Hammers Lose Lead at Fulham
By Tom Dowsett
Thursday 02 Jan 2014 12:53:00
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West Ham United ended their Christmas programme with a 2-1 defeat at Craven Cottage on New Year's Day, meaning they were unable to do the double over Fulham.

Sam Allardyce made five changes to the side that earned a point in the dramatic 3-3 draw at home to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday. Guy Demel, Alou Diarra, Matthew Taylor, Jack Collison and Modibo Maiga all came in as the squad continues to struggle with injuries, although Stuart Downing was a surprise inclusion on the bench.

In dreadful playing conditions in West London, Fulham got the game underway but gave possession straight to the Hammers. Instead of controlling the ball and getting into a better position, Maiga shot from 35 yards and it dribbled wide.

The Cottagers then went close on a number of occasions but couldn't take advantage but, just as they did against the Baggies four days earlier, the visitors took the lead. Mohamed Diame met the goalkick from Jussi Jaaskelainen and shot past Fulham keeper David Stockdale to make it another great start for Allardyce's men.

The Irons should have made the scoreline more comfortable for themselves on 23 minutes, when Taylor received possession back from the home side and played in Diame who did well to pick out club captain Kevin Nolan but the chance was gone when his effort was superbly saved by Stockdale.

Fulham were continuing to put the East Londoners under considerable pressure but they couldn't make it pay. They came mightily close on 28 minutes when a home side corner was met by Fernando Amorebieta but the chance was somehow cleared off the line by Maiga.

On 32 minutes, it all started to go wrong for the Hammers when Mark Noble had to be replaced by Razvan Rat, adding to the growing injury list, and not long after the change had been made, Steven Sidwell slotted the ball into the net after a great team move from the home side.

A minute later, Fulham came within inches of turning the scoreline around when Kieran Richardson sent the ball wide which was rescued by Dimitar Berbatov. The Bulgarian international striker then set up Adel Taarabt whose effort hit the inside of the post but ,luckily for the away team, Diarra was on hand to head clear.

As if losing a goal wasn't bad enough for the Hammers, their plight deepened just before the break. After returning on Boxing Day having served a three-match suspension, Nolan was again given a straight red card and will now be out for four matches, leaving his team struggling for options as they face a busy January.

Just as their opponents had done at the start of the game, the home side went on the attack when the match restarted and John Arne Riise nearly put Rene Meulensteen's men ahead but Jaaskelainen saved brilliantly with his knees.

From that point on Fulham's pressure was relentless and in an effort to combat this West Ham made their second change bringing on Downing in place of Diame, while Alex Kacaniklic came on for Richardson. The change brought an adverse reaction from the travelling support but Big Sam can't afford to lose another player through injury.

The pressure from the West Londoners didn't subside but the Hammers survived yet again when Taarabt missed a golden chance to put the Cottagers in front just after the hour mark. Jaaskelainen had palmed the Moroccan's first effort onto the post and the Finn then gave possession back to Taarabt who somehow shot off target and wasted the opening.

Fulham's persistence finally paid off as they took the lead on 66 minutes. Substitute Kacaniklic played in a former Hammers fans' favourite Scott Parker who set up Berbatov, who smashed the ball home.

On 69 minutes, both teams again made changes; Fulham swapped Taarabt for Darren Bent then Allardyce followed suit replacing Maiga with Carlton Cole.

When play resumed, George McCartney lifted a free-kick over but Stockdale collected and passed to Bent. He nearly made an immediate impact however Jaaskelainen saved again with his legs.

The visitors had two great chances within the space of two minutes. Firstly on 76 when Collison and Rat combined to set up Taylor but Stockdale was alert and caught the ball. Then the former Bolton and Portsmouth midfielder was able to send another cross into the box but Diarra headed over the bar.

In the last 10 minutes West Ham tried to find an equaliser but despite all their late efforts, they couldn't find a way through the Fulham defence. On the plus side, they did brilliantly to withstand all the pressure and keep the scoreline as low as 2-1.

The East Londoners are involved in two cup competitions in the next week with the first-leg of their Capital One Cup tie with Manchester City next Wednesday after their FA Cup third-round trip to Nottingham Forest for the midday kick-off on Sunday.

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