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Saturday, 2nd March 2002

Aston Villa 2
West Ham United 1

by Graeme Howlett

West Ham slipped to a FIFTH consecutive away defeat at Villa Park this afternoon, thanks to a last gasp winner from new England striker Darius Vassell.

With the game in it's final seconds, Vassell converted a Samuel cross from close range to secure all three points for the Villains.

Little more than 30 seconds later referee Graham Barber blew for full time, thereby condemning Roeder's men to yet another away defeat.

It had looked better for the Hammers early on, as Paolo Di Canio - playing his first game after a three match suspension - gave the visitors the lead with a 13th minute penalty, after Jermain Defoe - playing in place of the absent Freddy Kanoute - was pulled down inside the area by Olaf Mellborg.

But Villa were level within ten minutes after Juan Pablo Angel headed home a deep cross from Gareth Barry.

Villa, to be fair, had the better of the play thereafter, but no one inside Villa Park could have begrudged Roeder's team taking their first point away from Upton Park since the 1-1 draw at Leicester, three days before Christmas last year.

But in the end it was the same old story for the Hammers, whose last Premiership win on their travels came at Old Trafford at the start of December 2001. The defeat sees West Ham slip back down to 13th in the table, dropping below Southampton and Middlesbrough who both won today.

Reports by Jon Vinton - Dan O'Rourke - Vinny Ryan

Oh dear, it all started so well and ended in tears. For the first 15 minutes we were the better side - but after that it all went horribly wrong.

You all know the result so I will not go on about how the goals were scored - but what I will say is that, in truth, we should have scored a second goal after we went one up, and then we would have killed the game off.

Paolo Di Canio had a typically magical effort clawed out by Peter Schmeichel, and Joe Cole should have done better when he only had the keeper to beat. We must start to turn pressure into goals - especially away from home.

The formation we played was not the greatest, as we never seemed to have anyone in attack apart from Di Canio and Defoe, and when either of those two had the ball their passing options were non existent. Di Canio was the only one capable of holding up the ball which means that all too often the ball just comes straight back, and you are under the cosh again.

A draw would have been fair but you can't argue with the loss really as Villa enjoyed the majority of the possession. James was outstanding once again and the chant of "England's number 1" is a fair assessment of his ability. If he is not one of the first names on the trip to Japan this summer I will be amazed (he also looks a pretty good bet for Hammer Of The Year).

I am not going to criticise individual players as that is, in my opinion, unhelpful - but the midfield were overrun and outnumbered. This would have been an ideal game for Lomas, who is of course unfortunately injured.

It was nice to see Di Canio put the penalty away properly rather than chipping the damn thing in, but you can never really be sure what is going to happen where Paolo is concerned. One thing I did notice was that if you play Di Canio and Defoe, who are both very talented players, together they limit your attacking options far too much. An on song Kanoute is a must, but he must be more consistent.

We outsung the villa fans for large periods of the game - but it was Villa after all, so no real surprises there.

Oh well roll on more home matches...

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