"Que Sera Sera", they sang "We're going to Cov-entry". Gallows humour was at a premium at Upton Park on Saturday as West Ham stumbled through another must-win game and eventually gained a point that, in the last ten minutes, probably should have been three.
It's been an odd season all round the country, but no weirder surely than the Boleyn Ground, where the Hammers continue to frustrate and annoy as - just like last week at Manchester - the team started slowly in a 15 minute spell that allows the opposition the chance to stamp their authority on the game. West Ham seem to be content to be second best in the tackle and hope their reputation might give them what they seem to think they deserve. As John Lennon once remarked: "Strange Days Indeed!"
It was Jason Roberts - a player that always seems to do well against West Ham (perhaps we should buy all these players?) - who put Blackburn ahead after 12 minutes, slotting home easily from close range after an excellent cross from Brett Emerton. Of more importance though was the sloppy way that West Ham gave away possession to allow the Australian winger the chance to run at the defence. It has been basic errors like this all season that have unsettled the Hammers and there is little doubt that the team never seem set-up to deal with what should be simple bread and butter tactics.
Once again, opposition players weren't being closed down, the midfield was out-muscled while up-front Carlton Cole continually had to deal with the ball fizzing round his feet, making him look clumsy and putting him under pressure. The main protoganist for this shambles was singled out when Avram Grant came out to pick a loose ball up and was roundly booed. Mind you that was nothing to the abusive chant that went up in the second half - I hope his family weren't listening.
The annoying thing was that Blackburn didn't look that strong or confident; there was a feeling that on another day in another season under a better Manager, someone in the West Ham team would have put their foot on the ball and actually thought about where they were going to play it. But, of course, in struggling sides no-one wants the ball and the tendency to hoof it up becomes all powerful. Cole won a fair amount of headers, linked up well with Ba but ultimately didn't really test the Blackburn defence in terms of shots or goalmouth threat.
Da Costa had West Ham's only serious chance in the first half, his towering header nodded away by Pedersen on the line although Spector may have done better with a low effort that Robinson gathered smartly after good work by Ba and Cole.
Grant threw on Frederic Piquionne and Robbie Keane in the second half but still West Ham looked like a bunch of good individual players with no pattern or ideas, and the crowd celebrations seemed to more about the opportunity of meeting Millwall twice next year. before Hitzlsperger struck in the 78th minute.
Cole made space on the left allowing Hitzlsperger to crack a tremendous drive through a crowd of players and into the far corner. There was actually an air of surprise in the resulting celebrations but, as so often happens, now level West Ham took the game to Blackburn and it was only a superb display by Chris Samba that stopped the home side scoring again. The Blackburn man threw himself in front of every shot, made every tackle and pretty much played out of his skin for the remaining time. Even so, Samba wouldn't have been able to do anything about the sitter that Robbie Keane missed with just a couple of minutes remaining; Piquionne crossing from the left leaving Keane just yards out and completly failing to connect. A shocking miss.
Cole was denied at close range by another superb block tackle by Samba and the whistle blew to a frustrated crowd. This season seems destined to end with a whimper rather than a bang and that is extremely disappointing for the fans who want to see - if nothing else - some fight and passion. But fight and passion don't seem to be in Avram Grant's personality and the fear is this is now too inbred into his squad to save them. File under 'Desperate'
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