An entertaining 3-3 draw did little for West Ham's hopes of staying up
An entertaining game for the neutral but Sam Allardyce would have preferred a dirty 1-0 win. Instead he got a thrilling 3-3 draw which doesn't do anything for his side, who have now failed to beat Aston Villa, Stoke, Sunderland and West Brom at home. Those kind of results send you down. Today it was the defence that let West Ham down, a consequence of the absence of James Collins, Winston Reid and James Tomkins. If Sunderland win later, West Ham will be bottom. A point only keeps West Brom, who have not won since 2 November, in 15th place, two points above the bottom three. Thanks for reading. Bye.
90 min+4: Amalfitano blazes over from the right.
90 min+2: Nerves for West Ham as Anelka heads the ball down to Sessegnon, who can't move quickly enough in the six yard box.
90 min: Jonas Olsson - or possible Ridgewell - is booked for complaining that Maiga isn't ten yards away with West Brom in possession of a free-kick on the halfway line. Four minutes will be added on.
89 min: Amalfitano's cross comes off Rat's arm inside the area but it was too close to his body for Mike Dean to give a penalty. The loose ball is seized upon by Mulumbu, whose shot is deflected into Jaaskelainen's grasp.
88 min: Demel crosses from the right and Nolan's header flies wide, though it seemed to come off a West Brom defender last. Not in Mike Dean's opinion though.
86 min: Anelka heads a ball down to Sessegnon, who's got space on the left of the area. But despite a nutmeg on O'Brien, he can't make the most of the situation.
85 min: Stephane Sessegnon replaces Saido Berahino, much to West Ham's relief.
83 min: On comes Jack Collison for Joe Cole. But West Brom are pressing. Amalfitano squeezes a pass through to Berahino but Jaaskelainen gets there a mili-second before him.
82 min: Saido Berahino has some talent. That is clear. Jussi Jaaskelainen could only stand and watch as the youngster's free-kick was bent around the wall and curled back, only to ping off the face of the left post. What an effort. He holds his head in hands.
81 min: The corner is cleared as far as Brunt, who is clattered by Diame this far outside the area. A bad tackle and a stupid tackle. Diame is booked. The free-kick is slightly wide and to the left.
80 min: Some of the passing from West Ham suggests they are trying to lose this. Jones wins a corner on the right for West Brom, who look the fresher side.
78 min: Not only might Maiga have been offside when he scored, his shot also seemed to brush off Nolan's hand on its way through! Not that the officials could have seen it without the aid of a ridiculously slow replay or that it was intentional. Nice to know, though. Knowledge is power. Claudio Yacob replaces James Morrison.
77 min: Ridgewell darts down the left for West Brom. His cross was headed down by Nolan but Diame was having a nice snooze and allowed Brunt to nip in front of him, only to shoot straight at Jaaskelainen.
73 min: Respect the point.
72 min: A free-kick to West Brom, 25 yards out. Morrison's powerful effort isn't powerful enough to beat the wall.
70 min: Just before the West Brom equaliser, Morgan Amalfitano replaced Diego Lugano.
Seriously. West Ham have shot themselves in the foot. Having taken the lead, they dropped off and West Brom poured forward. Brunt located Berahino on the left of the area and he dropped a shoulder to evade Demel, going down the outside and on to his left foot. He still had a lot to do from a very tight angle but he hammered an outstanding shot across Jaaskelainen and in off the inside off the far post. Though if you shoot to Jaaskelainen's left, you tend to score.
Kevin Nolan scores his first goal since the opening day of the season and West Ham lead! What a turnaround in the space of a few minutes. Their tails were up after Maiga's equaliser and with the crowd baying for blood, they attacked again. West Brom didn't know what had hit them and Noble managed to eke out a bit of space on the left. He crossed to the far post for Maiga, who headed down for Nolan, lurking in the Nolan Zone, to hook a volley into the roof of the net from two yards out.
This time Ben Foster does not cover himself in glory! Having denied Maiga a few moments ago, this time he allows the West Ham forward to equalise with an almost identical effort, albeit a lower one. A long ball forward found Nolan, who found Maiga to his right. He might have been offside but the flag stayed down and he curled the ball towards the bottom-right corner from 25 yards with his left foot and Foster somehow allowed it to slip underneath him!
63 min: Modibo Maiga goes so close to equalising for West Ham with a brilliant effort. He did well to pick up possession on the right of the area, before cutting inside, working the ball on to his left foot and curling the ball towards the top-right corner, only for Foster to fly to his right and push it over. The corner leads to nothing. Maiga is extremely unfortunate.
62 min: More boos. Allardyce is increasingly vulnerable. Newspaper editors up might want to be prepared for an announcement at 6.57pm this evening.
60 min: The crowd is getting restless. An aimless hoof forward has just brought a few boos.
59 min: The belief has completely sapped out of West Ham. They have been atrocious since West Brom equalised.
57 min: Nolan is booked for catching Brunt late. For a moment, I thought Mike Dean might have been reaching for his red card.
56 min: West Brom clear a cross. It's goes as far as Diame, whose volley dribbles around 15 yards wide. They're getting closer. "The commentator for the Australian broadcast of the match has made the point Noble hasn't scored in four and a half years," says Phil Withall. "Kind of sums up the Hammers problem." It would if it was true. He's scored this season.
55 min: Nolan taps the ball to Cole and although no West Brom defender bothers charging him down, he curls well wide of the left post.
54 min: I know this might come as a surprise but West Ham just had a free-kick which was headed away. Nonetheless the ball falls to Jarvis, who's tripped by Jones on the edge of the D. Three players stand over the ball, each of them convinced they can find the top tier.
52 min: West Brom want a third and they're probably going to get it, let's not kid ourselves. Saido Berahino is allowed too much space on the right of the area and rasps a low shot inches past the far post. I doubt Jaaskelainen was getting there.
51 min: Persistence from Nolan and strength from Demel leads to West Ham winning an unlikely corner on the right. It's headed away by Jones and falls to Rat, whose bouncing volley from 25 yards is straight at Foster. Then Maiga heads down to Noble, whose volley from just outside the D is dragged wide.
49 min: Nothing happens.
48 min: Mulumbu is booked for clattering Jarvis on the left, although it was a bit unlucky, as he slipped. West Ham have a free-kick in a promising position.
47 min: Joey O'Brien allows a long ball to drift over his head and through to Berahino, who finds Morrison on the edge of the area. His sighter is blocked. West Brom continue to attack, though, and Jones drives down the right and cuts the ball back to Anelka, who's now on a hat-trick. His low flick from six yards out is gathered by Jaaskelainen.
46 min: Modibo Maiga is on for West Ham, replacing Carlton Cole, who spent the first half can't controlling and kicking West Brom's defenders. Maiga has not scored a league goal for more than a year.
I neglected to mention that those were Nicolas Anelka's first goals for West Brom. I'm not surprised, either by my own or West Ham's uselessness. If you need a win or a goal, they are the perfect opposition.
"Curious that every time West Brom score, their gaffer jots something down on his notepad," says Daniel Montefusco. "What could it be? Goal? Smiley acid face? Remember to let the cat in? Bizarre. Is anyone else curious? No? Thought not." His job application.
West Ham haven't won or drawn a game in which they've conceded a goal this season and they've only scored more than one goal on four occasions. This bodes well.
West Ham will grumble about the award of the corner but here's an idea: defend it properly. To be honest, they've not really played that well since going ahead. Matt Jarvis keeps running down the left wing and crossing to no one - sometimes he wins a corner. That's about it. There have been so many times this season when they have been dominant in games without ever looking like scoring and Ben Foster hasn't had to make a save since Joe Cole's goal in the fourth minute.
Boos greeted that half-time whistle from the home fans but I suspect they were directed at Mike Dean, who is up to his old tricks.
Mike Dean brings an end to a first half which began so well for West Ham and which ended so badly for them. They took the lead through Joe Cole but then lost James Tomkins, their last fit centre-back, and West Brom have taken full advantage in the final five minutes of the half thanks to two goals from Nicolas Anelka, the first of which was very good indeed.
Oh dear. Nicolas Anelka, back to haunt his former manager, Sam Allardycem, scores for the second time in six minutes and West Brom lead. West Ham will be furious, though, because the corner which led to the goal really should have been a goal-kick, the ball coming off James Morrison instead of Joe Cole on the left. But a corner it was and from there West Ham didn't defend properly. Brunt drilled it in from the left and Olsson won the first header. It was thighed away by Carlton Cole, standing by the right post, but Anelka was on hand to smuggle it past the grounded Jaaskelainen, who got something on it but not enough. The home fans chunter.
45 min: Jarvis generates another corner on the left. It's cleared.
44 min: Olsson has a nasty wound on his thigh thanks to Cole's studs. A late Christmas present for the big Swede, though he doesn't look too happy about it. Weird.
42 min: Now West Ham are on the back foot. Berahino shoots from the right. Blocked. The ball is cleared up field and Carlton Cole, who's already clattered McAuley, gets one in on Olsson for good measure. He's booked. Olsson has a sore thigh.
West Ham fail to heed the warning and Nicolas Anelka shows Chris Brunt how it's done. Though Brunt did show why he was so keen to get the ball on his left foot, because this was a glorious pass to find Anelka, knocked almost lazily on the volley through the West Ham defence with the outside of his boot. Once through, Anelka never looked like missing and he sat Jaaskelainen down before calmly rolling it past the goalkeeper with his right foot. He finished so coolly. A bit like Carlton Cole, actually.
38 min: Having done absolutely nothing for a while, West Brom suddenly wake up, Mulumbu piercing the West Ham defence with an excellent pass through to Brunt. He was clean through on goal but the ball was on his right foot and he wimped out of shooting, instead allowing the ball to run across his body and away from a shooting position, before he handily passed to a covering West Ham defender. Premier League footballer, there.
35 min: Mark Noble has been playing for West Ham since 2004 and has never scored a direct free-kick - unless you count the monstrosity against Southampton last season, a cross from the halfway line that was allowed to bounce all the way in by Artur Boruc - so you'll forgive me for not getting excited about him curling one wide from 25 yards here, even if the commentator did say it was close.
32 min: Diame slides a pass through to Carlton Cole and Olsson just about does enough to concede a corner on the left. West Ham are playing increasingly well. West Brom are playing decreasingly well. However the corner is taken short and no one ever scores from short corners. That's a scientific fact.
31 min: This is a good chance for West Ham. Matt Jarvis broke down the left and reached the byline, from where his cross evaded everyone in the middle but found Demel around 20 yards from goal. The right-back wasn't confident enough to shoot and instead disguised a pass to Joe Cole on the right. He lofted the ball into the middle and after it wasn't dealt with properly, the ball fell to Demel on the right of the six-yard box but after turning, he shot wide of the near post. He couldn't quite swivel enough. And is Guy Demel.
30 min: West Brom aren't doing much at the moment, though they're not being given much space by West Ham, who are sitting deep.
28 min: Rat plays a nice ball through to Nolan, scheming between the lines, much like Mesut Ozil. There's a hefty gap left by the West Brom defence for Carlton Cole to run into and Nolan spots it. Naturally Cole runs the other way, making his captain look like the idiot.
25 min: "Am I right to look at Joe Cole and see Jack Wilshere in ten years time?" says Gary Naylor.
24 min: Noble chips the ball into the area! I'm bound! Jones, under pressure from McCartney, heads behind for a corner. Jarvis curls it into the six-yard box where Carlton Cole, grappling with Olsson, heads over.
23 min: Mulumbu, who picked up one of the most ridiculous red cards of all time at Upton Park last season, namely for booting the ball up Gary O'Neil's backside, pulls back a rampaging Noble in a central position. It's around 35 yards out. This will be chipped into the area, I'll be bound.
22 min: Olsson tries to score from 35 yards out. His shot travels 10 yards.
21 min: Now one of West Brom's centre-backs is down - but it's ok, they've got three. McAuley is rubbing his leg after being caught by Carlton Cole. It's just a minor wound.
19 min: West Brom are moving the ball around quickly and confidently. They know this game is there for the taking. If they could just get Lukaku on...
18 min: Anxiety in the crowd as West Brom suddenly find themselves in the area. Anelka looks poised to pull the trigger, his left trigger, only for the ball to slightly run away from him on the left, Demel proving enough of an obstacle. Instead he turns a cross back to Brunt, who has his back to goal. With nothing else on, he tries a backheel through to Berahino, who wasn't on the same wavelength.
17 min: Jarvis, a corner generator, generates a corner on the left. He'll even take it. It's lofted to the far post and into the sunny bit of the pitch which is hard to make out properly and Carlton Cole, I think, heads straight at Foster. "I suppose Anelka is 'a little bit like' Carlton Cole in the same way that Jamie Redknapp is 'a little bit like' Gary Neville," says Simon McMahon. "And the same way that I'm 'a little bit like' Cristiano Ronaldo." Do you also own a pair of white trousers?
15 min: "Look at this new attack-minded West Ham formation!" says Daniel Barnett. "No centre halves, four full-backs. Another Allardyce forward-thinking tactical masterclass (take that, Jonathan Wilson!), or just terrible planning and a dire lack of strength in depth? Draw your own conclusions…" Allardyce has gone into each of his three seasons at West Ham with only three senior centre-backs, which I've never understood. He's got away with it until now.
14 min: This has been an eventful first 15 minutes and not many people expected that. Sam Allardyce, eh.
12 min: West Brom, eager to test this new-look West Ham defence, force a couple of corners, McAuley's header from the first deflected over for another, but the home side are defending stoutly enough for the time being. You fancy they might need to score again, though.
11 min: Brunt swings the corner high to the far post and Olsson's header is easily gathered by Jaaskelainen, who instantly sets Carlton Cole away down the right. He runs at the West Brom defence and spots Jarvis all alone on the left of the area. Cole takes a bit too long to play the pass, though, and by the time he does Jarvis has been forced a bit wide and doesn't trust himself enough to shoot with his left. Instead he rolls it back to the striker, whose shot is blocked. So is Nolan's follow-up. And West Brom attack at pace, Berahino's shot from the left deflected behind for corner.
10 min: West Ham still haven't made the change and Kevin Nolan has dropped into central defence for the time being. Kevin Nolan! West Brom sense an opportunity to attack and win a corner on the right, Rat defending well against Jones. Before the corner is taken, Guy Demel replaces Tomkins. Joey O'Brien will presumably move from right-back to the middle.
9 min: James Tomkins is off but West Ham haven't made a substitution yet.
8 min: This is worrying for West Ham, who are already missing two of their three centre-backs - James Tomkins has gone down feeling his groin and it looks like he won't be able to continue.
6 min: Told you it would be exciting.
Having survived that scare, West Ham go straight up the other end and score! Jussi Jaaskelainen punted his goal-kick deep into West Brom territory. It was flicked on by Carlton Cole to Joe Cole. He played a neat one-two with Kevin Nolan, who touched it through to the winger, who had darted inside from the right. Cole showed good strength to hold off a challenge and then drilled a firm low shot underneath Ben Foster from 12 yards out. That's good news for West Ham, scoring a goal - every time Joe Cole has scored previously this season, they've won. So, two times.
4 min: Mark Sloble dallies in possession on the halfway line and is inevitably tackled. West Brom canter off into the distance, attacking down West Ham's exposed left flank. Berahino causes a problem and the ball is eventually crossed to the far post, where Brunt cushions a volley into the side-netting. A let-off. And what a big let-off. Because...
2 min: It's quiet, West Brom stroking the ball about confidently in these early stages. "I just don't see the point of playing three centre-halves against a side weakened by injuries (carroll, collins, reid, vaz te, morrison), with no attacking firepower (failed to score 50% in the league) and not in form (winless in last five games)," says Alvaro Azanedo Sayan.
Peep! We have football. Of a sort. West Brom, kicking from right to left and towards the Bobby Moore stand in the first half, get the game underway. "There are calls for Malky Mackay to return to Norwich," says Phil Withall. "The old rejuvenation by a former favourite factor. I remember how well that worked out with Bryan Gunn. West Ham and West Brom are welcome to him." You'd think Cardiff were top.
Here come the teams, led out by a stern Mike Dean, perhaps thinking of his dance moves. Bubbles!
A discussion about Nicolas Anelka on Sky leads to Jamie Redknapp suggesting the striker, a Champions League and title winner and formerly of Real Madrid, is "a little bit like Carlton Cole". In the same way that Paul Pogba is the new Patrick Vieira, I suppose.
West Brom, then. The news of Steve Clarke's sacking came as a shock, even if they have been fairly horrendous since the turn of the year. Perhaps it's because they won at Manchester United and were a dodgy penalty away from doing the same at Chelsea. But with the talent available to him, Clarke probably should have been doing better. It still felt a bit premature to get rid of him, though.
"Allardyce will be coming under enormous pressure from the fans if we don't win this," says Tom Shaw. "Malky Mackay's availability is already stirring rumblings among the Upton Park faithful who realise how desperate things are getting."
I don't see the point of sacking Sam Allardyce to get Malky Mackay (who's probably off to West Brom anyway). Part of the complaint about Allardyce is his directness and Cardiff haven't exactly been a joy to watch under Mackay this season.
Sam Allardyce has just referred to "the all-important clean sheet". It's going to be an exciting ride!
Both sides are weakened by injuries. West Ham make a change in goal, Adrian's punishment for allowing Theo Walcott's sneeze to sneak under him a return to the bench after two games in the side. Jussi Jaaskelain regains his place after losing it somewhat surprisingly. In defence, West Ham are missing Winston Reid and James Collins, who is replaced by Razvan Rat, so George McCartney, a left-back, partners James Tomkins. Ravel Morrison is still missing with a groin problem and Andy Carroll needs more horse placenta. West Brom are without Shane Long and Victor Anichebe, both of whom have failed fitness tests, so Nicolas Anelka and Saido Berahino make up their attack. They have a defensive look about them in their 5-3-2 formation, but have some dangerous options on the bench in the shape of Morgan Amalfitano, Scott Sinclair, Stephane Sessegnon and Matej Vydra.
West Ham: Jaaskelainen; O'Brien, Tomkins, McCartney, Rat; Noble, Diame, Nolan; Joe Cole, Can't Control, Jarvis. Subs: Adrian, Collison, Maiga, Taylor, Diarra, Demel, Chambers.
West Brom: Foster; Jones, Olsson, McAuley, Lugano, Ridgewell; Morrison, Brunt, Mulumbu; Berahino, Anelka. Subs: Myhill, Yacob, Amalfitano, Sinclair, Sessegnon, Vydra, Dawson.
Referee: Mike Dean.
Hello. Let us cast our minds back to 24 August 2002 and a match between West Ham and Arsenal at Upton Park. Arsenal were the champions. David Seaman had a ponytail. West Ham had some proper players and Glenn Roeder was their manager. Yet despite that significant handicap, West Ham tore into Arsenal after surviving early pressure. Joe Cole put them 1-0 up just before half-time and Freddie Kanoute made it 2-0 just after the break, poking home Jermain Defoe's cross. From there, Arsenal should have been obliterated but chances were created and chances were missed. Thierry Henry scored a screamer, one of his best; he's surely never hit a ball harder. Arsenal were back in it - and then they should have been out of it. J Cole, fouled by A Cole, won a penalty with not long left. Up stepped Kanoute and he hit the ball with such little power that Seaman could have saved it with his ponytail. Inevitably Sylvain Wiltord equalised for Arsenal with two minutes to go. The match ended 2-2 and West Ham didn't win a home game until the end of January. Down they went, despite being too good to go down - according to the useless chairman, Terry Brown, apparently it was their turn.
Well, the way things are going now, it might about to be their turn again. And the reason I bring up that match 11 years down the line is that it flashed through my mind on Boxing Day as West Ham threatened to pull off an almighty upset against Arsenal at Upton Park. They were 1-0 up in the second half. Arsenal were rocking. Arsenal should have been obliterated - but chances were created and chances were missed. When Carlton Cole, West Ham's "striker", volleyed wide from six yards out, that was their Kanoute moment for the 2013 generation. There followed three Arsenal goals in the space of 11 minutes and with Fulham and Crystal Palace both winning, West Ham dropped into the bottom three. If they don't win against West Brom, managerless and winless since the start of November, today and Sunderland beat Cardiff later, they will be bottom, not entirely surprising given that they have won nine league games in 2013 - it will be interesting to see how Sam Allardyce's gargantuan ego explains that one away.
He is under pressure. West Ham will surely have noticed that all the sides around them have received the tiniest of boosts after changing managers, Palace under Tony Pulis in particular, and going to Upton Park has been a miserable, tedious experience this season. Allardyce claims they are playing well in matches - they're often not - and just need to take their chances. If they can just take their chances! But scoring goals requires skill and composure, it is the hardest thing to do in football, and West Ham aren't good enough at it. That's got nothing to do with luck; if it was, then anyone could do it. Sure, injuries haven't helped and West Ham are missing some important players but the Andy Carroll excuse is wearing thin. West Ham knowingly went into the season with one fit striker, Modibo Maiga, and he has not scored once in the league in 2013. There's not much in Allardyce's favour at the moment, other than the suspicion that he is the man to get them out of this mess, even if it is of his own making. He's not Avram Grant.