West Ham leak late goal to draw with Leeds
West Ham United 2 Leeds United 2: Steve Blowers reports from Upton Park.
Yet again, the Hammers were stung by another late goal at Upton Park, where they were forced to settle for a hard-earned point following Adam Clayton’s killer 90th-minute strike writes STEVE BLOWERS.
Sam Allardyce’s side fell to a sucker stoppage-time punch against Cardiff City in their opening game of the campaign and, although they seemed to have got it right on the road with victories at Doncaster Rovers and Watford, this proved to be another disappointing finish for the home fans, who must have thought that their team were on the way to a win treble.
Indeed, Big Sam’s men could not have got off to a better start thanks to Carlton Cole’s sixth minute opener and even after Max Gradel missed a penalty and Ross McCormack levelled as the hour approached, Patrick Kisnorbo’s spectacular own goal looked like ensuring that West Ham were going to keep up with the early season pace-setters.
But in the end, after failing to capitalise on more late chances that came their way, Clayton made them pay the price for some sloppy defending.
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Not surprisingly, the Hammers were unchanged following their formidable four-goal whacking of Watford on Tuesday night, but displaying yet more fire-power, summer signing John Carew was named on the bench for the first time since his recent arrival from Aston Villa.
And Allardyce’s side wasted no time carrying on from where they left off at Vicarage Road, as Cole and then James Tomkins forced Andrew Lonergan to tip over tricky headers in quick succession.
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Indeed, with the Leeds keeper’s fingers still tingling from the central defender’s header, Matt Taylor floated the consequent corner to the edge of the six-yard box, where Cole got in front of Tom Lees to bundle the Hammers into a sixth-minute lead, in front of watching England coach, Fabio Capello.
Despite collecting their first points of the season against Hull City in midweek, Leeds had made two changes as reported Hammers-target Max Gradel and John Howson returned from suspension in place of Michael Brown and substitute Ramon Nunez.
Undaunted by West Ham’s early opener, the visitors soon rallied as the galloping Gradel forced Robert Green to palm over his angled effort and, after Andy Keogh also went close, Robert Snodgrass splintered the outside of the keeper’s near post with an electrifying 18-yarder.
On 28 minutes, the Yorkshiremen spurned a great chance to equalise, when Gradel sent his low penalty wide of the base of Green’s right-hand upright after Taylor carelessly handled while trying to fend off more Leeds’ pressure.
Determined to make up for his miserable miss, the flying flanker then unleashed a scorching 25-yarder that the Hammers’ keeper superbly saved at full stretch, while at the other end, a clattered Cole saw his justified claim for a penalty waved away by rookie referee Michael Oliver, after Aidy White felled the fleeing forward.
Certainly, Leeds had done enough to be all-square at the break and, just after the restart, Green denied Keogh before seeing McCormack fire the loose ball over an unguarded goal from 15 yards.
Having had his first real sniff of the afternoon, McCormack suddenly had a taste for goal and after forcing a low save and then back-heeling into Green’s gloves, he finally found the net on 58 minutes when he tapped home from six yards after Snodgrass and Keogh carved through the home defence.
Having just replaced Jack Collison, poor Julian Faubert had not even touched the ball but within three minutes, the French sub helped to get the Hammers back in front with a dangerous, low right-wing cross into the danger zone that the panicking Kisnorbo blasted into his own net, a split-second before Cole arrived on the scene.
Midway through the half, Carew replaced Cole and the Norwegian soon sent an acrobatic volley just inches wide before Tomkins saw his header diverted over by Lonergan, who then miraculously denied Winston Reid from point-blank range.
Parker also played an intricate one-two with Faubert before seeing his shot deflect off the right post but just when the Hammers looked set to notch their first hat-trick of wins since May 2007, Leeds hit them with that stunning late blow.
With just seconds of normal time remaining, Howson sent a sizzling shot against Green’s crossbar and Clayton reacted first to lash to rebound into the net and rescue a deserved point for Simon Grayson’s side.
HAMMERS: Green, O’Brien, Ilunga, Reid, Tomkins, Collison (Faubert 58), Taylor, Parker, Noble (Piquionne 82), Nolan, Cole (Carew 66). Unused: Boffin, Barrera.
LEEDS: Lonergan, Lees, White, O’Dea, Kisnorbo, Snodgrass, Gradel (Sam 88) Clayton, Howson, Keogh, McCormack (Nunez 77). Unused: Rachubka, Connolly, O’Brien,
Booked: Tomkins (90), O’Dea (90).
Referee: Michael Oliver