West Ham 2 Norwich City 0
©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222
Norwich crashed to a painful 2-0 Premier League defeat against West Ham on Tuesday night at Upton Park after yet again spurning numerous chances to ease their own relegation worries.
James Collins glanced home Mohamed Diame’s 84th minute cross after City keeper John Ruddy failed to cut out the midfielder’s teasing centre before Diame sealed the win deep in stoppage time with a deflected finish past the City keeper.
Norwich created four clear-cut chances either side of the interval but could find no way past the inspired Adrian. The Canaries are now just one point clear of the bottom three after West Brom grabbed a late lifeline in a 1-1 home draw against Chelsea, but this was another missed opportunity that merely highlighted their recurring problems in front of goal.
Hughton made one change to the starting line up which drew 0-0 with Manchester City in a stirring Premier League clash at Carrow Road on Saturday. Fit-again Robert Snodgrass replaced Anthony Pilkington with the Republic of Ireland international dropping to the bench after Snodgrass was passed fit following a groin problem which ruled him out against the Blues.
Hughton elected to retain the same formation which worked so well against Manuel Pellegrini’s side - Alex Tettey and Bradley Johnson patrolling in front a back four and Leroy Fer pushed further forward in support of Gary Hooper.
Ricky van Wolfswinkel again started on the bench alongside Wes Hoolahan and the recalled Johan Elmander. West Ham named an unchanged line up from the weekend’s 2-0 Premier League win at Aston Villa with Kevin Nolan bidding to add to his four goals in two outings to ease the Hammers further away from the Premier League’s bottom three.
Mark Noble looked to set the tempo in the early sparring with the homegrown product demanding the ball from Adrian to try and get the hosts on the front foot.
Fer left an early calling card on the midfielder 30 yards out but City cleared their lines at the third attempt after Seb Bassong and Johnson could only partially deal with Noble’s hanging set piece. The dangerous Nolan was subdued by Bassong after Noble’s flick freed the prolific attacking midfielder but Snodgrass ran down a cul de sac in Norwich’s attempts to launch a sharp counter.
City did open up the hosts in the ninth minute when Johnson picked out Nathan Redmond who drove at Guy Demel before lifting towards Hooper, but Adrian was able to scramble across his goal line to push the striker’s flick header behind.
Sam Allardyce made his first foray to the edge of the home technical area in the aftermath to berate his central midfielders for allowing Johnson time to trigger a probing incursion before Fer was penalised for what looked a genuine attempt to hack the ball away in front of Matt Taylor. Bassong’s positioning proved sound to deal with Stewart Downing’s set piece.
City should have taken the lead in the 18th minute when Redmond cut inside his marker and picked out Snodgrass’ superb run but with just Adrian to beat the Norwich midfielder’s attempted lift eight yards out struck the home keeper.
Ruddy’s handling was secure at the opposite end to foil Matt Jarvis with West Ham stung into an instant riposte.
James Tomkins’ last ditch intervention denied the late-arriving Johnson who looked favourite to despatch Snodgrass’ cut back after Ruddy’s accurate kick initially freed Hooper. Back came the hosts with Carlton Cole swivelling 16 yards out but drilling straight at Ruddy and Noble was the latest to test City’s England man in the 26th minute with a first time right footed shot guided towards his top corner which Ruddy comfortably gathered.
Downing’s swinging effort from distance underlined West Ham’s relative inability to threaten around the vicinity of Ruddy’s goalmouth during the opening 30 minutes with Norwich undeniably carving out the two best chances through Hooper and Snodgrass.
City survived a trademark set piece barrage from Allardyce’s men when Bassong’s far post intervention alleviated the growing danger after Norwich failed to clear Jarvis’ corner. Hughton’s side now found themselves pinned back for arguably the first concerted spell in a game where they had carried the greater attacking threat. Dangerman Nolan wriggled free, but his near post header bounced up at Ruddy.
Martin Olsson needlessly earned the first caution of the match following his decision to slam in a shot seconds away after referee Oliver had blown for an earlier infringement. Fer’s slip invited Noble forward, but the cute turn to lose Bassong was the precursor to a wayward finish.
Tettey and Nolan then had a frank discussion seconds later when the Norwegian international berated Oliver for not evening up the crime count after Cole held him back. Tettey surged forward once play resumed to bring another fine stop out of Adrian after latching onto Hooper’s slip pass to unleash a right footed shot beaten away by the Hammers’ keeper.
Hughton kept faith with the same starters on the restart with Norwich forcing two early corners that provoked few real alarms in the home ranks. Olsson required treatment after a clash of heads with Matt Taylor but the Hammers’ fans displayed precious little sympathy towards the dazed Swedish international.
Redmond led the breakout before feeding Tettey who dragged a shot straight at Hooper but the former Celt’s first time finish 20 yards out lacked any venom. Olsson further incurred the home supporters’ wrath when he neatly turned Demel before a swerving strike on his left veered away from Adrian’s far post. Snodgrass rifled into the terraces just past the hour mark after a prolonged lull in the action with both sides increasingly cancelling each other out in a congested midfield before Ruddy collected yet another cross much to the chagrin of the frustrated home supporters.
Adrian denied Hooper with his legs in the 68th minute after City carved out a fourth clear-cut chance through Johnson’s accurate pass in behind Collins. Redmond was the latest Norwich player to try his luck with the visitors re-establishing the dominance of the opening period but this time Adrian could watch his right foot finish slide wide.
Hooper was withdrawn for Elmander for the final 15 minutes, but Norwich were indebted to Ruddy who denied Diame 10 yards out after Nolan freed the unmarked substitute.
Joseph Yobo then volleyed onto the roof of the Hammers’ net at the opposite end from seven yards after Snodgrass’ corner caused mayhem inside the home penalty area. But City were undone in the 84th minute when Collins crashed home a header six yards out after Ruddy attempted to come for Diame’s cross after the Hammers’ took a quick free kick. City tried to respond with van Wolfswinkel thrown into the fray and Bassong headed at Adrian from Snodgrass’ free kick but Diame sealed the win when he broke the length of the field and rolled a deflected right foot strike beyond the wrong-footed Ruddy.
• West Ham: Adrian, McCartney, Nolan, Tomkins, Jarvis (Diame 61), Taylor, Noble, Collins, Demel, Downing, C Cole (Borriello 45). Subs (not used): Jaaskelainen, Reid, Armero, Collison, Nocerino.
• Booking: Nocerino (foul on Pilkington, 90)
• Goals: Collins (84), Diame (90)
• Norwich: Ruddy, Martin, Yobo, Bassong, Olsson, Tettey (van Wolfswinkel 86), Johnson, Snodgrass, Fer, Redmond (Pilkington 81), Hooper (Elmander 76). Subs (not used): Bunn, Whittaker, Hoolahan, Garrido.
• Bookings: Johnson (foul on Borriello, 60); Pilkington (dissent, 90)
• Added on time: 1 minute / 4 minutes
• Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland)
• Attendance: 31,153