West Ham grab vital point with late, late equaliser
Leeds United 1 West Ham United 1
Danny Collins salvaged a late point for West Ham as their automatic promotion bid just about stayed on the rails at Elland Road.
With both Southampton and Reading winning on their travels, the pressure is on Sam Allardyce’s team, but it could have been even worse after Leeds United seemed to have scored a winning goal in the 83rd minute.
A corner was cleared back to Robert Snodgrass and when he crossed the ball back in, Paul Connolly’s header hit the bar and striker Luciano Becchio reacted quickest to head home from close range.
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The game looked up for the Hammers, but they dug deep and earned themselves a well-deserved point in the last couple of minutes.
George McCartney’s cross was tipped over for a corner by Andy Lonergan and when Mark Noble swung in the corner, it was Collins, making his first start in claret and blue, who was there to nod the ball in and make it 1-1.
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A draw was certainly the fairest result in a game of few chances, with West Ham controlling much of the game with a strong defence and a dominant midfield, but they rarely created the chances to hurt the home side.
An electric atmosphere in the 30,000+ crowd suggested that there would be plenty of excitement from the start of this game, but there were few moments to get the fans off their seats.
With Tomkins, Noble and Nolan controlling midfield and the West Ham defence keeping the Leeds strikeforce at bay for much of the half, they managed to quieten the home fans as they took some semblance of control.
However, any attempts to really hurt Leeds at the other end proved fruitless. The best they could manage in the opening 45 minutes was when Matt Taylor’s flick put Nicky Maynard away, only for the keeper to smother his effort.
Tomkins was forced off with injury at the break and replacement Gary O’Neil went close with a shot almost straight away, his effort slipping wide.
Carlton Cole replaced the ineffective on 56 minutes and that gave West Ham more presence and threat at last.
The striker headed over Taylor’s free kick and then saw a superb low pass into the box flash across goal, but as West Ham pushed forward, Leeds began to find openings too.
Snodgrass fired a free kick inches wide, before with 20 minutes left, Ross McCormack’s free kick picked out Paul Connolly only for the defender to see his header superbly saved by Robert Green.
Ravel Morrison was brought on for his debut to provide some attacking impetus, but it was Leeds who found that precious breakthrough through Becchio.
The home fans celebrated, but it was West Ham and Collins who had the last word and the Hammers just about remain in touch with the two front-runners, still with that game in hand.
West Ham: Green, O’Brien, McCartey, Faye, Collins, Collison (Morrison 82), Tomkins (O’Neil h/t), Nolan, Noble, Taylor, Maynard (Cole 56).
Unused: Henderson, Baldock.
Referee: Peter Walton.