The Magpies looked dangerous in the opening quarter of an hour and came close on a number of occasions, but West Ham rode their luck and began to take control of the game near the halfway point of the first half. High up in the upper echelons of the John Hall Stand, the travelling claret and blue army may well have thought it was going to be one of those days when first a highly dubious offside decision was made by the linesman against native Geordie Andy Carroll, and then winger Yossi Benayoun almost took the corner flag out with a horrible miscue on the edge of the penalty area. The forced substitution of England international Matt Jarvis ten minutes before half time did nothing to placate these fears.
However, as the half went on, the Hammers grew in confidence and influence, and gradually started to take control of the game. After a sustained period of pressure by the home side, the Irons broke away down the right flank, attacking the Gallowgate End. A ball aimed at the ponytailed head of Andy Carroll came out as far as Joey O’Brien, and the right back’s shot was turned in by Kevin Nolan who declined to celebrate at his old stomping ground- the Hammers’ skipper showing the class lacked by the home fans, who booed the every touch of Carroll- forgetting, perhaps, the leaked text messages from the striker immediately after his move to Liverpool, articulating that he had never wanted to leave Tyneside. Got to love the modern football fan.
After weathering a late Newcastle storm, culminating in former Hammer Demba Ba having a shot clawed off the line at point-blank range by Jussi Jaaskelainen, West Ham took their lead into the interval and strutted out determinately for the second half- no doubt some characteristic Big Sam wisdom on the subject of protecting a single goal lead still ringing in their ears.
As with the opening quarter of an hour of the first half, the Irons were perhaps fortunate to hold onto their lead, as a flurry of Newcastle corners came to nothing. However, this was largely down to the home side’s bizarre tactic of playing every corner short as opposed to getting it into the box and putting some pressure on the Hammers’ defenders, and a general toothlessness from the Magpies. Once again, the Newcastle pressure did not last for long and Carroll had a chance at the other end and produced a good one-handed save from Tim Krul. In the finish, the game petered out and the Irons ran out 1-0 winners, with tireless skipper Nolan’s goal proving to be the winner. The victory was all the more impressive after the Hammers had been forced into using all three of their substitutes; both Benayoun and George McCartney limping off midway through the second half.
To his eternal credit, ex West Ham boss- now Newcastle manager- Alan Pardew refused to blame his side’s midweek European exertions for the poor performance, facing up instead to the fact that his side lacked penetration and imagination to unlock the Irons’ defensive system. An on-song Newcastle would have undoubtedly caused West Ham’s back four a lot more problems, but that is to take nothing away from the Hammers’ second successive fantastic defensive display- and on this form, we are genuine contenders for a top ten finish. Something about counting, chickens and hatching however.. this is West Ham United we are talking about.
Newcastle United: Krul; Santon, Simpson (Obertan ’79), Williamson, S Taylor; Ferguson, Cabaye, Ben Arfa, Gutierrez (Anita ’24); Cisse (Sh Ameobi ’45), Ba
Subs: Elliot, Anita, Amalfitano, Bigirimana, Marveaux, Obertan, Sh Ameobi
West Ham United: Jaaskelainen; Reid, Tomkins, McCartney (Demel ’66); O’Brien; Nolan, Jarvis (Maiga ’34), Benayoun (O’Neil ’52), Noble, Diame, Carroll
Subs: Spiegel, Collins, Demel, O’Neil, Cole, Maiga, Hall
Man of the Match: Kevin Nolan, West Ham United
Referee: Mike Dean
Report by Alex Shilling