Hammers hit back to dump Derby

Hammers come from behind to close the gap on Southampton at the top with a victory over Derby


The in-form Hammers rammed Derby aside as they moved to within just two points of pace-setting Southampton with this richly deserved victory at Upton Park.

Although on-loan, Ipswich Town striker Tamas Priskin had put Nigel Clough’s side ahead on 34 minutes, Carlton Cole wiped out the Hungarian’s opener with his sixth goal of the season just before the interval.

And then skipper Kevin Nolan nonchalantly volleyed Sam Allardyce’s promotion chasers into a second-half lead, before Mark Noble cemented this wonderful, workmanlike win from the penalty spot with a quarter-of-an-hour remaining.

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Southampton’s earlier defeat at Bristol City meant that the second-placed Hammers kicked off at tea-time with the leaders firmly in their sights and, after his side’s victory at Coventry City last Saturday, the Boleyn Ground boss made just two changes as Cole and Joey O’Brien came in for Papa Bouba Diop and substitute John Carew.

Certainly, the notion that they could close the gap on the Saints to just two points proved to be a juicy carrot dangling in front of Big Sam’s men, who wasted no time putting the Derby defence under pressure.

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Indeed, only Gareth Roberts’ timely, tenacious tackle prevented Julien Faubert from slotting home Sam Baldock’s inviting square ball and then George McCartney sent a 25-yarder sizzling wide, before Nolan scuffed behind.

On 20 minutes, though, the Hammers boss was forced to tinker with his strike-force, when Sam Baldock tweaked a hamstring chasing a through-ball and that meant an early call-up for Frederic Piquionne.

Unflustered, Cole then sent a dipping volley inches over and, as the half-hour mark approached, Jack Collison almost caught out Frank Fielding with a low 20-yard bobbler, that the keeper gratefully grabbed at the second attempt as Faubert slid in for the kill.

Following their defeat against Hull City last weekend, 15th-placed County had made a quartet of changes as Paul Green, Shaun Barker, James Bailey and lone-striker Priskin came in for Tomasz Cywka, Theo Robinson plus substitutes Mark O’Brien and Jeff Hendrick.

Apart from a couple of relatively tame efforts from Jamie Ward and Green, Clough junior’s side had offered little in attack but ten minutes before the break, it was a case of the silence of the Rams as a deadly hush swept around Upton Park

With West Ham losing possession in midfield, Ward galloped deep into Hammers territory before sliding a perfect pass to the supporting Priskin, who having lost marker McCartney fired a low, angled 15-yard shot across the woefully exposed Robert Green.

On 44 minutes, however, Cole lifted East End spirits.

Picking himself up after being clattered by the consequently cautioned Ben Davies, the England striker outjumped Priskin to head home O’Brien’s right-wing cross, after County had failed to clear Noble’s resultant free-kick from the left flank.

Moments into the second half, six-goal Cole then glanced another header across goal but the stretching Abdoulaye Faye could not make contact and, shortly afterwards, Fielding bravely plucked the ball off Collison’s studs.

Then on the hour-mark, Piquionne saw his point-blank volley cannon off the flying Fielding before Faye headed the consequent corner inches over the top.

A second West Ham goal was certainly on the cards and, sure enough, midway through the half, Nolan struck his fifth goal of the campaign in spectacular style.

Again Cole was in the thick of the action but when his clever chip to Collison was hoisted high by the Wales international, the chance looked lost, however Nolan patiently waited for the ball to drop out of the black East End sky before volleying an unstoppable, low 25-yarder between Fielding’s outstretched right-glove and the base of the left-hand post.

And on 73 minutes it was game over, when Noble blasted home his third goal of the season from the penalty spot after Piquionne was brought down just inside the area by Craig Bryson following a scintillating surge upfield by Faubert and the supporting Collison.

With one eye on Tuesday’s tantalising trip to equally high-flying Middlesbrough, the impressive Cole and Faubert were finally given a breather as Carew and Matt Taylor each stepped from the bench but by now, the job was done leaving the Hammers heading to the Riverside Stadium knowing that victory might just put them top of the table.

HAMMERS: Green, J. O’Brien, McCartney, Tomkins, Faye, Collison, Faubert (Taylor 82), Nolan, Noble, Baldock (Piquionne 21) Cole (Carew 76). Unused: Stech, Demel,

RAMS: Fielding, Brayford (M. O’Brien 75), Roberts, Barker (Hendrick 75), Shackwell, Davies, Ward (Doyle 78), Bryson, Bailey, Green, Priskin. Unused: Legzdins, Buxton.

Booked: Davies (44)

Referee: Colin Webster. Attendance: 27,864

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