Filed: Saturday, 2nd February 2013
By: Staff Writer
Andy Carroll's late goal was enough to secure West Ham's second win of 2013 against a resilient Swansea side at the Boleyn Ground this afternoon.
The on-loan striker, whose only goal in claret and blue prior to today had been a consolation effort at Tottenham last November marked his first full 90 minutes of the New Year with the winning goal just 13 minutes from time.
Having tormented today's opponents from the start of the game, the centre forward - who replaced the ineffective Marouane Chamakh in the Hammers' starting XI - rose highest to nod home a Mark Noble corner just as it was beginning to look like all West Ham's endeavour would prove worthless.
Having created the vast majority of notable goalscoring opportunities only wasteful finishing combined with some first-class saves by Swans stand-in 'keeper Gerhard Tremmel, deputising for regular number one Michel Vorm, had kept the match goalless until that point.
But there was little the German stopper could to about Carroll's winning goal, despite him having foiled Ricardo Vaz Te, Kevin Nolan - twice - and Carroll himself previously when United looked odds-on to score.
Swansea, who beat West Ham 3-0 in the corresponding fixture earlier in the season exhibited their full range of passing and movement but as today's game illustrated, pretty does not necessarily mean effective. And whisper this, but the match stats indicate that it was the away side who relied more on long passes during the game.
With Carroll once again the focal point of the attack much of United's forward movement looked to begin with direct balls into the striker - understandably, given the potency of his threat.
Carroll, clearly revelling in being involved once again performed admirably and his almost telepathic knowledge of team mate Kevin Nolan's movement led to one great first half chance that forced a great save from Tremmel.
Assisting Carroll ably in offensive duties were the likes of Joey O'Brien, who pulled off one of the tricks of the season when spinning away from his marker before delivering a low cross that Nolan applied the finish to, only for Tremmel to deny him once again.
Ricardo Vaz Te, sporting a freshly-shaven dome also went close in the opening half with a fierce shot that Tremmel tipped round the post. It was to be a similar story after the break with Carroll similarly denied - before West Ham finally breached Swansea's defence with just 13 minutes remaining.
A crowd that had been restless all afternoon - and nervous as a result of West Ham's alarming recent slide down the table - were left biting their fingernails in the final minutes as Swansea finally threatened to score themselves.
Lethal Spanish striker Michu had been a virtual passenger having been marshalled superbly throughout the afternoon by James Tomkins and Winston Reid until he stole in as the game entered injury time, only to be foiled by Jussi Jaaskelainen.
The veteran stopper, whose form has been questioned in recent weeks made two great saves in stoppage time to secure a first clean sheet in 11 games - although he had Matt Jarvis to thank for that after the winger had diverted a goalbound effort clear of the posts with Jaaskelainen beaten midway through the first half, in what was the Swans only meaningful chance until the latter stages.
The three points, which take West Ham onto 30 with 13 games still left to play went some way to relieving the pressure than was beginning to build around the team following their recent run of poor form.
Nine points clear of the relegation zone once again and back up to 11th spot - and with key players such as Andy Carroll and Mo Diame returning following recent injury - West Ham fans should now be able to look forward to the remaining third of the season, starting with next weekend's trip to Aston Villa.
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