Hammers fail to nail Black Cats
By Tom Dowsett
Sunday 15 Dec 2013 15:40:00
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After successive defeats on the road, West Ham United returned to Upton Park and stopped the rot by picking up a point in a goalless draw against Sunderland on Saturday afternoon.

Sam Allardyce made two changes from the team that lost heavily to Liverpool last weekend as club captain Kevin Nolan started his three-match suspension due to the red card he picked up at Anfield so Ravel Morrison, who himself had returned from a one match ban was the perfect replacement for the skipper.

Stuart Downing, who was substituted at half-time in that game after picking up a calf injury and Joe Cole took his place.

Despite claims on Sky Sports News on Friday night that defenders James Collins and Guy Demel were doubtful, both were able to start the match. James Tomkins had also passed a fitness test and was able to retain his place in the starting line-up.

Both teams made a good start to the match but Sunderland made the first chance as early as the third minute, when Ki Sung-Yueng's powerful efforts was diverted onto the post by Jussi Jaaskelainen and West Ham survived the early scare.

The home side then went on the attack, as Mohamed Diame ran down the left-hand channel and produced a right 30 cross, which Modibo Maiga rose above his marker and headed the ball back for Matt Jarvis but the chance just eluded him and the ball went out of play for a goal kick.

The Black Cats went close again a minute later, when a corner was played into the box and Jozy Altidore's low effort aimed for the far corner but the Finn was able to tip it away and out for a corner.

Gustavo Poyet's side went even closer to an opener when they were awarded successive corners, but Ki sung-Yerong wasted both of them, as his first effort came back off the post and his second attempt went high over the bar and the danger was averted.

West Ham piled on the pressure and it appeared to have paid off when a corner from Tomkins found the boot of Demel, who smashed his shot past Vito Mannone on 21 minutes. There was a loud cheer from the home fans but the effort was ruled out by referee Andre Marriner for a push on the Sunderland defender. The majority inside the ground disagreed with the decision, as it was another one that he had given against them.

The Weirsiders were unlucky not to go in front on 34 minutes when Cole lost possession and the move ended with Phil Bardsley's shot rebounding off the crossbar and Morrison cleared the danger.

In first-half stoppage time, the visitors went close on two occasions without breaking the deadlock. Firstly when Ondřej Čelůstka's shot was dealt with by the head of Tomkins and then Bardsley's effort forced a superb save from Jaaskelainen.

The second-half began with Sunderland on top again but it was the Hammers who had the first real chance when good play from Diame, Maiga, George McCartney and Morrison resulted in the England under 21 midfielder having his low shot saved by Manone in the visitors goal.

A minute later, not happy with what his team were showing so far, Allardyce decided to make a change with Jack Collison coming on to make his 100th appearance for the club in place of Jarvis and two minutes later, Demel was brought off with Joey O'Brien replacing him.

Both teams had chances but neither were able to make their efforts count.

With fifteen minutes of play left, the home sides last change was made, as the two Coles took the place of each other.

Four minutes later, Jaaskelainen was called into action again, making a stupendous save from Adam Johnson after Steven Fletcher had beating Tomkins to the ball and the home side had got out of jail again.

The game went into four minutes of stoppage time and West Ham had an excellent chance to take all three points, when a great team move involving Diame, Maiga and Collison and resources in Carlton Cole sending his header wide of the post.

In the final minute of the game, the East Londoners nearly grabbed all three points, when McCartney sent in a cross which Manone initially misjudged but got back on his line in time to keep the scores level.

That was the last action of the match and a chorus of boos from the home fans greeted the final whistle. Next up for Allardyce's men is another crack at Tottenham Hotspur back at White Hart Lane in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday night. Can they produce a repeat of their result in the Premier League on 6th October and progress to the quarter-finals? Let's hope so.

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