West Ham banking on McCarthy for goals
West Ham United 0 Blackburn Rovers 0
Gianfranco Zola is hoping he may have a potent strike combination to help him turn around West Ham's fortunes, as the arrival of South African striker Benni McCarthy coincides with the return to fitness of the club's top scorer Carlton Cole following a knee injury.
The Hammers' new co-owners, David Gold and David Sullivan, saw for themselves the paucity of the side's attacking options on their 'homecoming' at the Boleyn Ground on Saturday, when they were lucky to emerge with a point against a limited Blackburn team. Zola's lone striker against a strong Rovers defence was 18-year-old Frank Nouble who, to quote Cole, may be "built like a bulldozer" yet he is still learning to drive a car.
Which is where the signing of McCarthy (right), comes in. "He's got quality in the last 20 metres, he's got goals in his bag and that's what I need," said Zola, who expects to see the move completed before today's transfer deadline.
It was put to him, somewhat ambitiously, that McCarthy and Cole could replicate the Dwight Yorke-Andy Cole axis from Manchester United's Treble-winning year in 1999. "There are similarities," he said. "Obviously you are comparing them to two very good and established [players], but if they work together and help each other they can really be a big asset for us."
Opposite number Sam Allardyce is not thrilled to be losing McCarthy and said pointedly: "The talent is still there so if you can get other players around him to do the work-load then he'll use the talents to score you goals."
It was Rovers, without McCarthy's services, who looked the more likely scorers on Saturday, with Morten Gamst Pedersen's free-kick striking the West Ham bar in the first half and Martin Olsson and Jason Roberts drawing fine saves from Robert Green in the second. Allardyce also complained about referee Peter Walton missing Mark Noble's apparent handling of a Gaël Givet effort on the West Ham goal-line.
Gold and Sullivan, hoping for a victory to crown the £50m deal that saw them gain control of the club the previous week, may have expected some fireworks but had to settle for a couple of free-kicks from Alessandro Diamanti that Paul Robinson was forced to save. Cole made another substitute appearance as he recovers fitness and he would clearly relish some help up front. He said: "Benni is a quality player, very experienced as well. I can learn off him and I can't wait for him to start training with me properly."
West Ham United (4-5-1): Green; Upson, Spector, Tomkins, Kovac (Cole, 58); Noble, Behrami (Parker, 70), Faubert, Collison, Diamanti; Nouble (Sears, 78). Substitutes not used: Stech (gk), Ilunga, Da Costa, Stanislas.
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Robinson; Chimbonda, Nelsen, Samba, Olsson; Emerton (Andrews, 58), Givet, Pedersen, N'Zonzi; Diouf (Hoilett, 84), Kalinic (Roberts, 71). Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Reid, Salgado, Di Santo.
Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire).
Booked: Blackburn Emerton.
Man of the match: Green.