Hammers make it a double over Coventry
By Tom Dowsett
Tuesday 03 Jan 2012 12:50:00
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West Ham United are now only behind leaders Southampton on goal difference, as the East Londoners made hard work of Coventry City but eventually beat them 1-0 at Upton Park on Monday afternoon.

Sam Allardyce named a more familiar looking side to the one that lost at Pride Park just two days earlier. Captain Kevin Nolan, Jack Collison, George McCartney and Julien Faubert all returned. Sam Baldock was in the starting line-up for the first time since suffering an injury in the home game against Derby on 26th November. Carlton Cole also started after being named on the bench on Saturday. Henri Lansbury, Frank Nouble and Joey O'Brien were all named on the bench as Gary O'Neil was rested.

It couldn't have been any easier to improve on the start the Hammers made to the game on New Year's Eve; they started this one much better, applying pressure on Coventry from the first whistle, but the visitors had the chance to go ahead on nine minutes when Chris Hussey tried a half-volley which went inches wide of the post.

Then a minute later the Hammers came close when Collison's shot was blocked, Nolan tried to bury the rebound but Hussey was in the way and the ball was deflected out for a corner. From the corner, James Tomkins tried a snapshot but it was superbly saved by goalkeeper Joe Murphy.

The home side then had another great chance when Tomkins set up Baldock who also saw his shot blocked and out for a throw-in. Mark Noble took the set piece and set up Nolan whose ambitious effort just went past the angle of post and crossbar.

On 31 minutes Collison and Noble combined well to find McCartney, whose shot was also blocked and out for a corner. This time the delivery was taken by Collison for Tomkins to head back into the mix for Cole, who almost scored but the chance was gone as the ball was cleared by a Coventry defender.

The game continued with West Ham still applying most of the pressure, but it was goalless at half-time.

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The second half started and there was no let up in the tempo, with both teams having chances at either end. However, on 64 minutes the majority inside Upton Park thought the hosts should have been awarded a penalty as Noble went down in the area with a challenge from Hussey. Unfortunately nothing was given by referee Simon Hooper.

Two minutes later that decision didn't matter as the Hammers did get their goal. Tomkins sent the ball out to McCartney who then found the defender again as he crossed, Tomkins headed the ball back across goal and found Nolan, who beat Murphy with his head from inside the far post.

On 73 minutes Allardyce decided to make a change, bringing on Nouble for Baldock.

West Ham should have increased their lead on 82 minutes, especially with Southampton and Middlesbrough both losing  by this point, but Murphy made a save from Nouble instead of the youngster trying to round the keeper. From the rebound, Collison found Noble but his effort went wide.

In the final few minutes Coventry were desperately trying to find an equaliser, but however hard they tried nothing was coming off for them as Tomkins was blocking shot after shot and Robert Green was calm enough in goal to relieve the pressure on his defence. To waste some time, Allardyce threw on his final substitute as O'Brien replaced Cole.

O'Brien only spent seconds on the pitch before the final whistle was blown to end the Hammers' disappointing run over the Christmas period. Before league action resumes on the 14th January, the 3rd round of the FA Cup takes centre stage as the East Londoners travel to Hillsborough to take on Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday afternoon.

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