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Steve Blowers, at Upton Park
Saturday, September 1, 2012
Premier League: West Ham United 3 Fulham 0
The feel-good factor continues to reverberate around Upton Park, where the Hammers romped to their third victory of the season, thanks to goals from Kevin Nolan, Winston Reid and Matt Taylor.
Forget last weekend’s sinking at Swansea, that was in the period B.C. – Before Carroll – and allied to some brilliant business in the transfer window, this welcome win rounded off a wonderful week down West Ham way.
Certainly, the claret and blue supporters were lifted by the long-awaited arrival of Andy Carroll, who played a leading role in Nolan’s first-minute opener and Liverpool’s lanky, £35m on-loan striker proved to be a real handful for the Fulham defence until he fell awkwardly and sadly departed midway through the second period of this District Line derby.
Following their midweek Capital One Cup victory over Crewe Alexandra on Tuesday night, the Hammers had made seven changes with only Joey O’Brien, Kevin Nolan, Matt Taylor and Ricardo Vaz Te surviving Big Sam’s predictable shuffle of the pack.
While Yossi Benayoun’s eleventh-hour loan return to Upton Park had come too late for him to be registered in time for this lunchtime kick-off - and Matt Jarvis had to sit out proceedings with a slight thigh strain - make no mistake, Carroll was raring to go.
And the giant Geordie made an instant impact, when he nodded James Collins’ defensive clearance onto Vaz Te, who cleverly squared to the supporting Nolan and the skipper expertly sent a thumping 12-yard, half-volley beyond Mark Schwarzer’s groping left glove, with just 53 seconds on the clock.
Having arrived in the East End via Merseyside, the towering Tynesider was clearly determined to make it a barn-storming Boleyn Ground bow and, on eight minutes, he delivered another perfect header onto the toes of Mohammed Diame, whose rising 15-yard volley was tipped onto the bar by the Fulham keeper.
With West Ham firmly on the front foot, the lively Vaz Te also played a perfect one-two with O’Brien before forcing the under-siege Schwarzer to claw his low 10-yarder away from the base of his right-hand post.
Fulham, who suffered an embarrassing midweek cup exit at Sheffield Wednesday had made five switches with John Arne Riise, Sascha Riether, Mahamadou Diarra, Mladen Petric and £2m, ex-Hammers trainee Kieran Richardson coming into the side.
But while the Allardyce had started with his flagship signing, Martin Jol had left Dimitar Berbatov – his £4m capture from Manchester United - on the bench and although Richardson and Steve Sidwell forced Jussi Jaaskelainen to save their low, long-rangers, the Cottagers had rarely threatened to level.
And with the half-hour mark approaching, it was no surprise as the Hammers doubled their lead, when the flying Reid soared above Diarra to head Taylor’s inswinging right-wing corner into the net.
The hard-working Hammers had still not finished their opening shift and, on 41 minutes, Brede Hangeland – under pressure from that man Carroll – could only half-clear Collins’ deep free-kick to the edge of the area, where Taylor thumped the weak header into the net from 15 yards to give his side a three-goal, interval lead.
Predictably, Berbatov replaced the anonymous Petric for the a more subdued second half, while Alex Kacaliknic then came on for Richardson but still Schwarzer was the busiest keeper, diverting another Taylor thunderbolt skywards.
At the other end, Jaaskelainen defiantly denied Sidwell and Damien Duff, while Hugo Rodallega also hit the post but with the match well won, more worrying for Big Sam were the sights of Collins, Carroll and Guy Demel hobbling away with injuries.
With an international break beckoning, the Hammers boss will desperately be hoping that those knocks can clear up ahead of the visit to Norwich City in a fortnight’s time, when he will be looking for the East Enders to continue where they left off against the crushed Cottagers.
West Ham United: Jaaskelainen, Demel (Hall 78), O’Brien, Reid, Collins (Tomkins 67), Vaz Te, Taylor, Noble, Diame, Nolan, Carroll (Cole 68). Unused subs: Henderson, Diarra, O’Neil, Maiga.
Fulham: Schwarzer, Riether, Riise, Hangeland, Hughes, Duff, Richardson (Kacaliknic 59), Diarra, Sidwell, Rodallega, Petric (Berbatov h/t) Unused subs: Stockdale, Kelly, Baird, Kasami, Briggs.
Referee: Anthony Taylor.