Filed: Saturday, 10th January 2009
By: Staff Writer
West Ham continued their rich run of form by take a well deserved point home from Newcastle this afternoon.
Gianfranco Zola's side - who went into today's game on the back of straight league wins against Portsmouth and Stoke - fell behind to an early Michael Owen strike before goals from Craig Bellamy and Carlton Cole put the Hammers in front. However Andy Carroll's late equaliser ensured the spoils were shared - a fair result on reflection, and one that keeps West Ham in the top half of the Premier League tonight.
On what was a freezing cold day in the North East it was the home side who threatened to score first when Owen, so often a thorn in claret and blue sides clipped the post after just 12 minutes.
The Irons failed to heed the warning and Newcastle took the lead on 19 minutes through the aforementioned former England striker. Owen picked up a Jose Enrique pass on the edge of the penalty box before firing home past a retreating United defence and keeper Rob Green, who, on reflection, will probably feel that he could have done better with the shot.
Undettered, the Hammers - for whom the point ensured they remain unbeaten on their travels since October 29th, almost three months ago - restored parity on the half hour mark through Craig Bellamy, returning to one of his old stomping grounds. Bellamy was picked out by a superb pass from Scott Parker before lifting his shot over the advancing Shay Given.
It could have been even better for the Hammers two minutes ahead of the break when Mark Noble was sent clean through on goal by a superb Lucas Neill pass. However the young midfielder failed to repeat Bellamy's feat and Given was on hand to produce a good stop.
The Hammers, boosted by a good finish to the first half started the second period the brighter of the sides and should have been awarded a penalty within seconds of the restart when Bellamy was clearly hauled over by Sebastien Bassong inside the box - not so, according to referee Alan Wiley who can't have seen the incident clearly.
But it wasn't long before that particular wrong was righted when Carlton Cole notched his fourth goal in four games on 55 minutes. Herita Ilunga's through ball was perfectly weighted for Cole who turned and smashed the ball into the roof of Given's net - and all with his left foot. Gianfranco Zola's extra work on the training ground is certainly paying off.
Inevitably perhaps, given the deficit Newcastle finally began to get into the game and thought they had equalised on 68 minutes when Lucas Neill had one of those ground-swallow-me-up moments when he sliced a cross from the right into his own net. It took the embarrassed Australian a good 30 seconds before he realised that the 'goal' had been disallowed for a push by Owen on James Collins moments before, much to his obvious relief.
But as in the first half, the Hammers failed to learn from their mistakes and Newcastle grabbed a point with just 12 minutes left of normal time remaining when the impressively-coiffeured Andy Carroll, only in the side due to injuries elsewhere nodded home a Damian Duff to make it 2-2. Matthew Upson will be disappointed that the youngster managed to beat him in the air.
However if there was any question of fault over Upson's involvement in that goal he more than made up for the faux pas with a vital intereception in the final seconds of injury time. Jonas Gutierrez looked odds-on to score when he raced through on goal but Upson produced a brilliantly-timed tackle to save a point from a game that the Hammers could have come out of with a three, given a little more luck.
As it is the one keeps United in the top half of the table with 26 points - six ahead of the relegation zone and probably five wins from safety. However it is upwards that Zola's side should be looking after an impressive run of form that has seen the Hammers go four games unbeaten.
Next up for United is the visit of Fulham - who are currently one place above the Hammers on goal difference - to the Boleyn Ground next Sunday.
West Ham United: Green, Neill, Collins, Upson, Ilunga, Behrami, Parker, Noble (Mullins 86), Collison (Boa Morte 76), Cole, Bellamy (Di Michele 81).
Subs not used: Stech, Tomkins, Faubert, Tristan.
Goals: Bellamy (29), Cole (55).
Newcastle United: Given, Taylor, Coloccini, Bassong, Jose Enrique, Gutierrez, Guthrie, Geremi (N'Zogbia 62), Duff, Owen, Carroll.
Subs not used: Harper, Xisco, Kadar, Edgar, LuaLua, Donaldson.
Booked: Guthrie (23).
Goals: Owen (19), Carroll (78).
Referee: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire).
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