Blackpool rock hapless Hammers
West Ham stay bottom of the table after a miserable 0-0 home draw against Blackpool.
WASHED UP West Ham were left all at all sea by battling Blackpool, who left Avram Grant’s side still rooted to the bottom of the table, writes STEVE BLOWERS.
The Israeli’s side may be unbeaten in three games but the entire East End has every right to fear for the Hammers Premier League lives after yet another below-par performance.
Although wasteful West Ham could point to the denial of two decent penalty shouts, they simply squandered too many opportunities and, in the final reckoning, could even have been tango’d by the Tangerines, who might have snatched victory at the death.
After suicidally throwing away the lead in their previous two games, West Ham made two changes from the side that had drawn with West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday evening as Mark Noble made a shock return from his recent appendix removal to replace substitute Pablo Barrera, while Victor Obinna’s recall saw Carlton Cole drop to the bench, too.
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And after the stooping Luis Boa Morte sent an early glancing header beyond the far post, the fit-again Noble almost made Craig Cathcart pay for a sloppy clearance with a low 18-yarder that also went wide.
Having played his first-ever 90 minutes for the Hammers against Albion in midweek, the crocked Kieron Dyer was only to make it to the quarter-hour mark this time around before limping down the tunnel to sympathetic claps.
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Within seconds of his arrival, replacement Barrera ballet danced his way to the byline, where he was upended by the sliding Stephen Crainey, who would have been a relieved man to see the Mexican’s cries for a penalty fall on the unfriendly ears of referee Kevin Friend.
And, on 27 minutes, the unhappy Hammers had an even better shout for a spot-kick waved away, when Barrera headed into the path of Obinna, who saw his point-blank, goal-bound shot beaten away by the diving Cathcart.
Ian Holloway had come in for criticism after making ten changes at Villa Park in midweek but following his 14th-placed side’s last minute defeat to Aston Villa, the Blackpool boss defiantly went one better at Upton Park, where he made 11 switches.
Alongside the vociferous visiting fans - including one in a tangerine fez – Holloway was hoping that his fresh pack could conjure up some more of the magic that had seen Blackpool accrue 14 points ahead of this contest.
Clearly, the game plan was to counter-attack the bottom-placed Hammers and, after DJ Campbell and Elliot Grandin saw Robert Green comfortably gather their early shots, Luke Varney, the cautioned Charlie Adam and Neal Eardley each sent efforts just wide of the target.
And as the first-half drew towards a close, the inspirational Scott Parker survived what would have been a harsh handball shout, while the gallant Green dived into Grandin’s studs to keep it goalless at the break.
The visitors swapped keepers at the break as Richard Kingson came on for the spotlessly clean, Matthew Gilks (knee), who will not be troubling the Bloomfield Road laundry man after enduring a full 45 minutes of boredom between the Blackpool posts.
Within three minutes of his arrival the Ghana goalkeeper should have been picking the ball out of the net but with the whites of Kingson’s eyes in his sights, Boa Morte recklessly rifled his low, angled 12-yarder the wrong side of the far post.
At the other end, Adam audaciously launched an attempted chip from just inside the Hammers half but, thankfully, his opportunist effort landed on the roof of the grateful Green’s net.
Midway through the second half, Campbell departed as Marlon Harewood arrived to appreciative applause from the home fans amongst the crowd of 31,194 and the ex-Hammer soon bundled the ball over the line, only to be denied by a debatable offside flag.
Finally, the chances were beginning to come and when Parker ploughed his way along the byline before cutting back into the danger zone, Barrera wrongly opted for precision rather than power and Neal Eardley blocked on the line.
With 20 minutes remaining, Cole replaced Boa Morte before Barrera crossed into the near post, where the stretching Hammers substitute – under pressure from Ian Evatt - prodded the ball onto the left post.
Noble’s 20-yard curler also brought the best out of the flying Kingson, whose left glove diverted the ball to safety.
Having gone so close, West Ham then had three let-offs of their own as Gary Taylor-Fletcher shinned over at far post, before Harewood scuffed wide and Cathcart thudded a point-blank effort into Green’s ribcage.
Then,in the dying moments, the breaking Barrera summed up a simply awful day on the Hammers production line, when he inexplicably ignored a clutch of supporting claret and blue shirts in favour of a senseless, speculative shot that flew towards a Barking Road, packed with frustrated East Enders, who had already left after seeing that the writing was well and truly on the wall.
West Ham United: Green, Jacobsen, Ilunga, Gabbidon, Upson, Dyer (Barrera 17), Boa Morte, Noble, Parker, Obinna, Piquionne (McCarthy 81) Unused Subs: Stech, Tomkins, Cole, Kovac, McCarthy, Spector
Blackpool: Gilks (Kingson 46), Eardley, Crainey, Evatt, Cathcart, Vaughan, Varney, Adam, Grandin (Phillips 59), Taylor-Fletcher, Campbell (Harewood 67) Unused Subs: Euell, Sylvestre, Edwards, Carney.
Referee: Kevin Friend