Battle for survival hots up as Hammers grab point
By Tom Dowsett
Sunday 08 May 2011 12:23:00
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West Ham United are hanging onto their Premier League survival hopes, but they did continue their unbeaten run against Blackburn Rovers on Saturday afternoon, as they came from a goal behind to grab a point at Upton Park.

Avram Grant made three changes to the side that lost to Manchester City last weekend. Wayne Bridge returned to the defence after missing the trip to Eastlands due to the terms of his loan deal, replacing James Tomkins who dropped to the bench, Manuel Da Costa debutised for the injured Matthew Upson, while Carlton Cole replaced Robbie Keane who was also on the bench.

The game got underway and although there were chances at both ends in the opening exchanges, it was Blackburn who controlled the early possession, although it was West Ham that went closest to scoring when Da Costa won a header from Thomas Hitzlsperger's corner, only for Morten Gamst Pedersen to clear off the line.

On 13 minutes, the opening goal arrived and it wasn't what the Hammers needed, as Jason Roberts put Rovers ahead.

However hard West Ham tried to get a goal back, they just could not get past the Blackburn defence, as every chance the Hammers created was blocked until just before the break, when a floated ball from Luis Boa Morte found Demba Ba, who then sent Freddie Sears through, but Paul Robinson easily held his shot.

In added time at the end of the first half, another chance for the Hammers came when Da Costa's free-kick hit Boa Morte who volleyed towards goal, which looked like it would be going in, only for the ball to take a deflection off Ba, but it wouldn't of counted anyway, as the striker was offside.

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West Ham might well have equalised early in the second half, but Cole's flick-on fell nicely for Sears, but the ball was too far ahead for him and the chance was lost.

Five minutes later Ba found Boa Morte who then set up Hitzlsperger to try his luck but Robinson was there to make a superb save from the effort.

On 55 minutes, after Boa Morte had earlier been boked, Grant decided to replace him to prevent the firey midfielder from being sent off, so Keane came into the fray.

Nine minutes later Grant decided to gamble as he made a double substitution. There was a loud cheer as Jack Collison made his return to first team action after over a year out with a serious knee injury, in place of Sears and Frederic Piquionne came on for Lars Jacobsen.

On 77 minutes Ba had another great chance for West Ham to equalise, but diverted his header a yard wide after he was well set up by Cole following good play from Collison.

A minute later however, the Hammers got a goal out of nothing, as Piquionne's cross found Cole who held the ball up for Hitzlsperger to race into the box and smash a shot past Robinson.

West Ham had not played well up until the goal, but Cole came very close to grabing an undeserved winner for the home side, but he couldn't get his head to Hitzlsperger's ball.

As the game entered the closing stages as he had done in the last two games Keane missed what was the chance of the game when he latched on to Piquionne's cross and had the whole goal to aim at but somehow got it all wrong and once again the chance was passed up.

The final whistle blew meaning that West Ham remain bottom of the Barclays Premier League table needing realistically to win their two remaining games to stand any real chance of survival. The first of those games is a trip to the DW Stadium to face Wigan Athletic next Sunday.

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