Vital Point Earned at Villa
By Tom Dowsett
Sunday 17 Jan 2010 16:54:00
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West Ham United grabbed a crucial point in a goalless draw at Villa Park to climb out of the bottom three.

The Hammers shaded the opening stages and might have taken the lead when Frank Nouble's fantastic run left James Collins and Carlos Cuellar for dead but he couldn't find the finish to match.

West Ham's five man midfield forced Villa's danger men Ashley Young and Stewart Downing very wide and they struggled to find their usual fluency.

As the half went on, high-flying Villa increasing came into the game and forced corner after corner. However, Matthew Upson and James Tompkins were equal to the task. Anything that passed them was dealt with expertly by goalkeeper Robert Green.

Gianfranco Zola's men went in at the break good value for their clean sheet.

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West Ham had to endure a spell of intense Villa pressure at the start of the second half. In the 49th minute James Milner fizzed in a drive that was inches wide of the post. In the 57th minute Radoslav Kovac, who had been booked in the 1st half, was fortunate to remain on the pitch following a late tackle on Stillian Petrov.

Scott Parker was replaced by Alessandro Diamanti on 57 minutes and five minutes later Junior Stanislas was introduced in place of Kovac.

Villa had the ball in the net shortly after when substitute John Carew followed up when Green spilled Downing's low shot. But TV replays confirmed that the decision to rule it out for offside was correct.

Gradually West Ham restablished a degree of control. Nouble continued to cause problems down the left and through the middle. On 71 minutes West Ham almost grabbed a winner when Stanislas's cross-shot was sliced over the bar by James Collins outstretched leg with Brad Friedel beaten.

West Ham were finishing the stronger but their supporters were given a scare in added time when Gabriel Agbonlahor slipped in behind the defence but was bravely thwarted by Green.

All of which means the Hammers are up to 16th with a month of must-win games to come, starting with a trip to bottom club Portsmouth next.

 

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