Steve Blowers, Recorder Reporter
Saturday, January 19, 2013
The Hammers had the bulk of the chances but QPR grabbed a point at Upton Park
West Ham United 1 Queens Park Rangers 1
Joe Cole’s second half equaliser made it a frustrating return to Upton Park for his old boss Harry Redknapp.
Having given QPR the cold shoulder in the January transfer window by choosing the Hammers over rock-bottom Rangers, the mercurial midfielder then popped up in a Boleyn Ground blizzard to net his first goal since his much-heralded arrival from Liverpool.
Earlier, Redknapp must have thought that he was all set to climb off the bottom of the table after new-boy Loic Remy wasted no time earning some of his reported £70,000 per week salary, by marking his £8 million midweek move from Marseille with a 14th-minute opener.
But in the end, Cole’s leveller and Reading’s win at Newcastle United left Rangers still propping up the Premier League.
These sides had experienced mixed fortunes in their FA Cup third round replays in midweek, with the 11th-placed Hammers losing at Manchester United and the R’s winning at West Bromwich Albion.
Sam Allardyce had made half-a-dozen changes at Old Trafford so it was no surprise when he re-shuffled the pack following that 1-0 defeat in a bid to find some aces amongst his seven new faces.
Joe Cole, Mark Noble, Matt Jarvis, Kevin Nolan, on-loan Marouane Chamakh, Joey O’Brien and Guy Demel each earned recalls as Gary O’Neil and Jordan Spence stood down and substitutes Carlton Cole, Ricardo Vaz Te, Matt Taylor, Alou Diarra and Dan Potts dropped to the dug-out.
Redknapp also made seven changes to a Rangers side, who had won at The Hawthorns as Julio Cesar, Fabio, Stephane Mbia, Ryan Nelsen, Adel Taarabt and Shaun Wright-Phillips were each recalled to his relegation-threatened Rangers side, alongside midweek signing Remy, while ex-Hammers Robert Green and Anton Ferdinand took their places on the bench.
Still acclimatising following his move from the Mediterranean climate of Marseille to the frozen wastes of east London, lone-striker Remy soon found his early progress hampered by a couple of offside flags and the close attention of James Tomkins.
And the Frenchman could only look back downfield to see the high-energy, fast-starting, Hammers force a quartet of early corners, while Mohamed Diame’s bulldozing by-line run only needed a touch from Nolan at the near post, before Winston Reid then sent a downward header into the path of his skipper, who could only hold his head in his hands as Julio Cesar beat his close-range shot away to safety.
With all the action taking place in the Rangers’ penalty box, a goal was just around the corner but, unfortunately for the Hammers it was destined to come at their end as Taarabt – in the centre-circle - cut a defence-splitting pass behind Reid to the French flash and the racing Remy calmly drilled a low 15-yarder beyond the helplessly exposed Jussi Jaaskelainen.
That 14th-minute strike certainly took the icy wind out of West Ham’s sails and, with both Diame and Jarvis losing their shooting boots at the vital moment, the Hammers then found themselves venting their anger at referee Howard Webb, who turned down penalty shouts for a handball by Shaun Derry and a clumsy assault on Chamakh in the six-yard box.
Early in the second half, Joe Cole saw his low angled 15-yarder acrobatically diverted aside by Cesar but no claret and blue shirts were on hand to gobble up the rebound.
Ten minutes into the second period, Chamakh’s downward header was beaten out by the Brazilian keeper only for Diame to see his shot cleared off the line by Nelsen and when the Senegalese midfielder saw his follow-up deflected, Nolan could only steer his header over the bar.
Moments later, Diame was in the thick of things again but this time Mbia denied him in the six-yard box at the expense of a splintered shin-pad.
On the hour, Chamakh saw another goalbound header clutched at the base of his left-hand post by the busy Cesar, but to the dismay of the frozen Hammers fans in the crowd of 34,962 that was to be the Frenchman’s final act of the afternoon as he then made way for Carlton Cole.
But the substitute took just seven minutes to mark his arrival with a telling contribution to West Ham’s equaliser, when he met a hanging cross from Jarvis with a powerful downward header that Cesar could only push into the path of Joe Cole, who gleefully rolled the ball over the line.
That leveller certainly brought some belief back to the Boleyn and, after Tomkins was booked for felling Armand Traore, Diame drilled a long-ranger wide, before Reid saw a point-blank stinger blocked, another effort rip into the side-netting and a header fly over the top.
And having already ruined Redknapp’s afternoon with that earlier leveller, Joe Cole could have made it even worse for his old manager, when he rounded Cesar only for his shot to be blocked on the edge of the six-yard line and both sides were left to settle for a point.
HAMMERS: Jaaskelainen, Demel, O’Brien, Tomkins, Reid, Noble, Diame, Nolan (Vaz Te 89, J. Cole, Jarvis, Chamakh (C. Cole 61). Unused subs: Spiegel Collison, Taylor, Diarra, Potts.
QPR: Cesar, Onuoha, Fabio, Hill, Nelsen, Mackie (Bothroyd 67), Wright-Phillips (Traore 57), Derry, Mbia Taarabt (Park 81), Remy. Unused subs: Green, Ferdinand, Hoilett, Faurlin.
Bookings: Tomkins (74)
Referee: Howard Webb (Sheffield).