Home comfort for West Ham after seven-goal Portsmouth thriller
West Ham United 4 Portsmouth 3: Steve Blowers reports from Upton Park
It was home sweet home for the Hammers as they finally broke their Upton Park hoodoo with this comprehensive and competitive victory over a pumped-up Pompey side writes STEVE BLOWERS.
With red cards for Liam Lawrence and substitute Frederic Piquionne, both sides finished with 10 men in a feisty, seven-goal see-saw encounter that saw Carlton Cole unluckily deflect the ball into his own net early on, before Matt Taylor soon levelled against his old club to make it all-square at the break.
West Ham had the better of the second half, though, as Arsenal’s on-loan debutant Henri Lansbury put the East Enders into the lead and, after David Norris levelled, Mark Noble’s no-nonsense penalty restored the home advantage before Cole netted his fourth goal of the campaign to cement a first home win of the season that sent the Hammers up into fourth place.
Despite all his transfer window activity, shopaholic Sam Allardyce resisted the temptation to try out all of his new purchases at once and, following the formidable 4-1 win at Nottingham Forest, he made just a single-switch as Lansbury replaced Jack Collison (virus).
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And while that meant there were no places for Papa Bouba Diop, Guy Demel and Brian Montenegro, at least new boys Sam Baldock and David Bentley found themselves on the bench.
But while all eyes in the Kids-for-a-Quid crowd were on the Hammers, it was Portsmouth who opened the scoring in the ninth-minute, when Lawrence’s low corner to the edge of the area was rifled goalwards by Luke Varney, only for the ball to ricochet off Cole, past the wrong-footed Robert Green,
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Unbeaten in their last three matches, 12th-placed Pompey had made two changes from the side that drew with Cardiff City a fortnight ago, as Benjani and Aaron Mokoena came in for Dave Kitson and substitute Joel Ward but, with manager Steve Cotterill desperately urging his side to protect that fortuitous early lead, those words quickly fell on deaf ears.
Indeed, within just 60 seconds of finding themselves falling behind, the Hammers conjured up an instant response, thanks to Taylor’s inch-perfect, 25-yard free-kick that flew over the defensive wall and beyond the outstretched right-glove of Jamie Ashdown before nestling inside the left-hand post.
Buoyed by that leveller, West Ham might even have got their noses in front by the break and only the alert Pompey keeper prevented Cole from scoring at the right end, while Mokoena nodded the ball off the head of the in-rushing Kevin Nolan and Taylor also sent another free-kick just inches over.
It was not only Ashdown who was experiencing an increased workload, for referee Roger East found himself booking Joey O’Brien, Mokoena, Lawrence and Varney for a varied quartet of assaults on ex-Hammer Tal Ben-Haim, Mark Noble, Lansbury and Green, whose late point-blank stops then prevented both Jason Pearce and Erik Huselepp from giving Pompey an interval lead.
Just after the restart, Mr East found himself scribbling Nolan’s name into his book for a high challenge on Varney.
On 53 minutes, however, there was a welcome break from hostilities, when Noble’s deep cross from the left flank was bundled back to Lansbury, who took great delight in unleashing a low 12-yarder that simply had too much power as it deflected off the diving Pearce and nestled in the net to give West Ham a rare Upton Park advantage.
Pompey’s joy at opening the scoring had been short-lived and now it was West Ham’s turn to quickly surrender the lead, when Winston Reid tried to juggle a goal-bound header from Norris off the line and, just for good measure, Benjani also pounced to nod the ball into the net, on the hour.
The visitors’ equaliser was the cue for Bentley to replace Faubert, who had also seen ex-Hammer Hayden Mullins booked for tripping him and, ironically, the on-loan Spurs midfielder was then chopped by the consequently-dismissed Lawrence, whose second yellow card of the day took the caution count to seven.
After that, things just went from bad to worse for the visitors and with 20 minutes remaining, Pearce handled under pressure from the lively Lansbury and Noble duly dispatched a clinical spot-kick to Ashdown’s left to restore the lead.
Then, on 75 minutes, Taylor floated over a pinpoint cross from the left flank, which the soaring Cole nodded past Ashdown to give the Hammers a two-goal advantage.
Still the drama was not over though and, after replacing the goalscoring England striker, substitute Piquionne was dismissed for an off-the-ball clash with Halford.
With both sides now down to ten-men, Ben-Haim found himself upended by Noble in the closing seconds and, although Halford drilled home the consequent penalty, it was far too late to prevent the Hammers from claiming that long-awaited first home victory of the season.
Hammers: Green, O’Brien, McCartney, Tomkins, Reid, Faubert (Bentley 63), Taylor, Lansbury, Noble, Nolan, Cole (Piquionne 89). Unused Subs: Boffin, Baldock, Faye.
Portsmouth: Ashdown, Mokoena, Ben-Haim, Halford, Pearce, Huseklepp (Ward 78), Varney, Lawrence, Mullins, Norris, Benjani (Futacs 83). Unused Subs: Henderson, Rocha, Kanu
Booked: O’Brien (14), Mokoena (20), Lawrence (27), Varney (40), Nolan (48), Mullins (57).
Sent-Off: Lawrence (67), Piquionne (90+4)
Referee: Roger East.