West Ham United have been dealt a major blow in their battle to stay up after it was confirmed that they will be without Andy Carroll for their next three matches after the Football Association rejected an appeal against the striker's red card in Saturday's 2-0 victory over Swansea City.
Carroll was sent off by Howard Webb after a clash with Chico Flores during the second half at Upton Park. However, replays showed that after an aerial tussle Carroll had caught Chico on the top of the head with a stray arm, only for the Swansea defender to fall to the ground clutching his face.
Sam Allardyce announced West Ham's intention to appeal immediately after the match and also criticised Chico's play-acting, with Swansea's manager, Michael Laudrup, agreeing that the sending off looked harsh. But after assessing written evidence from the match officials and West Ham, as well as video footage of the incident, a three-man FA Independent Regulatory Commission rejected the claim for wrongful dismissal, ruling that "no obvious" error had been made.
The decision to uphold the decision drew a furious reaction from Carroll, who tweeted: "DISGRACEFUL!!!" However, West Ham will not pursue the matter further, accepting that there is nothing more that they can do about it now.
"West Ham United's Andy Carroll will serve a three-match suspension with immediate effect after his claim of wrongful dismissal was rejected by an Independent Regulatory Commission," the FA said in a statement. "Carroll was dismissed for violent conduct during West Ham's game against Swansea City on Saturday (1 February, 2014).
"As stated in the Rules and Regulations of The FA, an Independent Regulatory Commission must apply the test of whether the decision to dismiss a player was 'an obvious error'. The decision of an Independent Regulatory Commission in relation to a claim of wrongful dismissal is final and binding on all parties and is not subject to appeal."
Losing Carroll for Saturday's trip to Aston Villa on Saturday and home matches against Norwich City and Southampon on 11 and 22 February respectively comes as a huge setback for West Ham, whose results had improved after the 25-year-old's return to the first team following a heel injury that had kept him out of action since last May. West Ham had struggled for goals for much of the season in Carroll's absence but have earned seven points in four matches since he regained fitness. Carroll set up both of Kevin Nolan's goals against Swansea and also created Mark Noble's goal in the 2-0 win at Cardiff City last month.
Carroll's suspension means that West Ham, who are 18th and a point behind Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion, will only have two strikers available for the rest of February. Modibo Maïga was allowed to join Queens Park Rangers on loan last week, so Allardyce must choose between Carlton Cole and Marco Borriello, who is yet to feature after his arrival on loan from Roma, to deputise for Carroll.
Borriello played in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Southend United on Tuesday afternoon as he looks to step up his match fitness. The Italian looked sharp, hitting the post with a free-kick, and there were also appearances for Winston Reid and Ricardo Vaz Tê, who are both on their way back from long-term injuries.