Hammers Edge Closer To Safety
By Tom Dowsett
Sunday 30 Apr 2017 16:53:00
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Having halted their slide in mid-April, West Ham United go into the last month of the season unbeaten in four, as they followed up the goalless draw with Everton last weekend by recording another against Stoke City at the Bet 365 Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Club captain Mark Noble and Sam Byram both made the matchday squad after they had served their respective suspensions, but manager Slaven Bilic kept faith with the side that impressed him against the Toffees last weekend and had them available on the bench.

The visitors had a great chance to open the scoring within the first minute when Manuel Lanzini went close but his effort was straight at Jack Butland in the Potters goal.

The game started as an open contest, as it was then the home side's turn to see if they could grab an early opener. Fortunately, Saido Berahino found stand-in skipper Winston Reid in the way.

The visitors continued to dominate and had another chance to break the deadlock when José Fonte tried his luck with a header but unfortunately, former Hammer Glen Johnson was alert to the danger.

Looking to build on last week's home draw, the Irons kept the pressure on but missed the target again when Jonathan Calleri saw an ambitious effort go well over the bar. A bit more control may have seen the striker put the East Londoners in front.

West Ham fans haven't seen a scissor-kick since January when Andy Carroll hit the net against Crystal Palace and they should have had another one to cheer here when André Ayew tested Butland, but it seemed that the goalkeeper was eager to show the hosts what they had been missing during his lengthy spell on the sidelines, as he produced a stupendous save to thwart the former Swansea City player.

The West Ham defence was once again working hard in an effort to keep a second consecutive clean sheet. This was again in evidence when Fonte produced a last-ditch block to break down a Stoke counter-attack.

On 43 minutes, Calleri tried his luck again but Mark Hughes' men remained resilient and the effort was blocked.

The hosts had only won one in seven going into this encounter, so when referee Lee Probert blew the half-time whistle, the Irons were still feeling pretty confident that they could claim the three points that would lift them above their opponents.

During the break, the East Londoners made their first change, as Aaron Cresswell took the place of Arthur Masuaku.

Bilic's men re-emerged from the dressing room keen to get off to a good start in the second-half and they had the home faithful worried when Cheikhou Kouyaté almost found a way through, only to see his attempt go inches wide.

The home side weren't at their best in the first 45 minutes and Adrian was left with little to do, but minutes after seeing his teammate miss the target, the Spaniard was forced into action, as he helped Xherdan Shaqiri's effort over.

Shortly after that chance had been spurned, the Potters tried their luck again but just couldn't get past the goalkeeper, as he made a great reaction save to deny Joe Allen from close-range.

The majority inside the stadium would have had a goal to celebrate had it not been for an even better save to prevent Berahino's effort from getting past him.

West Ham then got their rhythm back and started to exert pressure up the other end but again, they couldn't make it count.

Kouyaté linked up well with Ayew whose powerful shot was only parried by Butland and shortly after, Calleri's volley set up Lanzini, but his header was cleared by the England stopper.

Minutes later, Ayew appeared to be disappointed at his manager's decision to replace him with Noble, who then took over the captaincy from Reid.

By this point, Adrian seemed to be the busier keeper as Marko Arnautović picked up Shaqiri's great ball and sent it towards goal but he was clearly showing that nothing was going to beat him.

A couple of minutes had passed before the midfielder went down in the box but fortunately, Probert gave nothing.

West Ham made their final change on 79 minutes, as Robert Snodgrass replaced Calleri.

The visitors had chances to find a winner but couldn't benefit from any of them before Peter Crouch, who had entered the fray in Allen's place earlier in the match, missed a golden opportunity when he headed over.

It seemed that the Hammers were the happier of the two sides at the end and yet another tough test awaits them on Friday night as Tottenham Hotspur make the trip to Stratford for a London derby.

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