Hammers Fail to Handle Red Hot Burnley.
By Tom Dowsett
Monday 31 Dec 2018 14:08:00
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It was tough going for West Ham United as they faced another away game in the space of two days on Sunday afternoon, and it meant that they suffered their second defeat in just over a week, as they lost 2-0 against Burnley at Turf Moor.

In contrast to the five changes that Clarets' boss Sean Dyche had made, Manuel Pellegrini only made two alterations from the 2-1 win at Southampton, as captain Mark Noble was restored to the starting line-up in time to make his 450th appearance for the club in place of Pedro Obiang who dropped to the bench. 

Marko Arnautovic made an earlier than expected return from a hamstring injury to take Grady Diangana's place as he also returned to the bench.

Dyche gave goalkeeper Tom Heaton his first start since September 2017 as former West Ham loanee Joe Hart was omitted from the starting eleven and that impacted on his teams'performance and once they got going, the hosts absolutely tore the visitors apart.

Ashley Barnes went close in the opening stages but his swiveling effort went inches wide.

Angelo Ogbonna then had a chance when he met a corner from Robert Snodgrass but the header was easy for Heaton to grasp.

On this showing, the feeling amongst the majority inside the stadium was that it wasn't going to be too long before the hosts grabbed a deserved first goal and that is exactly what happened when Chris Wood claimed his fifth goal against the Hammers with fifteen minutes gone.

A great team move involving Barnes and Ashley Westwood allowed Wood to pick up possession from Barnes and thump the ball past Lukasz Fabianski.

The noise had really gone up a notch and with the Hammers not at their best, that only spurred the home side on to get a second and it duely arrived on 34 minutes when Dwight McNeil claimed his first goal for the Clarets on only his second Premier League start.

The youngster perhaps should have doubled his tally just before the break after Barnes had played him in but he fired wide to the relief of the travelling support.

Changes to their fixture schedule last season meant that West Ham enjoyed a week's rest period but it was clear at half-time that two games in as many days was taking its toll on the players.

Pellegrini decided to throw on Andy Carroll and Diangana during the break for Snodgrass and the ineffectual Lucas Pérez. However, the changes failed to make the desired impact, as Burnley started the second-half playing the same way as they did for much of the first 45 minutes.

They perhaps should have extended their advantage shortly after the restart, however Fabianski was alert to prevent Barnes from adding his name to the scoresheet by making a vital save.

Wood then missed another opportunity and by this point, the Hammers were thankful that the scoreline was kept down to just the two.

It perhaps came as a surprise to most West Ham fans that Arnautovic started the game given that he had only returned to training last week and on 73 minutes, Pellegrini decided it was time to introduce Xande Silva for the striker and give the youngster his debut.

The Irons had the chance to pull a goal back in the last minute of the contest but Heaton managed to stupendously tip the ball onto the crossbar following Carroll's powerful header.

It wasn't a good day for Pellegrini's men who ended 2018 in eleventh place in the Premier League table. They will hope to put this performance behind them and start 2019 with victory, as Brighton and Hove Albion visit Stratford on Wednesday night. 

In other news, after much speculation since the closure of the summer transfer window in August, it was confirmed today that winger Samir Nasri has signed a deal until the end of the season with an option to extend.

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