Super subs secure West Ham win at struggling Sky Blues
The Hammers came from behind to secure all three points at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday
COVENTRY CITY 1 WEST HAM UNITED 2
Second-half substitutes Carlton Cole and Frederic Piquionne stepped from the bench to fire promotion-chasing West Ham to victory at the Ricoh Arena.
But until Sam Allardyce unleashed his towering two-pronged attack, it looked destined to be a miserable mid-November afternoon in the murky Midlands, where the struggling Sky Blues had taken an interval lead through Clive Platt.
Following Hammers’ 2-0 victory at Hull City a fortnight ago, Big Sam had named an unchanged side for this second-from-top versus second-from-bottom clash.
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And just as they had struggled to get into their stride on Humberside, the East Enders again found it difficult during the niggly early exchanges, which had not been helped by a punctuated minute’s silence for those lost at war.
Indeed, referee Keith Stroud was the busiest man on the park during a whistle-strewn opening 20 minutes that finally culminated with a yellow card for Papa Bouba Diop for one tenacious tackle too many.
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On their last outing, the Sky Blues had gone up in smoke and, after that Guy Fawkes’ Day defeat against Southampton, Andy Thorn made a quartet of changes as Platt, Chris Hussey, Martin Cranie and Gael Bigirimana returned in place of James McPake, Gary Deegan plus substitutes Nathan Cameron and Cody McDonald.
But those fresh faces did little to bring any early spark to this encounter and indeed, it was not until the 25th minute that either side threatened and, when Mark Noble did finally let fly with an effort on goal, his rising 20-yarder still posed little threat to Joe Murphy.
Shortly afterwards, Julian Faubert tried his luck from just inside the Coventry half but the ambitious attempt also failed to trouble the home ‘keeper and even Big Sam failed to raise the standard, when his attempted dug-out pass along the touchline skewed over the advertising hoardings!
On 33 minutes, the Hammers boss saw the afternoon go yet further out of control, when Platt – back to goal - collected Gary McSheffrey’s low pass from the right-flank before turning and curling a ten-yarder beyond the outstretched right palm of Robert Green.
Having broken the deadlock with his second goal in two games, the Coventry striker then almost took his season’s tally to three but the alert West Ham keeper saved the powerful header and, as a forlorn 45 minutes drew to a close, a diving McSheffrey steered a weaker effort into Green’s gloves.
With the Hammers failing to trouble Murphy, Allardyce introduced Cole for the restart as John Carew made way and the hitherto wide-lying Sam Baldock took a more advanced central role for the second period.
Certainly, the consequently cautioned Abdoulaye Faye was fortunate to stay on the park for a wild 48th-minute kick on Lukas Jutkiewicz and, after the Hammers eventually forced the first corner of the match on 55 minutes, the Polish striker then saw his 20-yarder acrobatically tipped aside by the diving Green.
Faubert also saw yellow for upending Jutkiewicz, before Piquionne replaced Diop in a bid to bring yet more attacking impetus to the West Ham cause for the final half-hour.
It was ploy that was to yield match-winning dividends, for when Green sent the ball upfield on 69 minutes, the lightning-quick Cole kept his head to steer a low, angled 10-yarder through the clutches of the advancing Murphy and equalise.
At last the 6,313 travelling fans had something to cheer and, on 75 minutes those East End voices became the only ones to be heard, when Faubert sent over a deep right-wing cross, where the stumbling Piquionne somehow steered the ball over the line to secure an unlikely, yet welcome West Ham United win.
SKY BLUES: Murphy, Christie (Wood 80), Hussey, Keogh, Cranie, Thomas, Bigirimana, Clingan, McSheffrey (Baker 75), Platt, Jutkiewicz. Unused: Dunn, McDonald, Cameron.
HAMMERS: Green, Faubert, McCartney, Tomkins, Faye, Collison, Baldock (O’Brien 80), Nolan, Diop (Piquionne 62), Noble, Carew (Cole h/t). Unused: Stech, Sears.
Booked: Diop (19), McSheffrey (41), Faye (48), Faubert (58).
Referee: Keith Stroud. Attendance: 20,524.