Southampton 1 West Ham United 1 match report: Andy Carroll continues hot streak to warm up a safety-first draw
There was never much danger before the game that Southampton or West Ham would be pulled back into the relegation struggle, but this result just about ensures another season in the Premier League for two of last season's promoted teams, both seven points above the bottom three.
It was a bad-tempered game played in horrible weather, with more energy and endeavour on view than imagination or skill. But the luxury of complaining about a shortage of top-level quality was not one that Southampton could have imagined when they left Upton Park in October after a 4-1 thrashing by yesterday's opponents. Survival then looked a forlorn hope, but a collection of players with little Premier League experience have become a team that no longer looks out of place in the top division, even if it could not produce another performance of the level of those that were too good for Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea.
"We'll see at the end of the season if it is enough and what every team needs to stay up but I'm sure that this was a hard-earned point," Mauricio Pochettino, the Southampton manager, said.
West Ham have never been in as much danger as Southampton after a fast start to life back in the Premier League, but they too were happy to draw successive away matches for the first time in the campaign. "It's another away draw after a nice point and clean sheet at Liverpool and I thought we defended pretty well today against a team that has been free-scoring at home," Sam Allardyce, the West Ham manager, said.
The game began with the Saints fans jeering every high ball played by West Ham towards the head of Andy Carroll, and their own side answered with a slick move along the ground involving Gaston Ramirez, Steven Davis and Adam Lallana that ended with the Southampton captain's shot being blocked – the fate of most of the afternoon's efforts from both teams.
Southampton's best chances of the first half both fell to Rickie Lambert. First his half-volley from Ramirez's free-kick from the right was kept out by a combination of Jussi Jaaskelainen's out-flung right hand and the foot of the upright. Then he escaped Guy Demel only to put a free header wide. Carroll was also off target for West Ham after Maya Yoshida missed his clearing header just before Southampton took the lead.
Ramirez chested down James Tomkins's headed clearance before volleying goalwards, and although Tomkins and James Collins slid in to charge the ball down, it squirted free and back into Ramirez's stride, allowing him to advance into the penalty area and blast the ball home.
But seven minutes later Southampton conceded a free-kick 20 yards out and Gary O'Neil rolled the ball to Carroll, whose shot took enough of a deflection off Davis to roll past a wrong-footed Artur Boruc.
"That's five goals in seven games [for Carroll]," Allardyce said. "I said that when we got him match fit it would bring the goals and he is fit now and took his goal very well. He should have had another one really, but he has made up for it."
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