Filed: Tuesday, 11th January 2011
By: Staff Writer
A comedy goal from Carlton Cole was enough to give the Hammers a slender lead to take into the Carling Cup semi final, second leg 15 days from now.
Cole - on as a late substitute for Frederic Piquionne - scuffed a shot that somehow rolled under the legs of the otherwise excellent Ben Foster to give ten-man West Ham a priceless 2-1 win.
The Hammers were reduced to ten men just ahead of the hour mark when Victor Obinna - who stormed off after being substituted at the weekend - received his marching orders for kicking Sebastien Larsson.
At that point in the game - with ex-Hammer Liam Ridgewell having already cancelled out Mark Noble's opener - the Blues were looking hot favourites to go on and win the game, as once again the Hammers failed to make the most of early superiority.
That was until Cole - who had only been on the pitch for four minutes - somehow squeezed a mis-hit shot between the legs of Foster, who was surely expecting the number nine's effort to have been hit with slightly more venom.
Avram Grant - who rumours suggest is in charge for the final time tonight - had seen his side completely control the first 45 minutes, but only score the once when Mark Noble blasted a scorcher from a narrow angle after just 13 minmutes.
With City resurgent and looking a different side completely after the break it was no surprise when Ridgewell nodded home the equaliser. Winston Reid was beaten to a header - not for the first time - by the former Academy player who gave Rob Green no chance with a fierce header.
Birmingham will also feel slightly aggrieved at being denied a penalty when former Blue Matthew Upson's clumsy challenge on Barry Ferguson went unpunished. TV replays confirmed that West Ham's left back for the night - who appeared to shove the Scottish international - was lucky to escape without censure.
All things considered, any kind of win will be generally welcomed around the hallowed halls of the Boleyn Ground, given the current circumstances. Whether or not it will be enough to keep Grant in his job, remains to be seen.
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02:10PM 12th Jan 2011
''Excellent win. We needed to take a lead to the second leg and we've done it. The main thing for me today, apart from the result, was that our two best players (in my opinion) were home grown - Tomkins and Noble. Both of these players have had good seasons and I think it's no coincidence that when the club faces hard times it's these players (along with Parker and Green) that have shone through.
Team selection: Grant is only partly responsible for the team selection, the rest is down to who's available. Ben Haim's gone back to Portsmouth, Ilunga's injured, so the back four that played were the only viable option. More talented players are more versatile. Reid has done well in the middle, Upson has to adapt, playing out of position. I don't know what has happened to Gabbidon recently, perhaps injured, perhaps on his way out.
Grant deserves credit for the substitutions. Much like the Barnsley game we lost the initiative and the subs helped turn that around.
Formation/tactics: Grant likes to play 4-5-1 when we don't have the ball, changing to 4-3-3 when we have possession. Doesn't always work (the wide attacking players get pinned-back by the opposition, leaving our striker isolated) but it did today. We don't have good enough players to be able to press the team all over the pitch, so by stringing five across midfield, with four behind, the only ways the opposition can score are individual defensive errors, set pieces, or playing like Barcelona.
Man of the Match: I agreed with the official choice, Tomkins, although Noble, Spector and Reid were also on good form.''