte occupying the wide positions.
The team looked more balanced and with both Ba and Cole up front, more threatening.
Ten minutes into the second period Keane replaced Boa Morte, with Ba moving wide left once again.
Jack Collison received a huge ovation as he came on 20 minutes into the second half as the Hammers went 4-2-4, while Frederic Piquionne replaced Sears.
Despite having four strikers on the pitch, they didn’t create many chances, but Ba should have equalised with 15 minutes left.
Cole crossed in and although Ba timed his leap well, headed wide from 10 yards out.
And then came Keane’s miss. Piquionne played a great ball into the box and from two yards and and the whole goal to aim at the striker mistimed his shot, got the faintest of touches, as his effort dribbled wide and with it, West Ham’s hopes of three points.