West Ham vs Aston Villa match report: Hammers halted as Villans stop rot

West Ham United 0 Aston Villa 0: Villa break six-game losing streak but still seek desperate win

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The Independent Online

A draw was probably the right result and while it did neither side’s aspirations many favours, it stopped the rot for Aston Villa and they were clearly the happier of the two sides as they attempted to wind down the clock towards the end.

While West Ham are unbeaten in five, and fourth in the Premier League table at the final whistle, Villa have slumped to 16th after a run of six consecutive defeats going into this match – their worst run in the top flight since 1964.

So, this draw was something of a morale booster for Villa manager Paul Lambert and his side. They were under the cosh at the end but should have been in front early on when Gabriel Agbonlahor, in for the suspended Belgium striker Christian Benteke, ended a dazzling jinking run with a wayward shot over the bar.

After that it was all West Ham with Downing leading their midfield diamond to great effect. The former Villa and Liverpool winger is a transformed player in his new central No 10 role after a few seasons of average form. He even earned an England recall last week having scored twice as many goals (two) and twice as many assists (four) as he managed in 32 Premier League games for the Hammers last season. His best effort on goal, though, was a header which Brad Guzan saved.

For all their possession and tempting crosses, West Ham rarely looked like scoring and Villa had a decent chance to break the deadlock on a rare 40th-minute counter-attack which ended in Andreas Weimann striking well, but too close to Adrian, who beat away his shot from 14 yards out.

A half-time rain storm and a surreal announcement congratulating Sherlock actor Benedict Cumberbatch and West Ham substitute Andy Carroll on their respective engagements to be married last week, set the bemused crowd up for a second half when presumably the home side would press home their advantage.

It was Villa, however, who started the second half stronger as West Ham looked suddenly sluggish and Tom Cleverley shot inches over the bar for the visitors.

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The draw ends a run of six straight defeats for Aston Villa

Something had to give and manager Sam Allardyce responded with 25 minutes to go by sending on substitute Kevin Nolan for Cheikhou Kouyaté. Striker Carlton Cole replaced the ineffective Enner Valencia not long after, raising the question why Carroll, back on the bench for the first time this season following injury, was even in the squad.

As it was Premier League player of the month Diafra Sakho, also back from injury, was left to spearhead the attack on his return from injury and he spurned two good headed chances, missing the target both times.

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Enner Valencia can't beat Brad Guzan from a tight angle

Allardyce finally threw on Carroll in time added on at the end and he so nearly won the game with a header from a Downing cross which Guzan did well to parry away. He even found time for another effort too and there was a sense this match could have finished with a different scoreline and he had come on earlier.

Line-ups:

West Ham (4-1-2-1-2): Adrian; Jenkinson, Reid, Collins, Cresswell; Song; Noble (Carroll, 90), Kouyaté (Nolan, 65); Downing; Sakho, Valencia (Cole, 75).

Aston Villa (4-3-3): Guzan; Lowton, Vlaar, Baker (Senderos, 87), Cissokho; Sanchez, Westwood, Cleverley; Weimann, N’Zogbia (Clark, 90), Agbonlahor.

Referee: Jon Moss

Man of the match: Song (West Ham)

Match rating: 5/10

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