Carroll spoils Hammers game of patience

Newcastle United 2 West Ham United 2
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The Independent Online

If January is about persuading wallets to open just that little bit more than the owners would like, then Manchester City's scout will have left St James' Park to inform his superiors that money may need to talk: he witnessed three strong arguments yesterday. Shay Given, Craig Bellamy and Scott Parker each gave fresh reasons why any club, not just City, would want them. Given made two vital saves, one fantastic, Bellamy scored a sweet equaliser and Parker drove the game from midfield with energy and invention.

Bellamy did walk off gingerly with a hamstring injury late on, but the amount of running the Welshman produced may be the explanation. Gianfranco Zola sounded unconcerned afterwards, saying of Bellamy: "It shouldn't be a problem, if you see the way he plays, he's fantastic. He is an example of a professional."

Zola was equally enthusiastic about Parker and Matthew Upson, another coveted Hammer. "Having been a footballer, I know the speculation is not easy, but if anything their performances have gone even higher. A lot of respect from me to them."

Do those above Zola share that sentiment? "The club is determined to improve," Zola replied. "It's not true that we want to sell. This team deserves to get to a better position than it is in now."

The visitors possessed cohesion their hosts lacked. But West Ham, for all their neat passing and forward movement, conceded two poor goals and that frailty will undermine progress if not addressed. James Collins had a good game otherwise, but his 19th minute slip allowed Michael Owen to open the scoring – Owen's 12th goal in 14 matches against West Ham – while Upson was also obdurate only for him to somehow lose Andy Carroll with 12 minutes remaining and Newcastle chasing hopeful crosses.

Carroll, a willing, physical 20 year-old making only his second Premier League start, was stronger than Upson when Damien Duff's centre came in. A solid contact from Carroll brought a first senior Newcastle goal. Just as significantly, it meant Newcastle did not lose for the third League game in a row. The point took them up three places but it did not feel like triumph because it wasn't one.

Every Newcastle fan knows their team and their squad is vulnerable. Bringing Peter Lovenkrands in on a week's trial will not have the Toon Army salivating. Nor will it convince Given that his future should be under Dennis Wise's leadership of the club. City have offered £3m for Given, which someone at Newcastle described as "laughable". It is a word they are familiar with at St James'.

Given might think it twice the sum Newcastle paid for him, and the club has had 11 years from the Irishman. His saves from Mark Noble on 43 minutes and from Jack Collison on 49 altered the course of the game.

Following the last game here, the 5-1 defeat by Liverpool, Newcastle needed a heartening opening. Owen provided it, hitting the post before then drilling in a low shot as West Ham's defence vanished in front of him. Carroll might have made it 2-0 but missed and West Ham built steadily, pass upon pass until the 29th minute when Bellamy ran on to Parker's cute touch and, left-footed, scooped the ball beyond the exposed Given. A fine goal, Bellamy's 100th of his career.

Newcastle had effort, the Hammers had a plan. A Given foot denied Noble and then superb reflexes foiled Collison but with Newcastle's defence static, on 55 minutes, Carlton Cole seized Herita Ilunga's long-ball and, unchallenged, belted it high past Given on the volley. West Ham did not impose themselves sufficiently thereafter, yet a Newcastle equaliser could not be called expected.

Attendance: 47,571

Referee: Alan Wiley

Man of the match: Parker

Match rating: 7/10

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