Hammers claim Boxing Day point
By Tom Dowsett
Tuesday 27 Dec 2011 14:40:00
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West Ham United are back in 2nd place but only on goal difference thanks to a 1-1 draw against Birmingham City at St Andrews on Boxing Day. Before the 5:30PM kick-off the Hammers had seen their grip on second place loosened thanks to Middlesbrough's 1-0 win over Hull City at the Riverside Stadium.

Sam Allardyce made one change to the team that beat Barnsley last time out, as Joey O'Brien came back into the side in place of John Carew who dropped to the bench. Also on the bench were the returning Gary O'Neil who hadn't featured in any Hammers' lineup since the home clash with Aston Villa on 16th April, Callum Driver and Robert Hall were also named amongst the substitutes.

The visitors were the better of the two teams in the early stages and came close to taking the lead as early as the 3rd minute when Papa Bouba Diop found Julien Faubert in space only for the Frenchman to fizz a low cross across goal but unfortunately Kevin Nolan didn't connect.

Seconds later the East Londoners did take the lead when some poor Birmingham defending allowed Carlton Cole to race through and slam the ball into the back of the net.

On 27 minutes the Hammers had a great chance to increase their advantage when Faubert got his head on the end of a cross, but unfortunately a Blues defender got in the way and the chance was gone and the ball went out for a corner. Frederic Piquionne met the corner and raced towards goal only to see his effort blocked on the line. When the Hammers regained possession through James Tomkins the play was halted as a foul was given against the visitors.

From the resulting freekick David Murphy produced an outstanding save from Robert Green as he dived to his left to palm the ball away.

Just before half-time the Hammers had yet another great chance to make their lead more comfortable going into the break, when Cole collected the ball from Faubert's inside pass and ran into the box only for Boaz Myhill to produce an equally excellent save to the one that Green had to deal with after Murphy's freekick.

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Birmingham had definitely clicked into gear in the second half. This was evident on 53 minutes when Chris Burke shot just wide after making a great run. Seconds later, the Hammers thought they should have had a penalty when Piquionne went over in the area without making a connection, before the ball once again went out the other end and O'Brien prevented any of the home players from creating a shooting chance.

Five minutes later, with the home side trying to find a way back into the game, Big Sam decided to make a change replacing Piquionne with Henri Lansbury.

Just after the hour mark, Nolan was lucky to stay on the pitch after catching an opposing player's leg with his studs and only received a yellow card meaning he will miss Saturday's game at Pride Park.

On 74 minutes Allardyce decided to shuffle his pack again replacing Cole with Carew.

Minutes later, George McCartney was booked for taking too much time over a freekick. Seconds later Noble was also booked for complaining to the referee about the latest card. The Northern Irishman along with Faubert, who was earlier booked for a foul on Blues' captain Steven Caldwell, will also miss Saturday's game against Derby County.

With nine minutes of normal time to play, Birmingham prevented the Hammers from claiming another three points. From Burke's corner the danger wasn't properly cleared and Murphy was able to finish past Green with relative ease to claim only his second goal of the season.

Just after Murphy's equaliser, Marlon King could have won it for Birmingham but Green tipped the effort over the bar.

On 83 minutes, in an effort to try and grab a winner West Ham make a final change replacing Faubert with Freddie Sears.

The game ended with five minutes of stoppage time for the Hammers to claim a point and they managed it successfully. They now face the encounter against the Rams on New Year's Eve.

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