Filed: Tuesday, 21st February 2012
By: Staff Writer
West Ham United have returned to the top of the Championship after thrashing fellow promotion candidates Blackpool at Bloomfield Road.
And for the third game in succession, Sam Allardyce's were forced to play a fair chunk of the game with only ten men after goalkeeper Robert Green was shown a red card for a professional foul just nine minutes into the second half.
Bizarrely, the Hammers were just 2-1 up at the time of Green's dismissal but late goals from Gary O'Neil and Ricardo Vaz Te - his first since moving from Barnsley in the January transfer window - ensured United recorded a second four-goal haul against the Tangerines this season.
On a quite remarkable night in the North West, the Hammers took the lead with 28 minutes played having dominated the opening exchanges.
Mark Noble, captaining the side for the second successive game grabbed another assist as his inch-perfect cross was neatly headed home by James Tomkins, playing once again in a defensive midfield role, from just outside the six-yard box.
And when Nicky Maynard added a second from close range just four minutes later - his first goal for the Hammers in his first start - it looked as if the game was already over for the home side who went into the game unbeaten in the Championship in their last seven outings.
So disappointed by his team's display was Tangerines boss Ian Holloway that he replaced the anonymous Chris Basham with veteran striker Kevin Phillips after just 35 minutes of the game.
And that move paid almost instant dividends when substitute Phillips was on hand to nod home a deep cross in the closing seconds of the first half.
Sam Allardyce - who has expressed his concern at his team's lack of concentration several times already this season - will no doubt have been furious at conceding the goal that gave the home side a lifeline they barely deserved following such an insipid first half display.
All of a sudden, a game that looked like a cakewalk for the Hammers appeared very much back in the balance once again.
Blackpool boss Ian Holloway used his full quota of substitutes at the break, replacing Ludovic Sylvestre and one-time Hammers target Lomana Lua Lua with Nouha Dicko and Roman Bednar.
And it was the latter who was at the heart of Green's dismissal just eight minutes into the second period when the former England goalkeeper uncharacteristically rushed outside of his area to bring down the Czech substitute.
With no recognised goalkeeper amongst his substitutes, Allardyce was forced to replace Green with Henri Lansbury - whose one sole appearance in goal previously came for England's under-21s in a friendly against Germany in November 2010.
However the Hammers boss need not have worried for the home side barely threatened the on-loan midfielder - who became the second Arsenal player to feature in goal for the Hammers this season (former loanee Manuel Almunia being the first) - thereafter.
Fortunately that was definitely not the case for Lansbury's opposite number Matthew Gilks, who was to pick the ball out of his net on a further two occasions despite his team having the extra man.
Gary O'Neil, on as a replacement for Abdoulaye Faye made it 3-1 to the Hammers with 74 minutes on the clock when he fired home through a crowd of bodies from the edge of the box.
And to add insult to injury, Ricardo Vaz Te make it 4-1 to West Ham when he recorded his first goal since making a £750,000 move south in the final minute of normal time, as his deflected effort found the corner of Gilks' net.
The win for West Ham means that Sam Allardyce's side return to the top of the Championship, a point clear of nearest rivals Southampton and with a game in hand.
Additionally, United have now taken seven points from their last three outings - despite being forced to play for 189 of those 270 minutes with only ten men on the field.
Blackpool 1 West Ham Utd 4: match facts
West Ham Utd: Green, O'Brien, McCartney, Reid, Faye (O'Neil 66), Tomkins, Noble, Collison, Faubert (Lansbury 54), Vaz Te, Maynard (Cole 82).
Subs not used: Potts, Baldock.
Goals: Tomkins (28), Maynard (32), O'Neil (74), Vaz Te (90).
Booked: Reid (58), O'Neil (89).
Sent Off: Green (54).
Shots on/off target: 7/8.
Blackpool: Gilks, Baptiste, Evatt, Cathcart, Crainey, Basham (K.Phillips 35), Sylvestre (Dicko 46), Ferguson, LuaLua (Bednar 46), Fleck, M.Phillips.
Subs not used: Eardley, Wilson.
Goals: K.Phillips (45+2).
Booked: Fleck (73).
Shots on/off target: 7/7.
Referee: Oliver Langford.
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