Hammers End Busy Month With Palace Point
By Tom Dowsett
Wednesday 31 Jan 2018 12:38:00
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West Ham United ended the month of January with a 1-1 draw at home to Crystal Palace on Tuesday night which lifted them into the top half of the table.

Declan Rice, Sam Byram and Javier Hernández were the only changes to the team that faced AFC Bournemouth in their last home game but new signing João Mário was included in the starting line-up while José Fonte was included on the bench after a lengthy period on the sidelines, due to an ankle injury.

There were reports that Michail Antonio would be involved, but in his post-match news conference, David Moyes revealed that he was left out for disciplinary reasons after he missed a team meeting on Tuesday morning.

Despite only having two days recovery after the FA Cup defeat to Wigan Athletic, the Hammers started well, although it was clear that the visitors were keen to bounce back after the 4-1 defeat at Arsenal last time out.

The first chance of the match fell the way of the hosts and the new signing was inches away from showing the home faithful what he could bring to the club during his loan spell. A header from Hernández dropped to the midfielder but unfortunately, he sent his volley wide.

The striker almost opened the scoring minutes later only to be blocked off by former Hammer James Tomkins.

Cheikhou Kouyaté started the match despite having knee and calf problems but there was a further issue for him in this game, as he had to have his head bandaged up after an elbow from Luka Milivojević. However, despite lengthy treatment, he was able to continue.

Eagles Head-Coach Roy Hodgson was hoping that his side would produce a response after being taken apart by the Gunners ten days ago and he certainly got what he wanted when Christian Benteke put them in front on 24 minutes, as the striker took advantage of some poor defending to head past Adrián following a cross from Andros Townsend.

As this was a crucial game for the home side, they were determined to keep their unbeaten run going. An earlier injury to Bacary Sako was the catalyst for West Ham being able to bring themselves level just two minutes before the break.

Referee Neil Swarbrick awarded the home side a penalty after Hernández was brought down by Tomkins.

The obvious choice to take the spot-kick was captain Mark Noble and he sent goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey the wrong way to claim his 50th career goal for his boyhood club, bringing loud cheers from the majority inside the stadium.

Six minutes of stoppage time were played at the end of the first-half due to the various breaks in play but when Swarbrick did blow the half-time whistle, the Irons must have walked off the pitch feeling pretty pleased about the way they played in the opening 45 minutes.

The hosts came out for the start of the second-half looking to continue from where they had left off and went close seconds later but the opportunity was wasted as the ball went over the bar.

They had another chance just minutes later when Hernández, playing as the lone striker, had a golden chance but unfortunately he directed his header straight at Hennessey.

For some weeks now, West Ham have had to deal with a growing number of injuries but they weren't going to let that fact get in the way of their good form.

They had chances to turn one point into three as Rice had a go from long-range, but his fierce shot again missed the target.

As the half wore on, if a winner was going to be found, it looked as though West Ham were on course to edge ahead. Mário was having an excellent home debut and his freekick could have given the Hammers a deserved lead but unfortunately, none of his teammates were there to finish the chance off.

Moyes made his only substitution on 86 minutes, replacing the brave Kouyaté with Reece Oxford.

Both sides knew how important this game was and the chances kept coming in the closing stages but neither team was able to break through.

The final whistle blew and the feeling amongst the home fans was that they were pleased with the point, as the manager only had limited options available to him.

After consecutive Premier League games in Stratford, the Hammers are on the road on Saturday afternoon, as they take the trip to the Sussex coast to take on Brighton and Hove Albion at the American Express Community Stadium.

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