Hughes recalls 'crazy' Hammers visit

First published in Sport Blackburn Citizen: Photograph of the Author by

Although Lucas Neill was roundly booed every time he touched the ball when West Ham last visited Blackburn Rovers in March, he was not the most unpopular man inside Ewood Park that fateful day.

Instead, that dubious honour went to assistant referee Jim Devine, who awarded one of the most controversial winning goals in Premier League history.

West Ham had already benefited from a fortuitous penalty, given against Brett Emerton, which tied the game at 1-1, when fate intervened again.

Aside from the fact it was offside and there was a clear handball in the build-up to it, Bobby Zamora's winning 'goal' never crossed the line, the ball striking Carlos Tevez and rebounding back into play.

However, Mr Devine thought otherwise and promptly raised his flag to signal a goal, a decision which consigned Rovers to a damaging 2-1 defeat and gave West Ham a crucial life-line in their bid for survival.

It was such a monumental error that the official was temporarily withdrawn from duty as a consequence.

"I saw him (Mr Devine) the other night for the first time (since that game).

"He was running the line in the Newcastle-Arsenal game," said Hughes.

"I don't think he wanted to get back involved initially (after that mistake).

"It was a crazy day - we all remember it.

"At the time, we thought it was going to detrimentally affect our season, because we were trying hard to get that sixth position and that defeat hurt us.

"But, thankfully, we got into Europe via the Intertoto Cup in the end, although we weren't to know that at the time.

"We were 1-0 up and they were struggling for results at that time.

"We were quite comfortable and then all of a sudden they got a penalty that we weren't happy with, and they got a little bit of momentum from that.

"Then came the situation with the goal that wasn't a goal and, from that point onwards, West Ham lost very, very few games.

"If they had lost that game, they quite possibly would have gone down.

"So fate played a hand in them staying up."

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