West Ham must be more clinical to go on to the next level

Stewart Downing, West Ham United

Stewart Downing, West Ham United - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images

The Hammers had chances galore to beat Newcastle at St James’ Park on Saturday, but missed the lot

Watching Saturday’s goalless draw at Newcastle on Saturday, it was easy to see what West Ham have to do to reach the next level in their progress up the Premier League.

Just like last season, their defence looked solid and well-organised and just like last season the team carved out chances to win this match.

Unfortunately, just like last season, they missed them and in the end they could easily have paid the price if substitute Yoan Gouffran had been more alert when Sammy Ameobi’s cross had come back off the post.

The top teams – the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea – gobble up the chances they create on the road, put the pressure on the home team and thus win more than their fair share of away games.

West Ham need to find that clinical edge if they are to improve on last season’s 10th place, because a Newcastle with internal problems and low on confidence were really there for the taking on Saturday and the Hammers failed to take advantage.

Winston Reid had a shot blocked early on and then just failed to convert two long balls into the box; Stewart Downing should have done so much better with his far post header from Matt Jarvis’ cross; while Modibo Maiga glanced Guy Demel’s cross wide from an excellent position and that was all in the first half.

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After the break, Kevin Nolan failed to convert Downing’s pinpoint cross, while Joe Cole’s sweet strike curled just wide and when West Ham did get the ball in the net, it was ruled out for offside.

“We’re disappointed we didn’t convert our clear-cut chances,” said manager Sam Allardyce. “When you play away from home and create three clear-cut chances like we did, we’ve got to take at last one of them.

“All three of them were headers and all three of them were unmarked and six yards out and not one of them hit the target. On top of that Winston Reid had a couple of really good chances and Joe Cole missed one right at the end.

“Overall though, it was a great performance and a good result and we move on undefeated with one win and one draw.”

Perhaps that is part of the problem. The manager described it as a great result, but if it had happened for the likes of Tottenham, Everton or Liverpool – the teams that West Ham are attempting to aspire to – then this would have been a case of two points dropped rather than one gained.

Allardyce gave a first start to Downing and though he did not look 100 per cent sharp and ran down some blind alleys, he almost crowned it with a goal when he got on the end of the cross from Jarvis.

“We had some chances in the first half, especially my header which I didn’t know whether to go for goal or to pull it back, I should have gone for goal I think,” said the former Liverpool winger.

“I heard a shout of ‘pull it back’ and I was running that fast to get on the end of it, so that’s what I did. The manager wants me to get on that back stick, maybe I should have gone for goal, but that’s the way it is.”

Maybe he should. The secret of Allardyce’s two-winger formation is that those wingers have got to get into the box and they have to get on the scoresheet. So far Jarvis missed a golden chance against Cardiff City and scored just two last season, while Downing missed Saturday’s chance and scored just three Premier League goals last term.

That needs to improve, but enough of the negativity, this is another good start to the season for the Hammers and with a home game to come against Stoke City on Saturday, there is no reason why it can’t continue.

Allardyce is already preparing hard for the game at Upton Park.

“All the teams we lost to at home last season were in the top seven so we’ve got to emulate that if we can,” explained the boss. “Stoke under Mark Hughes, like they were under Tony Pulis, will be well-organised, but we’ve got to make sure we continue our home victories and then we can start talking about a good start.”

Home victories are vital of course, but it is games like Saturday’s at Newcastle, where all three points were there for the taking, that may well shape just how successful this season is likely to be.”

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