December 9 2013 Latest news:
Steve Blowers, Recorder Reporter
Saturday, November 2, 2013
Premier League: West Ham United 0 Aston Villa 0
West Ham United were forced to settle for yet another stalemate at Upton Park, where they paid the price for their poor first-half finishing and the ongoing absence of injured hit-man, Andy Carroll.
Having already recorded a trio of goalless draws on their travels this season, this Boleyn Ground blank made it Hammers sixth game in 10 outings without finding the net and how Sam Allardyce must be counting the days until his record summer signing returns to the fold.
Kicking off in 15th spot just one point and two places behind the visitors, Big Sam predictably made sweeping changes to the team that had booked the club’s Capital One quarter-final place in midweek.
Following that 2-0 win at Burnley, only James Tomkins retained a starting place as Allardyce returned the focus to the Premier League.
And indeed, it was the physical presence of the hastily retreating Tomkins, who prevented the breaking Andreas Weimann from giving Villa a fifth-minute lead as the advancing Jussi Jaaskelainen then came to the rescue with a chest block.
At the other end, ex-Villa Park wide boy Stewart Downing sent over an inch-perfect right-wing cross that Matt Jarvis nodded back towards the penalty spot, where the stretching Jack Collison failed to get any clean contact.
Much maligned by the visiting support, Downing then let fly with a 20-yarder that Brad Guzan gratefully clutched, while the Hammers chief focal point, Kevin Nolan, also sliced wide.
Villa had lost to Everton last Saturday and that saw Paul Lambert make a quartet of changes as Yacouba Sylla, Karim El Ahmadi, Ciaran Clark and Matt Lowton each earned call-ups.
And when Weimann broke again on the quarter-hour mark, East End hearts were in East End mouths as the back-tracking Ravel Morrison tussled for the ball but, when the angry Austrian tumbled to the turf, referee Howard Webb waved away all appeals for the Hammers’ last man to be shown red, deciding instead that the striker had gone to ground too easily.
Weimann also sent another low 25-yarder just wide, but it was West Ham who were to come closest to breaking the deadlock as Jarvis saw his angled shot saved, while Mark Noble’s clever, quick free-kick then let in the alert Collison, who shot just wide of the angle.
On the half-hour mark, Collison also rose highest in the box, but the in-rushing Nolan just could not connect at the far post and, as the teams departed at the interval, it was West Ham, who were left to rue their failure to convert any of Downing’s delightful crosses, while Villa would have been looking at replays of that controversial clash between Morrison and Weimann.
Within seconds of the restart, Leandro Bacuna was booked for downing Downing and after Nolan scuffed over, Sylla then deposited an ambitious 30-yarder into the upper tier of the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand.
Lowton was then booked for tripping Jarvis in full flight, but when Noble’s consequent free-kick was cleared to Morrison on the edge of the area the midfielder could only slash his shot over the angle.
Weimann’s miserable afternoon was complete when he hobbled away to be replaced by Libor Kozac and, on the hour, Big Sam made a double switch of his own as Joe and Carlton Cole arrived to generous applause in place of Collison and Jarvis.
But with an expectant Upton Park waiting for the Cole men to deliver, it was Christian Benteke, who almost extinguished the Hammers fire when he met Lowton’s deep right-wing cross with a thumping 70th-minute header that crashed back off the underside of the bar.
Back at the other end, Nolan swept an angled shot into the side netting, before Joe Cole had two efforts saved by Guzan and, although Benteke was also denied by a late Jaaskelainen stop, both sets of claret and blue fans in the sell-out crowd of 34,977 were long-resigned to yet another goalless afternoon.
HAMMERS: Jaaskelainen, Demel, Rat (Diame 90) Tomkins, Reid, Noble, Collison (C. Cole 62), Morrison, Downing, Jarvis (J. Cole 62), Nolan. Unused subs: Adrian, Maiga, O’Brien, Potts.
VILLA: Guzan, Lowton, Clark, Vlaar, Baker, Sylla, Westwood, Bacuna, El Ahmadi, Weimann (Kozak 57), Benteke. Unused subs: Steer, Helenius, Herd, Bowery, Tonev, Kozak, Johnson.
Booked: Bacuna (46), Lowton (56).
Referee: Howard Webb (Sheffield).