For once the ex-factor that West Ham hoped Andy Carroll’s reappearance on home turf would inspire failed to have its usual magical effect.
Newcastle’s manager, Alan Pardew, on a former stamping ground, oversaw a first win after four successive defeats and almost five hours without a League goal, suggesting that Newcastle cannot have been playing teams with a defence as porous as the Hammers’.
The home team, two goals down with half-time a minute away, scored at just the right moment as Carlton Cole bundled the ball towards goal, getting a lucky rebound off Mike Williamson as the ball dribbled over the line. But despite an improvement thereafter they could not find a second goal and conceded right at the end to a perfect free-kick by the best player on the pitch, Yohan Cabaye.
Carroll was rapturously received as a substitute for the last half-hour in a first home appearance since the final day of last season. He won a few headers in a twin battering-ram of an attacking force with Carlton Cole, but both men missed glorious chances to equalise from eight yards out as Newcastle came under concerted pressure for the first time.
The upshot was that while Pardew’s side strengthened their position in the top eight and can look upwards, Sam Allardyce’s team have slipped back into the bottom three, all of whom are now level on points.
Allardyce has complained regularly and with some justification about injuries, but Roger Johnson on loan is the only senior player they have managed to bring in during this transfer window, even after Monaco accepted an offer for Lacina Traoré, another big striker. The defence has been worst hit, and yesterday the left-footed Matt Taylor had to play as an emergency right-back.
Now the manager must decide how many senior players to risk in Tuesday’s second leg of a Capital One Cup semi-final against Manchester City, who start it 6-0 ahead, adding the warning: “There comes a time when players have to realise that it becomes about results, not performances.”
Pardew was naturally delighted and managed to avoid any obvious schadenfreude at the plight of the club who sacked him barely six months after reaching the FA Cup final, saying of Carroll – whom he had to sell for £35 million to Liverpool on the last day of a January transfer window: “He’s going to be important for Big Sam and I’m sure he’ll keep them in the division.”
Newcastle had gone ahead after a breakaway had set up Cabaye, who stepped inside Razvan Rat and finished low in the corner of Adrian’s net. Moussa Sissoko and Cabaye had further chances before Sissoko’s cross from the right was taken down by Loïc Rémy for a cool second goal.
But Newcastle’s worries don’t end with this win. The impressive Cabaye could yet be a target for a rich, ambitious club before the end of the transfer window this month, which Pardew admitted concerns him. “As manager of Newcastle, I will be nervous until it shuts,” he said.
West Ham Utd (4-5-1): Adrian; M Taylor, Johnson, Collins, Rat; Downing, Noble, Diamé (Carroll, 63), Collison (Morrison, h-t), Jarvis (J Cole, 73); C Cole.
Newcastle Utd (4-2-3-1): Krul; Yanga-Mbiwa, Williamson, S Taylor, Santon (Dummett, 74); Tioté, Anita (Shola Ameobi, 61); Sissoko, Cabaye, Gouffran; Rémy (Ben Arfa, 77).
Referee: Andre Marriner.
Man of the match: Cabaye (Newcastle)
Match rating: 7/10