Club Focus – West Ham – All’s well after Tigers mauling

A fairly quiet week off the pitch for West Ham, something which is a massive positive for everybody at the club. With all the controversy of recent weeks and all the negative press the club has received, the only noises coming from the club were rallying cries from players to supporters about making the Boleyn Ground a cauldron for the massive six-pointer against Hull City.

The fans responded magnificently as Hull were blown away by the Hammers’ intensity and clear desire to keep the club in the top flight. It was also Gianfranco Zola’s biggest win in charge of the Hammers and all of a sudden West Ham have attacking options galore compared to the sorry state of first team affairs a couple of months ago, where the team seemed to have no cutting edge or any options at all. Although it was a poor Hull City side that arrived at Upton Park – and they are a side who are staring the prospect of no away wins in a season in the face – West Ham still had to get it right. Hull weren’t helped by Craig Fagan’s petty sending off but the Irons were an irresistible force going forward, with Julien Faubert, Alessandro Diamanti and Valon Behrami all outstanding. The Behrami army loved the Swiss international’s performance as he bagged his first goal of the season, and murmurings that his family is unsettled in England and are looking to move abroad will be a worry to the manager and supporters alike.

The re-introduction of Guillermo Franco into the starting line-up will have left some Hammers fans a little bewildered, especially with the re-born Mido looking lively in his appearances in claret and blue so far. Ilan’s debut goal at Turf Moor also made him a candidate, but Zola opted for the 32-year-old Mexican. Zola’s choice however was strongly justified as Franco worked hard throughout before being substituted for Ilan with half an hour left. It took him only a matter of minutes to make an impact on the game, as his inadvertent lay-off for the inspired Behrami got West Ham well on their way in this must-win encounter. Behrami was in sensational form and only a string of fantastic saves from Hull keeper Boaz Myhill prevented him from scoring a half hour hat-trick. A superb rasping shot from Behrami was pushed around the post and then a sensational save prevented him from scoring his first header for the club.

The task West Ham faced became easier as the game progressed, as Fagan’s petulant sending off and Anthony Gardner’s serious looking injury when Hull had used all three substitutes, gave the Tigers no realistic chance of mounting a comeback. It was the first time this season that West Ham have been able to record back-to-back victories – and with trips to Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and the Emirates coming up – it is an obvious thing to point out that their form and results gained at Upton Park will be massive as the club aims to stay in the Premier League. Carlton Cole produced another strong performance and scored his second goal in as many games. His presence back up front is massive, and his tidy finish shows he hasn’t become rusty during his spell on the sidelines. Cole is surely an outside candidate for a World Cup spot and if his form remains this impressive and he scores goals which help keep the Hammers in the Premier League, Capello won’t be able to ignore him. The role of partner to Wayne Rooney has been hotting up in recent weeks, with Emile Heskey and Peter Crouch the main choices and Carlton Cole and Hammers old boy Bobby Zamora now joining the race.

After the game Zola seemed to have his feet on the ground despite the excellent result. He commented that he believes West Ham can do much better, and with their increasing strength in depth fans will hope they can make a steady move up the table. Avoiding heavy defeats in the next three away games will be crucial, as West Ham’s goal difference is a large advantage they hold over their relegation rivals.

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