Hammers lose to Birmingham. Again!!!
By Tom Dowsett
Monday 07 Feb 2011 12:34:00
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It has not been a good weekend for West Ham United as they returned to the bottom of the Barclays Premier League, after losing to Birmingham City again on Sunday afternoon when they could have really done with building on the win at Blackpool.

Avram Grant had to make an enforced change to his starting line-up, Danny Gabbidon was missing due to an injury he picked up at Blackpool, Winston Reid came in for him, while his team selection took another knock as James Tomkins pulled up in the warm up with a calf injury so Matthew Upson (who was originally named on the bench) deputised. Manuel Da Costa was drafted in to replace him on the bench.

On the manager's 56th birthday however, he didn't really have a lot to celebrate as the game got under way and Birmingham immediately applied pressure when Barry Ferguson tried to find Stephen Carr with a diagonal pass, but it was over hit and went out for a goal kick. After a few minutes however, the Hammers found their way in to the game when Robbie Keane won possession from Carr and won a throw. The throw was taken and Birmingham conceded another set piece, this time a corner was awarded. From the corner Keane and Carr were involved again as the Hammers' striker volleyed the ball into the face of his fellow countryman. He then had a big grin on his face as he appealed for handball.

After coming through the initial spell of pressure from the visitors the Hammers applied pressure themselves, as first Wayne Bridge sent a curling cross over from the free kick conceded by Carr, then soon after Lars Jacobsen tried another cross which was only just missed by Victor Obinna and Ben Foster was there to punch clear.

Keane was the shining light for the Hammers in what proved to be a fairly uneventful first 20 minutes. Firstly he found Frederic Piquionne but the Frenchman had trouble releasing the ball from under his feet and the subsequent effort was weak and easily claimed by Foster. The Irishman then found Obinna with a square ball, the Nigerian tried a hit only to see the effort go wide of the post.

On 26 minutes Reid commited a foul after failing to control from a Mark Noble corner. Reid then found his intended target of Scott Parker, who shot but the effort again flashed wide of the post.

In first half stoppage time, the Hammers could have been given a penalty when Obinna's cross hit Roger Johnson's chest. However, Sky TV replays clearly showed that it hit the defenders arm, but Chris Foy decided that it wasn't deliberate and waved away Obinna's appeals.

At half-time, Grant replaced Upson with Da Costa. Upson appeared to have had a reoccurence of the knock that kept him out of Wednesday evening's game at Bloomfield Road and had been struggling since the 35 minute mark.

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The second half got underway and it was a better start from the Hammers as Da Costa was immediately involved when he challenged Blues' striker Cameron Jerome before clearing the ball for a throw. The Hammers continued to pressurise the visitors defence when Obinna won a free-kick after being fouled by Ferguson. However, Noble's floated effort was easily claimed by Foster.

On 54 minutes there was another shout for a penalty when Bridge found Keane in the box, who was under pressure from Johnson. He went down, but the referee still wasn't interested in the appeals.

Soon after, Piquionne managed to get in behind Johnson but made a mess of the cross and it was another easy take for Foster.

On the hour mark, Carlton Cole was introduced for Piquionne.

A minute after coming on, he did well to beat two defenders before seeing his shot blocked. The ball then found keane who'se cross was dealt with and cleared away to safety.

The only goal of the game arrived on 66 minutes, after two needless fouls from Da Costa and Noble. However, it was Noble's foul that conceded the free-kick which Sebastien Larsson took and Nikola Zigic powerfully headed past Robert Green.

Minutes later, the Hammers were lucky not to be two behind, after David Bentley had flashed a cross along the edge of the six-yard box. Thankfully nobody was there to get a telling touch.

On 76 minutes, Keane made way for the other striking arrival during the January transfer window, Demba Ba. It was later announced that Keane had pulled out of the Republic of Ireland's International game on Tuesday due to a calf injury, perhaps that was the reason why he was replaced? Here's hoping that he's okay for the weekend's trip to face West Bromwich Albion.

A minute later it could have been a dream debut for Ba when a free-kick was taken by Bridge who curled it over for Da Costa, who in turn found Ba Who smashed a first time shot against the angle of post and crossbar.

In the closing minutes, the Hammers continued to pile on the presure but Birmingham's win was confirmed when the final whistle blew after three minutes of stoppage time had been played.

For the Hammers, attention now turns to West Brom who, it was learned before the 90 minutes at Upton Park were played, had relieved head coach Roberto Di Matteo of his duties at the Hawthornes, so there's hope that the Hammers might just be able to get a result.

Also pre-match, it was suggested in the Legends bar that Thomas Hitzlsperger would finally return to action after injury by playing a part in the reserve match against the same opponents. 

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