Woeful West Ham throw it away again
West Ham United 2 West Bromwich Albion 2
For the second time in five days the hapless Hammers contrived to turn three points into one.
Having tossed away their two-goal lead at Birmingham City on Saturday, below-par, bottom-placed West Ham United, once again, somehow managed to get their noses in front, against the battling Baggies.
Scott Parker’s scintillating strike had wiped out Peter Odemwingie’s penalty to make it all-square at the break and Frederic Piquionne’s spot-kick then looked to have put West Ham on the road to three unlikely points.
But sadly Pablo Ibanez levelled with 19 minutes remaining to leave Avram Grant’s men propping up the Premier League table ahead of Saturday’s crunch match with Blackpool.
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The Hammers had made two changes from the side that was finally forced to settle for a point at St Andrew’s, as Kieron Dyer and Pablo Barrera earned recalls in place of the injured Valon Behrami (hip) and substitute Victor Obinna.
But having shuffled his pack to bring in those two flying flankers, Avram Grant still had to wait for a full 20 minutes before Carlton Cole unleashed his side’s first shot of a nippy, November evening. That was to set the tone for the entire evening.
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Certainly, it was Albion who had looked the most threatening in the opening stages and Robert Green was forced into to save from lone-striker Odemwingie before the breaking Jerome Thomas unleashed a low 15-yarder into the keeper’s clutches.
Ibanez also headed narrowly over, while both Graham Dorrans and Chris Brunt fired high onto the subdued wastes of the Bobby Moore Stand.
Following their defeat at home to Manchester City on Sunday afternoon, tenth-placed Albion had made a quartet of switches as Graham Dorrans, Steven Reid, James Morrison and Odemwingie came in for the suspended Youssuf Mulumbu and substitutes Nicky Shorey, Marc-Antoine Fortune and Simon Cox.
Faced with five men planted behind Odemwingie, West Ham were always struggling to find their way through a congested Upton Park midfield but, on the half-hour mark, Barrera whipped over a corner that the climbing Cole nodded just inches over.
That effort was just wallpapering over the cracks of what was becoming a woeful East End showing and, when Green punched away Brunt’s 20-yard free-kick at full stretch, things were about to get even worse for Hammers’ frustrated fans.
For when the white-booted Brunt floated over the subsequent corner, the consequently cautioned Luis Boa Morte wrestled Reid onto the Boleyn Ground turf and Odenwingie coolly planted the penalty kick into the bottom right-hand corner as Green headed in the other direction.
Based on the events of those opening 38 minutes, only the fearless or foolish would have bet on West Ham going in level at the break.
But when Paul Scharner tackled Cole on the edge of the Baggies’ box, Parker strolled onto the loose ball and sent an unstoppable 25-yarder beyond the outstretched right palm of Scott Carson and under the left-hand angle, to claim his fifth goal of the season.
At last, those claret and blue fans had something to cheer and, in stoppage time, Boa Morte almost made amends for conceding that penalty with a stinging, angled effort that the Albion keeper fisted away from his near post.
And just four minutes into the second period, Grant’s men found themselves in front, when the darting Dyer was shouldered to the ground by Gabriel Tamas, leaving Piquionne to drill the subsequent spot-kick straight down the middle and join Parker at the top of the scoring charts.
With Boa Morte teetering on a second booking, Radoslav Kovac stepped from the bench to ensure that West Ham retained eleven men and with the Czech international still finding his feet, Piquionne’s angled shot flew just an inch or so beyond the far post.
In reply, Albion brought on Cox for Dorrans just seconds before Odemwingie gave due warning that the Midlanders were still in the contest with a 20-yarder that scorched Green’s gloves.
Sure enough, on 71 minutes the Hammers defence only half-cleared a Baggies’ corner back to Brunt, whose deep cross was met at the far post by an unmarked Ibanez, who comfortably headed the visitors level.
Hammers – Green, Jacobsen, Ilunga, Gabbidon, Upson, Dyer, Barrera (McCarthy 88), Parker, Boa Morte (Kovac 54), Cole (Obinna 76), Piquionne Unused Subs: Stech, Reid, Tomkins, Spector.
West Bromwich Albion – Carson, Reid, Cech, Ibanez, Scharner, Brunt, Tamas, Dorrans (Cox67), Morrison, Thomas (Barnes 75), Odemwingie (Fortune 88). Unused Subs: Myhill, Tchoyi, Shorey, Zuiverloon.
Referee: Mike Dean (Merseyside)