Blackburn Rovers 0-1 West Ham United
Dean Ashton came off the substitute's bench at Blackburn Rovers to inspire West Ham United to a fourth away win of the season.
The 24-year-old striker has had to wait for an extended chance but wasted no time upon entering the fray at half-time. Within seven minutes, he had opened the scoring with a close-range finish and the visitors were able to hang on for the three points. It moved the club back into the top half of the table and left them just four points behind Blackburn in ninth.
While chances were few and far between for Alan Curbishley's side in last Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Chelsea, it was a different story for his unchanged eleven at Ewood Park on Sunday afternoon. Within two minutes, Lucas Neill, back at his former club, surged forward and won a corner. The resulting set-piece found Matthew Upson but he could just not direct his header on target. Blackburn had their first attempt on five minutes, David Dunn unleashing a shot that cleared Robert Green's crossbar by a matter of inches.
Mark Hughes's side were in physical mood with Scott Parker feeling the force of an Aaron Mokoena challenge before Andre Ooijer went into the referee's notebook for a 13th-minute foul on Luis Boa Morte. It was the Portuguese international, again alongside Carlton Cole in attack, who had the visitors' first real shot - trying his luck with a speculative shot on 18 minutes.
Within two minutes, Upson strode out of defence and fed Matthew Etherington. He in turn found the overlapping George McCartney but, despite a good low cross, no one had got forward to find the finishing touch. Neill, with jeers from the home fans ringing in his ears, was also getting forward as West Ham United looked to take the game to Blackburn whenever possible.
Rovers seemed content to shoot from distance with Morten Gamst Pedersen - the only change in the Blackburn ranks because of David Bentley's suspension - firing in a drive that hit Neill as the half-hour approached. Parker also had a go at the other end on 34 minutes, with his dipping effort just missing the target.
After a half-chance for Nolberto Solano, Pedersen had the best moment of the opening 45 minutes - finding space to the left of goal to fire in a shot that Green did well to save. Curbishley's side closed out the half with some neat passing but in truth, neither side had ever really looked like scoring.
It was a different story after the break with Curbishley making an instant attacking move. On came Ashton for Matthew Etherington, who had a groin problem, meaning Boa Morte went out to the left to allow the striker to partner Cole. Blackburn also made a change, bringing on Robbie Savage for Mokoena.
The Hammers were soon in front. Terrific work by Boa Morte on the left won a corner and, after Blackburn failed to clear, McCartney found space to drill a low cross into the six-yard box for the unmarked Ashton to score. Blackburn came back strongly and only a magnificent low save by Green stopped Christopher Samba levelling things up in the 57th minute.
Blackburn were in determined mood and Tugay and Pedersen both tried their luck but the visitors always remained dangerous on the counterattack. A late challenge by Cole on Samba earned him a 68th-minute yellow card before Blackburn bought on Stephen Reid for Dunn.
Boa Morte could have made the game safe in the 73rd minute with a fierce effort but Friedel did well to parry. With 15 minutes remaining, Roque Santa Cruz rose above Upson to head for goal but missed the target. Curbishley then bought on Jonathan Spector for Solano while Pedersen made way for Jason Roberts before Santa Cruz conspired to miss from eight yards - having done brilliantly to work an opening.
Ashton then missed a similarly gilt-edged opportunity in the 84th minute as Ooijer limped off to leave the hosts down to ten men. It was a nervy finish - not least when Upson just avoided scoring an own goal and Green acrobatically pushed away a Tugay thunderbolt - but the visitors, who brought on Henri Camara for Cole at the death, had done enough.
Blackburn Rovers: Friedel (c), Emerton, Samba, Ooijer, Warnock, Dunn (Reid 69), Mokoena (Savage 46), Kerimoglu, Pedersen (Roberts 75), Santa Cruz, McCarthy.
Subs not used: Brown, Derbyshire
West Ham United: Green, Neill (c), Gabbidon, Upson, McCartney, Solano (Spector 75), Parker, Mullins, Etherington (Ashton 46), Cole (Camara 87), Boa Morte.
Subs not used: Wright, Noble