No Wembley date for Hammers
By Tom Dowsett
Thursday 27 Jan 2011 13:23:00
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Although still in the FA Cup, the main priority for West Ham United now is the battle to remain in the Barclays Premier League, after seeing their first leg advantage disappear and missing out on a place in the Carling Cup final against Arsenal at Wembley on February 27th.

Avram Grant was forced to make one change from the side that lost a two-goal advantage to draw at Goodison Park at the weekend with Carlton Cole playing as a lone striker due to Frederic Piquionne's suspension.

Knowing that they had a one-goal advantage from the first leg, the Hammers went into the game looking to make it count and they started well. It took only five minutes for them to exert pressure on Birmingham as Zavon Hines was first to test Ben Foster with a low shot, but he did well to dive to his left and claim the ball comfortably.

Hines seemed to be the biggest threat in the first half for the home side and on eleven minutes he was at it again when Noble released him with a superb pass, which put him through on goal. He took a couple of touches before shooting, but again Foster was there to block.

Minutes later, Wayne Bridge sent another superb ball out to Cole, who got the better of Martin Jiranek only for his left-foot volley to hit the angle of the post and bar.

On 29 minutes, the home side played a mixture of long balls and concise passing to try and find an opening, but West Ham's defense held firm.

To say that Carlton Cole's goal in the first leg was fortunate, well, this wasn't as he continued where he left off by unleashing a beauty of a shot that eluded Foster's dive and nestled in the bottom corner on 31 minutes.

Six minutes later, the Hammers had a great chance to double their advantage, but it wasn't to be as Mark Noble delivered a free-kick into the box following Jiranek's foul on Hines. Hines got at the end of it but his shot bounced off the post and behind for a goal kick. 

At half-time the home side brought on Nikola Zigic in place of Matt Derbyshire and the Hammers started to invite pressure.

In many of West Ham's games this season they have been well on top in the first half, but they've not seemed to carry the same threat in the second half and it was the same in this game.

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In many of West Ham's games this season they have been well on top in the first half, but they've not seemed to carry the same threat in the second half and it was the same in this game.

Proof of this came seven minutes after the restart as Craig Gardner unleashed a venimous shot that hit the post and bounced along the goal-line before going behind to safety.

After the Hammers survived Gardner's early scare, Birmingham continued to pile on the pressure after great block from Luis Boa Morte. Cameron Jerome then tried his luck with an acrobatic half-volley from Zigic's knockdown, but it was a high one and went well wide.

Just before the hour mark Birmingham equalised and it was former Hammer Lee Bowyer who rifled a shot into the corner after the Hammers have failed to clear the corner kick.

On 71 minutes Grant made his first change, replacing Hines with Kieron Dyer and two minutes later Dyer made an immediate impact by winning a corner and James Tomkins sent the header goalwards, but it was a poor effort.

On 79 minutes the Hammers' defensive frailties started the show as Robert Green did well to palm the ball over from Jerome's free header.

Then the first leg advantage was wiped out as Roger Johnson rose above Matthew Upson and planted a header past Green.

On 83 minutes Scott Parker won a corner just as new signing Gary O'Neil came on to make his debut in place of Boa Morte, but the corner came to nothing and the danger was cleared.

In the last minute of normal time with the scores level on aggregate Dyer was booked for a tussle with Birmingham's Barry Ferguson. Ferguson appeared to kick out at Dyer, he was booked as well.

The final whistle blew and the match entered extra time. The Hammers knew that if they got a goal in the extra 30 minutes then they would be in the final.

It didn't take long for a goal to be scored in extra time. Unfortunately it went to Birmingham. A long range shot from Gardner beat Green. The keeper perhaps could and should have done a lot better.

With the Hammers now desperate to find an equaliser, Noble tried an effort which was well held by Foster.

Five minutes later the Hammers had an even better chance to level, when Dyer clipped the bar from Julien Faubert's cross.

The second half of extra time got underway and Grant's first action was to replace Jonathan Spector with Benni McCarthy.

On 111 minutes Faubert goes forward again and delivered a high cross which went wide.

A minute later Parker tried his luck again with a half-chance but the ball once again went wide.

On 114 minutes, Cole was the latest name to enter referee Howard Webb's book for a foul on Johnson, just after he had hooked an effort wide after showing some neat skills.

In the last minute Green did well to tip David Murphy's shot over the bar, as he looked to put the game beyond doubt.

In the end, the result was beyond doubt anyway and the Hammers exit the Carling Cup at the semi-final stage. They have another Cup game on Sunday, however, with the fourth-round FA Cup tie with Nottingham Forest visiting Upton Park.

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