West Ham splutter to dismal defeat as Palace march on
17:20 19 April 2014
PA Wire/Press Association Images
The Hammers found Crystal Palace too sharp for them in an impotent display at Upton Park
West Ham United 0 Crystal Palace 1
The Hammers slumped to a dismal defeat at the Boleyn Ground, where Mile Jedinak’s 59th-minute penalty sent the Eagles soaring to a fifth successive victory.
And it was ironic that Palace’s Australian skipper netted the winner on an emotional afternoon, when the Hammers mourned the tragic loss of their own man from Down Under, Dylan Tombides.
Having endured back-to-back defeats against Liverpool and Arsenal, Sam Allardyce made two changes from the side that had lost at the the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night as fit-again George McCartney and Kevin Nolan came in for an ill Guy Demel and substitute Antonio Nocerino.
Whether or not the alleged Palace spies already knew Big Sam’s intentions is open to tabloid conjecture, but following his side’s win at Everton in midweek, Tony Pulis made just one change as Kagisho Dikcagoi came in for former Hammers loanee Maraoune Chamakh
Successive victories over Chelsea, Cardiff City, Aston Villa and the Toffees meant that Palace’s formidable four-timer had seen them incredibly leapfrog over the Hammers into 11th-spot, one place and three points above the East Enders.
But both clubs’ season-long fight for Premier League survival was put firmly into perspective before kick-off, when the No. 38 shirt was carried to the centre-spot and formally retired during an emotional minute’s applause in memory of 20-year-old Tombides, who had lost his brave battle against cancer just 24 hours earlier.
Having made that heartfelt journey to the centre-circle with the claret and blue jersey, the tragic youngster’s father Jim and brother Taylor had not long disappeared back down the Upton Park tunnel, when Andy Carroll headed inches wide and then another mazy Matt Jarvis run ended with the final cross just eluding the West Ham United number nine.
And on the quarter-hour mark, the busy England striker found himself on-duty in the Hammers’ box, too, when he blocked Dikcagoi’s goalbound header on the line, after Yannick Balasie had floated over an inch-perfect corner.
Shortly afterwards, Dikcagoi also tried his luck from 25 yards but the alert Adrian beat down the scorching shot and then, as the half-hour mark approached, Mohamed Diame forced Hammers first corner of the game with a rising 20-yarder that Julian Speroni steered over the Palace crossbar, while Carroll was also nudged over by Jedinak without reward.
Ten minutes before the break, Diame was again denied by the Palace ‘keeper, who quickly recovered from his first stop to acrobatically fist away Carroll’s far post header and keep goalless, a first-half that had been punctuated by a second 60 seconds applause on 38 minutes in another Tombides tribute from the entire crowd of 34,977.
Just after the restart, right-back McCartney was booked for tripping Bolasie, but the Palace free-kick came to nothing, while at the other end, Stewart Downing’s cross found its way to the hesitant Carroll at the far post and he could only slash his 10-yard shot into the boards.
Embarking on a one-man mission to break the deadlock, the Big Man also saw a shot deflected behind before scuffing a low, grass-cutter comfortably into the clutches of Speroni.
But as the hour-mark approached, it was Palace, who opened the scoring when Cameron Jerome cut back from the byline and tumbled under the challenge of the perplexed Pablo Amero and while the award was soft, there was nothing weak about Jedinak’s subsequent spot-kick that flew past the outstretched gloves of Adrian as it scorched under the left-hand angle.
Having taken the initiative, Palace - who had also beaten West Ham at Selhurst Park earlier this season - then saw Bolasie hook wide before a flock of Eagles queued to see their shots blocked inside the area as the Hammers defence stood in disarray.
With 20 minutes remaining, Jarvis was replaced by Carlton Cole as the predictable boos rang out around Upton Park and chants of ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’ were aimed at Allardyce in the home dug-out, but there were no such jeers, when Joe Cole replaced the disappointing Downing, a little later.
Indeed, Joe Cole enjoyed a brief, yet lively run-out, drilling a low 20-yarder inches wide before hoisting a more difficult effort high into the Bobby Moore Stand but, by now, it was obvious to all that Palace were on course for a fantastic fifth win on the spin, with the forlorn Hammers leaving themselves to reflect on a hat-trick of defeats.
HAMMERS: Adrian, McCartney, Armero, Reid, Tomkins, Downing (J. Cole 78), Jarvis (C. Cole 70), Nolan (Nocerino 85), Diame, Noble, Carroll. Unused subs: Jaaskelainen, Taylor, O’Brien, Johnson.
EAGLES: Speroni, Mariappa, Ward, Dann, Delaney, Puncheon (Gabbidon 87), Bolasie (Parr 90+1), Dikcagoi, Jedinak, Ledley, Jerome (Murray 81). Unused subs: Hennessey, Parr, Ince, Gayle, Guedioura.
Booked: McCartney (49), Murray (90+3).
Referee: Martin Atkinson