Hammers fight back from three behind to claim point
West Ham came from 3-0 down to grab a valuable point at the Hawthorns in a thriller.
West Bromwich Albion 3 West Ham United 3
AN AMAZING afternoon of Midlands mayhem saw West Ham United battle back from a three-goal interval deficit to snatch an incredible draw at The Hawthorns writes STEVE BLOWERS
Albion looked out of sight as Graham Dorrans, Jerome Thomas and a woeful Winston Reid own-goal put the Baggies on the way to three certain points.
But Demba Ba’s full debut double and a Carlton Cole header gave the Hammers a share of the spoils to the dumbstruck delight of the travelling fans, who had endured a roller-coaster ride of emotions.
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Following last weekend’s surprise sacking of Roberto Di Matteo, caretaker manager Michael Appleton made two changes to the side that had lost at Manchester City as Dorrans and Gonzalo Jara replaced Steven Reid and substitute James Morrison.
And with new Baggies boss Roy Hodgson watching from the stands, Albion wasted no time trying to impress the new man in The Hawthorns hot-seat as Marc-Antoine Fortune rifled an early 25-yarder into the gloves of the well-placed Robert Green.
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On three minutes, however, the England goalkeeper had absolutely no chance, when long-time Hammers target Dorrans collected from Peter Odemwingie and let fly with an unstoppable 25-yarder that sizzled over his right palm and under the angle.
With the bewildered Baggies fans amongst the crowd of 23,916 still celebrating that sensational start, Chris Brunt then saw his ten-yard shot blocked on the line by the red-faced Fortune as the hosts carved through the visiting defence at will.
On seven minutes, however, Fortune made amends, when he cut the ball back from the left flank for Thomas, who curled a low 15-yarder around the helplessly exposed Green to claim his third goal of the season and give Albion a two-goal lead.
West Ham were, quite simply, reeling and with 11 minutes on the clock, Albion looked all set for a third, when Thomas gave both Winston Reid and Manuel Da Costa a start and a beating but, fortunately for the Hammers, the West Bromwich wide boy stumbled as he rounded Green.
After James Morrison replaced the struggling Youssouf Mulumbu, Odemwingie then saw his goal-bound header saved but, by now, it was clear that - Olympic Stadium victory apart – this was looking like a week to forget for the East End.
With Robbie Keane (calf) and Matthew Upson (achilles) sidelined during last Sunday’s disastrous defeat to Birmingham City and with Victor Obinna both struggling with an ankle knock and delayed on his way home from international duty, Avram Grant had made a quartet of changes to his side.
Ba, Da Costa and Luis Boa Morte each returned, while Carlton Cole also came in for substitute Frederic Piquionne, who was joined on the bench by fit-again summer signing, Thomas Hitzlsperger.
But there was simply nothing in the West Ham tank as Ba’s wayward shot flew away for a throw-in and then Cole sent another effort high into the Albion fans, before having another effort ruled out for a marginal offside.
Boa Morte was booked for fouling Brunt before Gary O’Neil finally forced Boaz Myhill into a save with a bobbling 20-yarder but that was to prove just sporadic resistance.
Indeed, all Hammers hopes of a recovery looked to have receded on 32 minutes, when Dorrans flighted a 40-yard, left-wing free-kick into the six-yard box, where the unruffled Reid still managed to deflect the ball under Green’s left-hand angle to give Albion a three-goal advantage.
Shortly after being cautioned for downing Dorrans, Mark Noble floated over a deep corner, which Ba fired back across goal onto the base of Myhill’s right-hand post before Morrison scrambled the ball clear.
And after Dorrans forced Green into a brilliant full-length save, O’Neil gave Albion due warning that maybe, just maybe, there could be a Hammers fightback on the cards, when he sent a dipping 25-yarder onto the crossbar in stoppage time.
Apart from reminding his side that Newcastle had fought back from a four-goal deficit against Arsenal, last weekend, it was difficult to think what else Grant could have said to his hopelessly trailing troops at the break.
But within five minutes of the restart, Ba gave them a glimmer of hope, when he collected Noble’s flighted pass towards the penalty spot and out-muscled Paul Scharner before opening his Hammers goal-scoring account with a crisp, low shot past Myhill.
And when the consequently booked Brunt fouled Scott Parker on 57 minutes, Grant immediately replaced Boa Morte with Piquionne, who instantly marked his arrival by nodding Noble’s subsequent free-kick back across the face of goal, where Cole nodded home his eighth effort of the season.
Moments later, the newly-arrived Piquionne posed yet more problems when headed against the crossbar and, after Green acrobatically turned aside Odemwingie’s clever curler, Ba then saw his low shot cleared off the line by Nicky Shorey, before later lashing into the side-netting, too.
But with just eight minutes remaining, the new signing from Hoffenheim was destined to have the final word of a remarkable afternoon, when Wayne Bridge rolled a short corner to Noble, whose cross deflected off Jonas Olsson to the deep-lying Ba and he salvaged that unlikely point with a fierce, far post shot.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION: Myhill, Jara, Shorey, Olsson, Scharner, Brunt, Thomas (Barnes 60), Mulumbu (Morrison 14), Dorrans (Tamas 81), Odemwingie, Fortune. Unused: Carson, Ibanez, Vela, Cox.
HAMMERS: Green, Jacobsen, Bridge, Reid, Da Costa, O’Neil (Spector 78), Boa Morte (Piquionne 51), Parker, Noble, Cole, Ba. Unused: Boffin, Hitzlsperger, Kovac, Faubert, Hines.
Referee: Lee Mason Attendance: 23,916