By Steve Blowers
Saturday, April 26, 2014
Premier League: West Brom 1 West Ham United 0
It proved a disappointing day of disharmony at The Hawthorns, where the Hammers slumped to a frustrating, fourth successive defeat.
The recalled Saido Berahino gave Albion victory with his ninth goal of the season with a 10th-minute strike and, although, Andy Carroll rocked the bar after the break, it was all too much for many travelling West Ham United supporters, who were left calling for Sam Allardyce’s head.
Despite having already endured an alarming hat-trick of reverses, West Ham still came into this game lying in 12th place, four places and four points above Albion and, following last Saturday’s defeat against Crystal Palace, Big Sam made just one change as Guy Demel replaced substitute Pablo Armero.
The last three teams to visit The Hawthorns had each netted three goals and with just five minutes on the clock, West Ham looked set to expose the Baggies’ soft underbelly, when Stewart Downing’s deep corner found its way to Kevin Nolan, who laid the ball back to Carroll, whose fierce, angled, ten-yarder was beaten out by Ben Foster.
Shortly afterwards, Matt Jarvis burst down the left and sent a low cross into the six-yard box, where the determination of central defensive duo Jonas Olsson and Craig Dawson simply proved too much for the less-dogged Downing and the ball was scrambled clear.
Monday night’s defeat at Manchester City - Albion’s only defeat in four outings - meant Pepe Mel’s side had kicked off just three points clear of the drop-zone and following that loss at Etihad Stadium, Adrian’s former boss made two switches as Berahino and Steven Reid came in for injured former Hammers starlet Liam Ridgewell and substitute Matej Vydra.
And on 10 minutes Berahino justified his recall to the starting line-up by claiming the only goal, when Stephane Sessegnon made a telling run into the heart of the Hammers defence before finding the overlapping Morgan Amalfitano, whose low left wing cross into the danger-zone saw the Albion striker stab the ball across the line as Demel slid in.
In reply, Carroll again made Foster work for his money with a smart snapshot that the well-placed Albion keeper held, before the England striker then met Mohamed Diame’s inch-perfect, 20th-minute centre with a powerful, goal-bound diving header that the man in green somehow pawed aside.
At the other end, another Amalfitano cross had the visiting defence in all sorts of trouble but this time an advancing Billy Jones sent his diving header just a whisker beyond the far post and, after Diame saw another angled shot beaten out, the breaking Graham Dorrans also sent a low 20-yarder inches wide of that right-hand upright.
On 32 minutes, the hobbling James Tomkins was replaced by James Collins, who soon found himself blocking Berahino inside the six-yard box but, more worrying for Allardyce, was the sight of the ‘Sam Out’ banner that was unfurled as the teams headed into the break.
The crocked Reid had also been replaced by James Morrison but the Baggies soon found their rhythm after the restart as Sessegnon fired into the side-netting, while Jones forced Adrian to palm his low 20-yarder aside for a corner and Dorrans also shot wide from similar range.
Downing’s well-flighted right-wing cross was met by Carroll at the far post, but the angle was just too tight and his header drifted harmlessly behind to prevent West Ham from getting a foothold back in the game.
Certainly, it could have got yet worse on the hour, when Sessegnon and Berahino embarked on an upfield raid but despite some dismal defending, equally forlorn finishing saw the Hammers escape.
After Carroll had again nodded behind at the far post midway through the second half, Big Sam brought on Joe Cole for Downing and, yet again, the focal point of the claret and blue attack endured even more frustration, when he rose highest to meet a Jarvis corner but his header crashed onto the Baggies’ bar.
Carlton Cole was introduced for the final 10 minutes, as Jarvis made way, but even though Albion have a reputation for leaking late goals, the Hammers just did not have enough in the Midlands monsoon to prevent Mel’s men from claiming the three precious points that sent them six points clear of the bottom three.
West Brom: Foster, Reid (Morrison 45+1), Jones, Olsson, Dawson, Amalfitano, Brunt, Dorrans, Mulumbu, Sessegnon (Anichebe 81), Berahino (Yacob 90+1). Unused subs: Myhill, Lugano, Vydra, Bifouma.
West Ham: Adrian, Demel, McCartney, Reid, Tomkins (Collins 32), Downing (J Cole 67), Jarvis (C Cole 79), Noble, Nolan, Diame, Carroll. Unused subs: Jaaskelainen, Armero, Vaz Te, Nocerino.
Booked: Collins (90+2).
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirrall).