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West Ham United: Hammers edge closer to Premier League safety as target men prove there is more to their game in draw with Stoke City

PUBLISHED: 12:00 17 April 2018

West Ham United's Marko Arnautovic (left) and Stoke City's Joe Allen (pic: Adam Davy/PA)

West Ham United's Marko Arnautovic (left) and Stoke City's Joe Allen (pic: Adam Davy/PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

Andy Carroll equalised for Hammers after Peter Crouch netted for Potters, yet neither scored a header

Stoke City's Xherdan Shaqiri (left) and and West Ham United's Aaron Cresswell (pic: Adam Davy/PA)Stoke City's Xherdan Shaqiri (left) and and West Ham United's Aaron Cresswell (pic: Adam Davy/PA)

If ever a demonstration was needed to prove there is a lot more to a target man’s game than height and strength, it came in West Ham United’s Premier League draw at home to Stoke City.

The 6ft 7in-tall Peter Crouch opened the scoring for the Potters, while Andy Carroll, standing at 6ft 4in, equalised for the Hammers — yet there was not a headed goal in sight.

Both men of extreme vertical proportion were brought on as substitutes as their respective teams looked for a winner in what was a tight game.

Many in attenandance at the London Stadium may well have expected that would have seen both West Ham and Stoke go ‘long ball’, but the goals from Crouch and Carroll were timely reminders big men can do things well other than headers.

For the opener, which the Potters got somewhat against the run of play, Crouch was alert, a valuable skill for any forward, to prod home a rebound after Joe Hart spilled Xherdan Shaqiri’s initial shot.

With the Hammers seemingly heading for a first loss in three, Aaron Cresswell delivered a ball into the box that Carroll exquisitely volleyed home — the stereotypical ‘good touch for a big man’.

It was a superb way for the the Hammers hitman to mark his return to action, haven’t not featured since the 1-1 draw at Tottenham Hotspur on January 4.

Question marks still remain over the 29-year-old’s fitness, having suffered a string of injuries since initially joining West Ham on loan almost six years ago.

Moyes admits that with only a few weeks left of the season, it will be difficult for Carroll to return to full fitness before the end of the campaign.

But after his fine cameo against Stoke, the Scot is pleased to be able to call upon the former Liverpool man once more.

“I don’t know where we are going to get with him with the short length of time, I don’t know about 90 minutes, but if we can continue to get him off the bench for 20 or 30 minuets when required it will be more than handy, as it showed on Monday,” said Moyes.

Carroll thought he had an assist as well as his goal, teeing up Javier Hernandez to fire into the net in stoppage time.

However, the tall striker was adjudged to have handled the ball while controlling it, leading referee Michael Oliver to disallow the goal — one of three ruled out for the Hammers on the night.

Replays showed that all three decisions were correct, and Moyes knows his side can have few complaints about the disallowed goals.

“I have not seen the last one which I think is the most dubious one of them all, but I did see the one that Marko was in line with and I think they got them right,” he added.

The draw against Stoke saw West Ham make it three games without defeat since the international break, a run which saw them move seven points clear of the bottom three after Monday’s game.

Slowly, but surely, the Hammers are edging their way towards securing their place in the Premier League again for next season.

Had the London Stadium outfit beaten Stoke, it may well have been enough to allow West Ham to really start thinking about next term.

But Moyes remains content with his team’s return over the past three games, and is equallly pleased with the displays.

“I think the points we have taken in recent weeks have been really important - the win against Southampton, the point at Chelsea,” he added.

“I think the important thing was to make sure we didn’t lose tonight and I thought the commitment from the players, energy, to make sure that didn’t happen showed late on.

“Their play throughout with the ball was one of the better performances I have seen since I have been here.”

That may have surprised one or two in the press room, much like the goals from target men like Crouch and Carroll did during the game.

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