West Ham make it four wins on the trot as Southampton crash to defeat
17:16 22 February 2014
PA Wire/Press Association Images
Premier League: West Ham United 3 Southampton 1
West Ham United made it a fantastic four-timer at Upton Park, where they extended their unbeaten run to five games and edged themselves another three points towards safety.
Following successive victories over Swansea City, Aston Villa and Norwich City, Sam Allardyce’s side added Southampton to their list of victims as they moved up into tenth spot.
Although Japanese international Maya Yoshida had sent the Saints marching ahead as early as the eighth minute, Matt Jarvis and Carlton Cole then put West Ham ahead with a deadly double midway through the first half, before Kevin Nolan cemented victory with 20 minutes remaining.
Invincible in those last four outings, the Hammers were quite predictably unchanged from the eleven that had knocked Norwich City off their perches 11 days ago.
That win over the Canaries had also seen Big Sam’s side notch up a fourth successive clean sheet and, having not been beaten for six hours, all eyes were on Adrian as West Ham went in search of another shut-out.
But within just eight minutes of kick-off, the claret and blue defences were breached when the sliding James Tomkins was adjudged to have upended Adam Lallana on the right flank.
And when Steven Davis floated the consequent free-kick into the six-yard box, Spanish eyes were not smiling on the Hammers ‘keeper, who saw Yoshida get in front of George McCartney to head the Saints into the lead, with only his second-ever goal for the south coast outfit.
Kicking off in eighth spot, three places and 11 points ahead of Allardyce’s troops, Mauricio Pochettino had made six changes from the side that had crashed out of the FA Cup at Sunderland last weekend as Artur Boric, Morgan Schneiderlin, Jose Fonte, Jack Cork, Jay Rodriguez and Calum Chambers each received call-ups.
Apart from Nolan’s scrambled attempt, though, West Ham had done little to threaten Southampton’s lead, but midway through the half they turned the game on its head with two quick-fire goals.
On 20 minutes, Nolan sent a lofted pass forward from the centre circle and, as the pushed-up home defence appealed in vain for what looked like a justifiable offside flag, Jarvis continued his run, brought the ball down and prodded home his third goal of the campaign, a split-second before the on-rushing Boruc slid into his studs.
Having levelled, the Hammers then went one better, when Stewart Downing floated a 23rd-minute corner into the area, where Cole’s initial header crashed back off the left-hand post only for the powerful striker to react first to the bobbling ball and slam home the rebound.
With their side now incredibly in front, the home supporters were encouraging the East Enders to shoot on sight and, with six goals for the season on the board, Cole then blazed high and wide with an adventurous 30-yard scorcher, while James Collins curled an 18-yarder into Boruc’s gloves.
In reply, Rickie Lambert met Cork’s right-wing cross with a downward header that crashed back off the base of the left-hand post and Luke Shaw also blazed across the face of goal to leave West Ham with an interval advantage.
Certainly, Southampton emerged for the start looking driven and determined and, after Jose Fonte‘s aerial presence created havoc and Shaw forced Adrian into a low save with a grass-cutting 20-yarder, Big Sam introduced Mohamed Diame at the expense of goalscorer Jarvis.
As the hour-mark approached, Collins headed over Downing’s corner following a surging run by Matt Taylor, but that was only sporadic home resistance as Pochettino brought on Gaston Ramirez for Cork.
Shaw left Collins for dead with an electrifying burst down the left-flank, but Lallana just could not get a stud on the resultant low cross into the six-yard box and, having just arrived, Ramirez bulldozed his way into the area before sending a rising, angled shot just inches over the bar.
With 20 minutes remaining, Lallana broke through the heart of the Hammers defence and instead of levelling he merely prodded meekly wide.
Indeed, that ghastly miss was to prove the turning point for with their very next attack, West Ham netted their third goal of the afternoon.
Man-of-the-Match, Mark Noble’s assured run out of defence saw him find Downing, who sent a right-wing cross into the goalmouth, where the climbing Cole’s header ricocheted off Fonte’s shoulder and Nolan acrobatically met the dropping ball with an unstoppable overhead kick.
Nolan - with seven goals for the season and five in his last four matches - then departed to rapturous applause as Winston Reid came on to shore up the defence.
And after a double-substitution saw Davis and Lambert replaced by James Ward-Prowse and Sam Gallagher, Diame’s dipping 20-yarder bounced off the top of Boruc’s bar to leave the Hammers fans amongst the crowd of 33,148 looking high into the East End sky but, by now, they knew that another three points were safely in the bag.
HAMMERS: Adrian, Demel, McCartney, Tomkins, Collins, Jarvis (Diame 56), Downing, Nolan (Reid 73), Noble, Taylor, C.Cole. Unused subs: Jaaskelainen, Armero, Collison, J.Cole, Nocerino.
SAINTS: Boruc, Chambers, Shaw, Fonte, Yoshida, S. Davis (Ward-Prowse 78), Cork (Ramirez 63), Schneiderlin, Lallana, Rodriguez, Lambert (Gallagher 78). Unused subs: K.Davis, Clyne, Lovren, Do Prado.
Bookings: Lallana (86).
Referee: Mark Clattenburg.