West Ham throw away lead to lose to Burnley
The Hammers missed the chance to go top of the Championship as they crashed to their third home defeat of the season
West Ham United 1 Burnley 2
West Ham’s unbeaten seven-match run came to a grinding halt at Upton Park, where Burnley came from behind to win the battle of the Clarets.
On a dour December day, this was far from vintage stuff but Sam Allardyce’s side only had themselves to blame for surrendering the lead in a game which they simply dominated.
After a ghastly first-half miss, Kevin Nolan’s sixth goal of the campaign gave West Ham a deserved 51st-minute advantage, only for Chris McCann and substitute Sam Vokes to head Burnley to an improbably victory.
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Kicking off two points behind table-topping Southampton, the Hammers had made a trio of changes from the side that had sunk Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium on Tuesday evening, as Joey O’Brien, Jack Collison and Carlton Cole returned in place of substitutes Guy Demel, Papa Bouba Diop and Frederic Piquionne.
With so many Bolton Wanderers connections now at Upton Park, a poignant, minute’s applause was held for the one-time Big Sam signing - Gary Speed - before the start.
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But in a subdued opening there was little else for the home fans amongst the crowd of 26,274 to clap, apart from an ambitious Abdoulaye Faye 30-yarder that flew well wide, while the alert Lee Grant twice dashed from his line to foil a couple of ghosting runs by Nolan.
On the quarter-hour mark, James Tomkins nodded over Matt Taylor’s deep corner and with the game being conducted totally in the Burnley half, the towering central defender also headed another effort straight into Grant’s gloves, before Nolan volleyed wide.
The fancy footwork of Collison and Julian Faubert down the right wing, climaxed with the Frenchman whipping over a cross that Taylor nodded behind and then, as the half-hour point neared, the red-faced Nolan carelessly side-footed Cole’s low cross into the six-yard box beyond the far post, before burying his head into the Boleyn Ground grass in shame.
Burnley in 15th spot had ploughed through Ipswich Town in mid-week and. following their forceful 4-0 win over the Tractor Boys, they made just a single change as Dean Marney came in for Vokes.
But here in the East End, with lone-striker Jay Rodriguez a virtual spectator, the visitors had to wait until the 35th-minute for their first shot of the game – a low 25-yarder from Keith Treacy that scorched just wide of the base of the hitherto redundant Robert Green’s right-hand post and into the side netting.
Things could only get better after a forlorn first-half that had seen the Hammers fail to turn all their possession into a single goal and, ironically, it was left to the man who was guilty of the worst miss of the opening period to put things right just six minutes after the restart.
Racing onto Green’s gigantic punt upfield, skipper Nolan steadied himself before cleverly lobbing a 20-yarder over the advancing Grant to finally break the deadlock.
Piquionne then replaced Taylor but the substitute was still finding his feet, when ex-Hammer Junior Stanislas sent over a right-wing cross, which McCann powerfully headed past Green from six yards to equalise.
Having seen their lead disappear so quickly, West Ham quickly set about restoring their advantage as the pile-driving Piquionne went on some determined runs without finding any end product, while Faye also saw a couple of efforts blocked.
On 70 minutes, Collison saw his 18-yarder deflect onto the left post but just when it looked like West Ham were destined to get back on top, Burnley hit them with a killer blow with just a quarter-of-an-hour remaining.
Green’s flying save from Rodriguez gave the visitors their first corner of the game and when Ross Wallace swung the consequent cross into the crowded six-yard box – Vokes who had just replaced Stanislas – sent an unstoppable header into the net to end a Hammers run of five straight wins and leave Upton Park in stunned silence.
Hammers: Green, O’Brien (Carew 80), McCartney, Faye, Tomkins, Taylor (Piquionne 56), Faubert, Collison, Noble, Nolan, Cole. Unused Subs: Stech, Demel, Diop,
Clarets: Grant, Trippier, Mee, Duff, Edgar, Treacy (Wallace 58), Stanislas (Vokes 69), McCann, Bartley, Marney, Rodriguez. Unused Subs: Stewart, Hines, Easton.
Bookings: Duff (65), McCann (65), Vokes (90+3).
Referee: Fred Graham