Battling West Ham grind out victory over Brighton
Championship: Brighton 0 West Ham 1
It proved to be lucky 13 for West Ham as they held on in their 13th League match of the season to win by a single Kevin Nolan goal, his fourth of the campaign, at a packed Amex Stadium, to move back up to second in the table, three points behind Southampton.
It was a very gritty display by the hard-working Hammers, who had to endure long spells of intense pressure, prolonged by eight minutes of injury time at the end of the night.
Sam Allardyce made three changes from the side that lost at Southampton last Tuesday. Joey O.’Brien, Jack Collison and Mark Noble all earned recalls at the expense of the benched Sam Baldock, and the injured duo of Henri Lansbury and Matt Taylor.
West Ham enjoyed much of the early possession, but it was the home side who had the first serious attempt on goal in the 7th minute. Craig Mackail-Smith raced away after dispossessing Winston Reid, but, to the great relief of the large away contingent, the striker fired wide of Manuel Almunia’s right-hand post.
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The Hammers broke the deadlock in the 17th minute, with their very first shot of the game, when skipper Kevin Nolan dispossessed a sleepy Liam Bridcott and then rifled home a sweet shot from the edge of the penalty area.
West Ham looked quite comfortable for a long spell, with their midfield cleverly slowing down the game.
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However, with rain now falling steadily, they had to weather a torrent of six corners in a ten minute spell just before the interval. The away goal led a charmed life on a clutch of occasions and it took a superb flying save from Almunia to deny the dangerous Mackail-Smith in stoppage time.
Allardyce was forced to make his first change, nine minutes after the break, when Freddie Sears replaced the hobbling Papa Bouba Diop. Despite conceding large chunks of possession, West Ham occasionally looked dangerous on the break. John Carew had a shot saved and the lively Sears fired just wide, after good work by sub Frederic Piquionne (who had just come on to fill the lone front-man role vacated by Carew).
The Hammers had to soak up a tremendous amount of pressure and almost conceded in the 87th minute when a fierce shot from sub Will Hoskins flew just over the bar. The visitors did not win their first corner until the 88th minute when Julien Faubert’s off-target shot was deflected behind. The last West Ham switch came in stoppage time, with Sam Baldock replacing Faubert.
Brighton: Harper; Jara, Greer, Dunk, Painter; Dicker (Harley 83.), Bridcutt, Sparrow (Buckley 71.), Noone; Barnes (Hoskins 59.), Mackail-Smith
West Ham: Almunia; O’Brien, Reid, Faye, McCartney; Faubert (Baldock 90.), Noble, Diop (Sears 54.), Nolan, Collison; Carew (Picquionne 65.)