Stanislas strike pegs back Rovers

With West Ham boss Avram Grant enduring another week of speculation

about his future, it was an important match for both managers, and,

after a woeful first half, it was Blackburn who made the

breakthrough in the 51st minute thanks to the scrappiest of goals

from Ryan Nelsen. Defeat would certainly have been harsh on the

visitors, who were easily the more creative side, and they got

their reward when Stanislas fired an unstoppable shot into the far

corner. The point was not enough to lift West Ham off the bottom of

the table but they did close to within two points of Wolves. Staff

at Ewood Park had spent all morning clearing the pitch, stands and

surrounding areas of snow and their efforts were rewarded as the

match was the only one of the scheduled 3pm kick-offs in the

Premier League to go ahead. Grant was forced into a change in goal

after Robert Green underwent a minor operation to remove a cyst

earlier this week, meaning a West Ham debut for 23-year-old Belgian

Ruud Boffin. It was the first time Green had failed to start a

league game for the Hammers for almost four years, and Grant’s

problems continued to mount before kick-off as Valon Behrami, who

had been a doubt, was replaced by Jonathan Spector at the 11th

hour. The first half was a poor spectacle, with Blackburn’s bright

start petering out and West Ham managing only sporadic bursts

forward. The first decent opening did not arrive until the 41st

minute as Luis Boa Morte played in Frederic Piquionne on the left

of the area but the striker fired his effort towards the near post

and into the side-netting. West Ham were by then looking quite

dangerous and moments later it was Boa Morte on the end of a

throughball. This time he did find the target, forcing Paul

Robinson into a good block. Half-time came at the right time for

Rovers, who had a new energy about them in the second half and soon

gained the lead. A shot from the lively Mame Biram Diouf was

deflected behind by James Tomkins and, from the resulting corner,

the ball was cleared to Brett Emerton wide on the right. The

Australian did brilliantly to work space for a cross, which caused

havoc in the West Ham penalty area. Poor defending saw the ball

drop to Benjani Mwaruwari three yards out only for the striker to

completely miss his kick. Waiting was Nelsen, though, and, after

his first effort was superbly saved by Boffin, the Rovers captain

forced the ball inside the right post off his thigh. It was tough

luck on the rookie goalkeeper, who did all he could but was let

down by the men in front of him. Grant responded by bringing on

Carlton Cole and Stanislas for Pablo Barrera and Spector, while for

Rovers injury saw Christopher Samba replaced by Phil Jones. Cole

was immediately involved, appealing unsuccessfully for a penalty

after a challenge by Gael Givet and then poking his shot wide under

pressure from Jones following good work by Kieron Dyer. That proved

to be the last involvement for Jones, though, as he limped off

barely 10 minutes after coming on, with teenager Grant Hanley given

his chance by Kean. Blackburn and referee Mike Dean earned the

wrath of the West Ham fans when they failed to put the ball out

after Matthew Upson went down clutching his face, and in the 71st

minute the Hammers defender almost took revenge in the best

possible way. This time it was the Rovers defence that did not deal

with a cross but Upson curled his shot against the outside of a

post. The Hammers created another decent opening moments later,

Piquionne heading Stanislas’ corner over the bar. They certainly

deserved an equaliser, and 12 minutes from time they got one. Scott

Parker, so often at the heart of West Ham’s best moments, drove

into the box and Givet could only divert the ball into the path of

Stanislas, who smashed his shot into the far right corner.

Blackburn had been poor but they upped their level again and

thought they had gone straight back in front only for David Dunn to

be denied by an offside flag. Both sides pushed for a winner and

Morten Gamst Pedersen almost caught out Boffin with an audacious

40-yard free-kick, while the Norwegian had the final chance with

another set-piece from the edge of the area but sent his shot just

the wrong side of the far left post.