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Monday Musings: A decent week

Filed: Monday, 15th February 2016
By: Graeme Howlett

It's often said that in order to enjoy a productive season, a team should aspire to win its home games and try not to lose too many away. In that sense, it's been a pretty perfect week for West Ham United.

Slaven Bilic's side began it in superb fashion last Tuesday evening in front of a full house at the Boleyn, enticed to this FA Cup fourth round replay by cheaper tickets. Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool team were put to the sword for the third time this season - although it took extra time plus a very late and wildly-celebrated Angelo Ogbonna goal to separate the two on this occasion.

That left West Ham with a record against the Reds this season of played four, won three and drawn one - with a goal tally of 7-1. That's unprecedented in modern history and indicative of the positive progress West Ham are making this season, their last before moving to Stratford's Olympic Stadium.

The reward for that success was a fifth round trip to Blackburn, who are currently struggling in the Championship having recently sold their key player, striker Jordan Rhodes to rivals Middlesbrough. Which, as all long-suffering Hammers fans know only too well, probably points to a Rovers win next weekend!

Game over: somewhere underneath it all is match-winner Angelo Ogbonna

Prior to that it was back to the Premier League with the Hammers facing a trip to Norwich on Saturday, a team against whom the Irons had managed to snatch a point against at the Boleyn earlier in the season having come from behind twice to grab a 2-2 draw.

And it was a similar story in the return leg at Carrow Road, where an out-of-form Canaries team that had suffered five defeats in its last six games swept into a 2-0 lead having scored twice within nine minute at the beginning of the second half. At least the Hammers kept a clean sheet in the opening 45 minutes this week!

In years gone by that may have been the catalyst for a claret and blue capitulation. However Bilic's side are made of stronger stuff and can always count on the brilliant Dimitri Payet, who signed a new, improved contract this week in order to stave off interest from elsewhere in England and abroad.

With little more than quarter-of-an-hour remaining, Payet was well-placed to convert a Vic Moses shot that had been spilled by John Ruddy to halve the deficit - and within two minutes of that, Mark Noble fired home a superb equaliser after being teed-up by a sublime pass from Payet.

The great leveller: Mark Noble makes it 2-2 at Carrow Road

Bilic admitted in a post-match interview that he had hoped to win the game, but was happy with a point given the circumstances that led to it. Even though his team have won just four of their last 16 Premier League outings, it was enough to keep the Hammers seventh in the Premier League having finally reached the magic 40-point mark - and with 12 more league games still to play this season.

Next week Bilic will be accompanied on his travels by more than 7,500 travelling fans as the Hammers attempt to book a place in this year's FA Cup quarter finals at Ewood Park. Should his team manage to win that, a home tie at the Boleyn Ground in the last eight might just be the perfect send-off to the club's spiritual home.

* An abridged version of this article first appeared in The Echo.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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