Defence delights Zola

Gianfranco Zola made a strong case for his defence after West Ham United battled to a hard-fought goalless Barclays Premier League draw at Blackburn Rovers.

Central defenders James Collins and Matthew Upson - back in after being rested in favour of Danny Gabbidon and James Tomkins in midweek - and goalkeeper Robert Green led the way as Zola's side repelled Rovers' aerial bombardment at Ewood Park.

Collins, in particular, was a rock, throwing himself in front of shot after shot, clearing cross after cross and heading clear a series of long throws, corners and free-kicks into the Hammers penalty area.

The manager was fulsome in his praise for his back-four and goalkeeper. "James was really good, to be honest. He played a good game. The two centre-backs were vital for us because of the kind of play they have. They were really good."

Saturday's draw came at the end of a long and arduous week for everyone at the club, and Zola excused his players their inability to seal a second consecutive away league win.

The Hammers were playing their third match in six days, while the squad have also had a number of difficult incidents to deal with during the past week. As such, a determined display was no more than the manager could ask for going into the two-week international break.

"The whole team in the first half was quite bright. Obviously I knew that as the game became longer and longer that, physically-wise, we were going to drop something because of the game we played on Tuesday [against Millwall in the Carling Cup].

"It's okay because once again we defended very well and that is something that is important. We have to work and improve going forward because, in the first half, we had a couple of chances which, in my opinion, if West Ham wants to go for high positions, we have to take.

"We will be working on that but, considering all the circumstances, I was pleased with the team. That was the third game we had played in six days, so I have to admit it was quite difficult.

"It was a good end to the week, considering that Blackburn is a difficult team to play against and they were desperate for points. Considering everything, it was a good result. I want my team to do much better than this, and we most certainly will, but I must be pleased."

Zola was also happy with the performances of midfielder Jack Collison, who yet again demonstrated his immense character just six days after the death of his father.

"After everything that has happened to him, he must be drained. He has also played three games. He is a strong boy and I am sure he can cope with the situation very well, as he has done."

While Zola's players will be heading off to all corners of the globe to represent their respective national teams, the manager said he would review the squad situation ahead of Tuesday's transfer deadline with technical director Gianluca Nani and CEO Scott Duxbury, having just captured forward Alessandro Diamanti.

"I think another one wouldn't cause any harm. Carlton Cole is doing great but I can't pretend that Carlton is going to play every game. He also has games with the national team to be up there all the time, so he will need some rest. So we need to consider looking for a replacement for him."