West Ham 2 Blackburn Rovers 0

After one of football's longest running on-off transfer sagas, Paolo Di Canio put any thoughts of Manchester United behind him with an outstanding captain's performance.

Di Canio backed up his latest pledge of allegiance to the claret and blue cause with a hard-working display that was key to a convincing 2-0 victory over Blackburn Rovers.

Another unsettled player, Trevor Sinclair, gave Hammers a deserved half-time lead with a rasping 17th minute strike, but it was Di Canio's clever chip to put Fredi Kanoute through to score the decisive second goal on 56 minutes.

Di Canio, still wearing the captain's armband despite the return of Steve Lomas to central midfield at the expense of the injured Michael Carrick, led by example.

He ran himself into the ground and, as ever, produced some sublime moments of skill to delight an adoring 35,307 Upton Park crowd.

In one particular act of genius, Di Canio controlled a Nigel Winterburn throw on his thigh before, without looking, volleying an inch-perfect cross-field pass to the feet of Don Hutchison on the opposite flank.

The win takes West Ham three places up the table, to 11th, but it wasn't all about the Paolo Di Canio show.

Joe Cole also sparkled, and one brilliant drag-back and dribble in the second half drew gasps of admiration, even though his left-foot shot was blazed into the Bobby Moore lower tier.

Hammers were good value for their half-time lead. Di Canio should have scored when he headed a Lomas cross agonisingly wide at the far post, where he had appeared unmarked.

It didn't matter, though, because a minute later Sinclair raced in from the left onto a defence-splitting pass from Kanoute, cut inside Taylor and unleashed an unstoppable right-foot shot that gave Brad Friedel no chance at the Centenary Stand end.

Friedel then had to be alert to deny Kanoute and Lomas, who were both set up well by the influential Di Canio.

At the other end, David James had little to do, although he did dive sharply to his left to hold a low angled drive from Damien Duff, who had caused Sebastien Schemmel a few problems on the left.

Rovers will possibly feel a little hard done-by, especially when Matt Jansen flicked Duff's cross against the post six minutes into the second half.

The Worthington Cup finalists also played neat football in patches but lacked a killer punch.

It seemed as though Kanoute was going to extend his goalless run in the league to eight games when he failed to convert an inviting through-ball from Sinclair in the 55th minute.

But, just seconds later, the Frenchman made no mistake when he scored his seventh Premiership goal of the season, left-footed from 10 yards, after a delightful chip into space by Di Canio.

Jansen wasted a golden chance to cut the deficit when he prodded wide from six yards and after James dived low to gather an Andy Cole header, Rovers posed little threat as West Ham probed for a third goal.

Joe Cole and Vladimir Labant - making his home debut as a substitute for the unhappy Hutchison (the third successive match he has been taken off) - both went close from free-kicks, while Lomas drove another effort wide.

Di Canio was the provider again when he sent clear Jermain Defoe - on for Kanoute - who tested Friedel after another pacy run.

With Wednesday's FA Cup fourth round replay against Chelsea very much in mind, Glenn Roeder also took off Sinclair minutes from the end as the fans bellowed their own version of 'Blue Flag'.

Di Canio (suspended) will be sorely missed against the Blues, although Defoe will no doubt be straining at the leash for his chance, and the only blemish on this performance is that both Sinclair and Schemmel will miss the home match against Middlesbrough on February 23 after each picking up their fifth bookings of the season.