West Ham vs Leicester report: Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing on target as Foxes slump to 12th game without win

West Ham United 2 Leicester City 0

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Andy Carroll scores with a delicate dink over the goalkeeper; West Ham consolidate their position in the Champions League places; and their supporters wake up and discover it is all true.

If the Irons are in dreamland, Leicester City are experiencing whatever is the opposite. Since having the temerity to put five goals past Manchester United in September, they have played 12 games, drawn two of them and lost the other 10, while scoring six goals.

They will therefore sit bottom of the table at Christmas, which if not fatal (as Sunderland showed last season) is historically unpromising. And just to prove that when you are down, you are down, the opposing goalkeeper denied them with two superb saves in the last five minutes.

Not for long on a mild December afternoon was there any realistic chance of improving the depressing sequence. They were unable to  extract any advantage even while the home side were making a scrappy start to the afternoon, and when a blue-shirted player finally hit a shot on target in the 24th minute, West Ham immediately broke out and scored with Carroll’s unexpectedly subtle intervention. Stewart Downing doubled the lead 10 minutes into the second half and only after a triple substitution did Leicester threaten any retaliation.

Their manager Nigel Pearson  remains one of nature’s great optimists, which in the current predicament he has to be. Down at touchline level for once – making the most of it perhaps before his ban from the dug-out for recently abusing a critical fan – he received and reciprocated applause from the away end, making a point of going on to the pitch at the final whistle to lift Leicester’s players and supporters.

“I can look my players in their eyes and see they are very much up for the challenge,” he said, adding of his own position: “It’s inevitable there’s going to be speculation. I know our owners are decent people and they’ll make decisions that are right for this football club.”

West Ham’s Sam Allardyce is in the unusual position of playing things down instead of talking them up; calming those who were singing “We’re going to win the League” and “Barcelona, we’re coming for you”.

“Being fourth in the Premier League is a great Christmas present for everybody at West Ham,” he said. “Having 31 points before Christmas is a pretty major achievement for us.”

As Carroll had won just about every header in the opening quarter of the game, the manner of his goal immediately afterwards was unexpected. Esteban Cambiasso’s shot had been blocked by Winston Reid before Paul Konchesky, back on one of his old London stamping grounds, under-hit a backpass in the vague direction of the penalty area. Carroll steamed on to it and lifted the ball almost delicately over Ben Hamer for a third goal in as many games and a rare one with his feet.

There was a nasty moment in the second half when he crashed over the advertising hoardings, but damage was minimal, and soon Diafra Sakho headed down for Downing’s curled shot into the far corner from the edge of the penalty area. Adrian then made two reaction saves from headers by the substitutes David  Nugent and Leo Ulloa.

All the East Enders need now is a Christmas special at Chelsea on Boxing Day.

West Ham (4-1-2-1-2) Adrian: Jenkinson, Tomkins (Collins, 68), Reid, Cresswell; Song; Kouyate, Nolan (Amalfitano, 86); Downing; Sakho (Valencia, 78), Carroll.

Leicester (4-2-3-1) Hamer: Simpson, Wasilewski, Morgan, Konchesky (Knockaert, 60); Drinkwater, Cambiasso (Ulloa, 60); Mahrez, King, Schlupp; Vardy (Nugent, 60). 

Referee: Martin Atkinson.

Man of the match: Carroll (West Ham)

Match rating: 6/10