West Ham United 3 West Bromwich Albion 1 match report: West Ham feel safe as Andy Carroll comes good
Sunday 31 March 2013
All of a sudden, things are looking a lot more comfortable for West Ham. To go with their stadium move and new home, they now have a much more secure standing in the table. This fine win over West Bromwich moves them up to 11th. And, six points clear of the relegation zone, Sam Allardyce's side have surely made certain of safety.
Even more importantly and impressively, this did not look like a team at all nervous about the problems and dropped points of the last few weeks. Nor did Andy Carroll look like a striker struggling for goals. Quite the opposite. Both the forward and his team provided such an assured – and, given the quality of the goals, occasionally exquisite – display that a frustrated Youssuf Mulumbu was agitated into what must be one of the stupidest red cards of the season.
Under pressure from Gary O'Neil in injury time, the West Bromwich midfielder stopped, turned, picked up the ball and drop-kicked it at the West Ham player's backside. The laughs from the home fans summed up the silliness of the act.
So, other than an unfortunate recurrence of substitute George McCartney's medial-ligament injury, which will likely keep him out for the season, Allardyce was left to reflect on a "great day" and "thoroughly deserved win" – which the West Bromwich manager Steve Clarke agreed with.
West Ham played with an ease and confidence that we haven't really seen since the opening few months of the season. In goal, Jussi Jaaskelainen pulled off a fine early save from a deflected Romelu Lukaku free-kick to set the tone. In front of him, James Collins was dominant. In midfield, the immense Mohamed Diamé demonstrated the kind of touches and dynamism that initially brought such interest from the Champions' League clubs. He was crucial to West Ham as his clever touches eased pressure on the defence and began attacks in the same movement.
Then there was the link-up between the resurgent Ricardo Vaz Te and O'Neil for West Ham's gorgeous second goal. After a jinking run, the winger fed an expectant O'Neil, who swept the ball into the corner of the net with a curled chip to make the score 2-0.
And then there was Carroll who, in stark contrast to those opening months, finally added goals to all his effort in a West Ham shirt – his fourth and fifth in the League this season.
They were also strikes of the highest quality. For the first, after just 16 minutes, Carroll rendered Jonas Olsson's marking an insignificance as he thundered a header past Ben Foster. For his second and West Ham's clinching third, he turned on a lofted Collins free-kick to volley into the bottom corner beautifully. Allardyce admitted it was probably Carroll's best display for the club. "You'd have to say yes because he's put two goals on the end of a good performance. He's put good performances in for us before, but he's shown what he's all about today with his ability outside the box and his ability inside the box, which we've been waiting patiently for.
"He's in a good frame of mind now and, finally, after a long wait, his match fitness is why we're seeing the goals and performances. I hope this kicks on in the next eight games."
As to whether Carroll will remain at the club beyond that, Allardyce said he was keen but, with so much involved in a transfer, this wasn't the time to discuss it.
Clarke said much the same about Mulumbu's red card. Indeed, Graham Dorrans's fortuitous late penalty after a soft Lukaku fall clearly didn't calm West Bromwich.
"I would guess it's frustration," Clarke said. "The time to have a chat is probably tomorrow morning. I just said to the group in general that you have to control your frustration. It was frustrating afternoon for us."
For West Ham and Carroll, though, it was an eminently fruitful one.
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