Villans dent Hammers survival hopes
By Tom Dowsett
Sunday 17 Apr 2011 12:02:00
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It's now three defeats in a row for West Ham United and they remain deep in relegation trouble as Aston Villa came from behind to win at Upton Park on Saturday afternoon.

Avram Grant made four changes from last weekend's loss against Bolton Wanderers at the Reebox Stadium with Scott Parker was missing due to an achilles which will keep him out for at least a fortnight, while James Tomkins, Frederic Piquionne and Demba Ba were also omitted from the starting eleven. The absences meant recalls for Carlton Cole, Lars Jacobsen and midfielders Gary O'Neil and Victor Obinna.

The club dubbed the game "The Best of British" and provided supporters with custom-made Union Jack Hammers flags, in an attempt to create a vociferous atmosphere.

The home side were quickly out of the blocks and went ahead as early as the second minute. A mix-up in the Villa defence from a corner allowed Thomas Hitzelsperger to poke the ball through to Robbie Keane who lashed home from six yards, having been played onside by the visitors' Ashley Young.

That was as good as it got for West Ham as the Villans started to exert their full control on the fixture with Darren Bent, in particular, causing no end of problems.

The hosts rotten luck this season continued as after 11 minutes defender Manuel Da Costa limped off with injury after a challenge by Bent and was replaced by Danny Gabbidon. A tactical change ensued with Gabbidon moving to the left hand side, Jacobsen joing Matthew Upson in the heart of the defence with O'Neil switching to right-back.

The contraversial incident of the game happened on 17 minutes. Cole raced through from a long ball from Upson, only to be felled just outside the area by Villa's Richard Dunne. Referee Mark Halsey waved away the striker's protests, despite replays suggesting that it was a clear foul and Dunne was the last man.

The incident only lead to spur Villa forward. On 24 minutes they thought they had equalised when Bent rose above Jacobsen to head home, Halsey however, interveined and chalked the goal off for an apparent push by the England frontman despite there being a lack of evidence.

Ten minutes before half time the visitors' pressure told. Poor defending by Mark Noble on the edge of his own box was capitilised by Luke Young who swung over a glorious cross for Bent to guide home. It was no more than Villa deserved.

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In the second half, the away side continued in the same manner in which they finished the first with wave after wave of attacks at Robert Green's goal. The ex-England No1 saved twice in two minutes, firstly from Bent and then from Ashley Young.

Grant had seen enough come the hour mark and sent on Zavon Hines for the ineffective Obinna and Ba replaced O'Neil, after the former Portsmouth man left the field on a stretcher following a nasty challenge from Nigel Reo-Coker.

West Ham continued to soak up the constant Villa pressure and looked set to hold onto a precious point in their fight to avoid relegation, however Hammers hopes were shattered after Villa substitute Gabriel Agbonlahor headed home from six yards following an unchallenged cross from Ashley Young.

With the situation all to familiar, boos rang out at the final whistle as the home faithful's patience with their side is slowly running out. West Ham failed to benefit from this six pointer, and following the games against Chelsea and Manchester City, the fixtures with Wigan, Blackburn and Sunderland are vital for the Hammers if they have any hope of staying in the Barclays Premier League.

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