Hammers beaten away again
By Tom Dowsett
Monday 03 May 2010 11:37:00
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The final away trip of the season once again ended in defeat as West Ham United went down 3-2 on a damp, cold Sunday afternoon at Craven Cottage.

Gianfranco Zola had the unusual luxury of naming an unchanged side, whereas Fulham where forced into several changes after their heroics in midweek. Yet, despite their relatively small squad size, the Cottagers were still a very competitive outfit.

The Hammers had the best of what was a tight first-half. On 23 minutes Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer produced a great one-handed save from Mark Noble's low strike to the bottom left-hand corner. 10 minutes later Schwarzer pushed out a fierce swerving drive from Manuel da Costa.

However, as half-time approached the match turned on two crucial incidents. First, Carlton Cole was wrongly flagged offside when clean through on goal. Seconds later Clint Dempsey expertly slipped the Hammers' defence to put Fulham ahead with the last kick of the half.

This seemed harsh on Zola's men just as they thought they would, at the very least, go into the break on level terms.

Once again the large contingent of travelling Hammers' fans could be heard way over the subdued home supporters.

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Fulham started the second-half at a much greater pace and pegged West Ham back. Five minutes after the restart Fulham increased their advantage when Chris Baird's wayward blast cannoned in off the unfortunate Carlton Cole's shoulder.

Two minutes later Cole then made amends with a looping header from Noble's well-placed freekick. Soon after Alesandro Diamanti and Guillermo Franco came on for Julien Faubert and Ilan. West Ham were beginning to regain the initiative.

However, all the good work was undone when Jonathan Spector was caught in possesion down the left and Erik Nevland's cross was turned in by Fulham substitute Stefano Okaka.

As the match limped to a close Valon Bahrami, who picked up an injury in the build-up to the goal, was replaced by Junior Stanislas.

The Hammers reduced the deficit again with two minutes remaining when Noble and Scott Parker combined well before the fomer released Franco to sweep it into the net from ten yards.

All of which means the Hammers end their away campaign with another disappointment and they go into next Sunday final home match facing another difficult test against Champions League hopefuls Manchester City.     

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