Sunday, 6 November 2016

West Ham held to draw by Stoke, ahead of tough run to Christmas

West Ham 1-1Stoke City

A lack lustre West Ham threw away two points ahead of the international break and the start of a run of four difficult games.

In a game that never really caught fire, the hosts managed one decent chance in the first half when Pedro Obiang rose to meet a Dimitri Payet cross but the keeper Lee Grant pushed the ball away.

It was the 64th minute when West Ham snatched the lead, the  curiously quiet Payet knocking over a cross which Michail Antonio headed home via  a deflection off Glenn Whelan at the near post. The Premier League are putting it down as an own goal, though Antonio will feel aggrieved

The home team then looked comfortable, until keeper Adrian inexplicably came out to intercept a ball on the edge of his penalty area. He completely missed the ball, clattering Jonathan Walters in the process, Ths striker managed to chip the ball across for the onrushing substitute Bojan Krkic to finish.

The goalkeeper made several important saves, not least turning aside a Charlie Adam free kick in the dying minutes but there must be questions over his place in the side. He has given away other goals this season and cannot bring much confidenced to the defenders in front of him, when he continually seems to flap at crosses.

With such a competent deputy as Darren Randolph in the wings its can surely only be a matter of time before the Irish man is given his chance on a regular basis.

West Ham manager Slaven Bilic was standing by his keeper, despite the mistake, “We have a perfectly good goalkeeper, he is still number one,” said Bilic, who hopes to have striker Diafra Sakho back after the internation break. Andy Carroll is also back in training.

The return of both strikers will provide a welcome boost for Bilic, with his team lacking a cutting edge, In this game, record signing Andre Ayew battled away with little reward, while substitute Ashley Fletcher once again lacked confidence.

Bilic admitted his team were too slow in the first half, wanting too many touches. The Hammers now fade Spurs and Manchester United away (twice), followed by Arsenal at home after the international break.

Stoke boss Mark Hughes was pleased with the point and praised the London Stadium as “ a fantastic place.” He did though have some criticism of the surface, as being a bit slow, which did not suit his side’s style of getting the ball down and playing quickly.

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