West Ham quick to cash in as Carroll rises to Fulham challenge
West Ham 3 Fulham 0: England striker has a hand in two of his new team's goals before leaving to a standing ovation
So far, so very good. Purists among the West Ham support, who are more plentiful than at most grounds, may shake their heads but they cannot complain about the effectiveness of a more basic style, as the standing ovation for Andy Carroll when he limped to the dressing-room midway through the second half demonstrated.
The Liverpool loanee, who will be signed for £17m if West Ham stay up this season, had terrorised the Fulham defence and been involved in two of the goals that decided this fixture before the interval. Had Matt Jarvis, another of the 11 new recruits brought in at a net cost of some £20m, been available, service to Carroll and damage to the visitors could have been even worse.
As it was, Matt Taylor played down the left, not without success, but the role is clearly earmarked for Jarvis. With Ricardo Vaz Te an occasionally inspired, if less predictable force, down the right, Carroll should have few causes to complain about not receiving the sort of ball he needs.
Where the tactics worked equally well yesterday was in Kevin Nolan, Carroll's friend and one-time landlord, playing just behind him and ahead of other midfielders, where Mahamadou Diarra was never able to control him. Mark Noble, the one genuine East Ender in the side, was as industrious as ever, and if the defence was vulnerable from time to time, Fulham did not look like taking advantage until it was too late to matter.
West Ham's gain is therefore looking like Liverpool's loss in the sense that they failed to replace Carroll with anyone at all, let alone the desired more subtle replacement. Only a week ago Brendan Roidgers said in these pages: "I want to go with three strikers and I have Luis Suarez, Fabio Borini and Andy Carroll." Not any more he doesn't.
Fulham, meanwhile, have received £21 million from Spurs alone for Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey, while spending barely a quarter of it on Dimitar Berbatov, on whom Manchester United have been forced to cut their losses. Scoring seven times in their opening two games persuaded Martin Jol that it was bearable to let the disillusioned Dempsey go, so yesterday Hugo Rodallega started alongside Mladen Petric, who then made way for Berbatov at half-time. The Bulgarian was his usual languid self, which was not quite what Fulham needed at 3-0 down, although towards the end he created their best chances of a disappointing performance.
Their manager, Martin Jol, knew all about the threat that Carroll would provide. Stopping him will be a different proposition, as Jol acknowledged: "The first goal was disappointing. We spoke about it but didn't pick up the runner. The third one was the same kettle of fish, a big ball, knocked down. I really thought we should have coped." Asked about the one positive of Berbatov's partnership with Rodallega, he said: "Maybe in the 88th minute! I didn't see a lot before that."
It did not take the pony-tailed one long to justify the outlay and the approach of their manager Sam Allardyce. With 50 seconds played, Carroll won his first header, knocking the ball down for Vaz Te to play square towards the penalty spot from where Nolan drove in a left-footed shot. Allardyce expects Nolan to have plenty of similar chances this season courtesy of Carroll's aerial ability.
In the next attack just a few minutes later Vaz Te crossed, Carroll nodded down again and Mohamed Diame struck the bar.
So it went on. In a move from the "old" West Ham era, Vaz Te exchanged neat passes with another Allardyce old boy, Joey O'Brien, and Mark Schwarzer made a good save low down. Then, in the same sequence that had brought the first goal, Carroll's header was passed square by Vaz Te and this time Nolan chipped on to the roof of the net.
So it was hardly a surprise that a second goal arrived; only that Carroll was not directly involved. Taylor's corner went instead closer to goal and the centre half Winston Reid climbed above Diarra to head in with the goalkeeper in no-man's land.
Four minutes from half-time Carroll showed how to influence play without touching the ball. Trying to beat him to James Collins' free-kick, Hangeland and Diarra clattered into each other, leaving Taylor unmarked to take the third goal with ease. "Fulham were out of sight by half-time," he added with some pride. "It's not often that happens with a newly promoted side. After that it was just a matter of making sure we won the day."
There was no danger of that not happening, even if Berbatov brought a touch of much-needed class to the visitors' efforts. Jussi Jaaskelainen, the former Bolton goalkeeper who had looked uncertain in defeat at Swansea last week, had been troubled in the first half only by a low drive from Kieran Richardson, was equally inactive until the last 20 minutes of the game.
Then he blocked Steve Sidwell's effort, saved from Rodellega twice, as well as requiring the help of a post, and finally from Damien Duff. The Fulham supporters behind the goal knew their team had been well beaten and that they will be as reliant as ever on obtaining results at home to compensate for an away record as bad as any side of their longevity in the Premier League: 30 wins in 211 games after yesterday.
West Ham United (4-3-1-2): Jaaskelainen; Demel (Hall, 78), Reid, Collins (Tomins, 67), O'Brien; Noble, Diame, Taylor; Nolan; Vaz Te, Carroll (Cole, 68).
Fulham (4-4-2): Schwarzer: Riether, Hughes, Hangeland, Riise; Duff, Diarra, Sidwell, Richardson (Kacaniklic, 59); Rodallega, Petric (Berbatov, h-t).
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Man of the Match: Nolan (West Ham)
Match rating: 7/10
Andy Carroll was a constant threat to Fulham's defence and had a hand – or a head – in two of the goals. Fulham needed more than Dimitar Berbatov's strolling style but he could form a good partnership with Hugo Rodallega. Kieran Richardson found it hard to make an impact and came off after an hour.
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