Saturday, 9th November 2013
Despite producing some of the best football they've played all season in the opening half Sam Allardyce's side capitulated after the break, conceding three goals in the space of 37 minutes against a Norwich side that conceded seven without reply at Manchester City last weekend.
The kind of performance that had relegation written all over it, a series of awful individual errors combined with a worrying lack of drive and intent condemned Allardyce's shellshocked side to a second away defeat of the campaign.
Yet it had all started so brightly for the Hammers, who enjoyed near total domination in the first half and deservedly lead at the break thanks to Ravel Morrison's fifth goal of the season.
However both Allardyce and his players will have felt disappointed that they hadn't managed to fully capitalise on their supremacy by adding further goals.
The deadlock was broken on the half-hour mark following a clever move on the left involving Razvan Rat and Kevin Nolan.
The Romanian's low cross found Kevin Nolan whose initial shot was blocked, before the Hammers captain managed to turn the ball back into the centre to meet Morrison's run.
Nolan in particular enjoyed the freedom of Carrow Road in the first half, where Norwich's four-man midfield simply couldn't cope with West Ham's 4-6-0 formation.
He should have scored after only 12 minutes when his telegraphed shot was stopped by the feet of City 'keeper John Ruddy - and also 14 minutes later when he failed to connect properly with one of several good crosses from the left by Rat. However he more than atoned for those errors with his part in West Ham's only goal.
The half time break couldn't have come soon enough for Chris Hughton, whose team had been completely overrun up to that point. But whatever it was he said to his team at the break worked wonders, for they looked a different prospect after the break.
It took City just nine minutes after the restart to draw level - and not for the first time in the second half, West Ham only had themselves to blame. As Jaaskelainen rose to collect a cross, he fumbled it before tripping Norwich's Gary Hooper as he scrambled to reach the loose ball. Hooper stepped up himself to blast City level from the spot.
West Ham then survived a major scare when Johnny Howson's dipping volley crashed against the crossbar. Once again it was a West Ham error - this time by Mark Noble who gave the ball away 30 yards from goal - that led to the chance.
But the Hammers failed to heed that warning and two minutes later Norwich took the lead when Robert Snodgrass despatched a curling free kick into the near post. Jaaskelainen, as is too often the case, failed to move from his standing position as the ball flew past him.
Not for the first time this season West Ham had been a victim of a terrible decision by the referee, with James Collins penalised for foul play when he accidentally collided with an opponent just outside the penalty box. But that was of little concern to the home side who had somehow managed to completely turn the game around.
The home side still had time to rub salt into West Ham's wounds however - and Leroy Fer, who would usually have trouble picking up the banjo let alone hitting a barn door with it shrugged off a weak challenge from James Tomkins before sliding the ball past Jaaaskelainen from 12 yards deep into injury time.
In the end it was a combination of personal moments of madness and a dodgy refereeing decision that cost West Ham dearly today. However had they made the most of their numerous chances in a first half which they dominated, Norwich would have been all but beaten before the second half even started.
That lack of goals has been West Ham's Achilles heel all season - and shows no sign of abating.
Sam Allardyce, when reflecting upon the game will no doubt refer to a Snodgrass "worldy" that put Norwich ahead for the first time in the game, in much the same vein as he did when speaking of Leighton Baines' brace for Everton and Jermaine Pennant's free kick for Stoke earlier this season- all of which beat Jussi Jaaskelainen from a similar distance.
But if Big Sam is seeking a common denominator he should perhaps look no further than his goalkeeper - for as keen observers will have noticed, Jaaskelainen failed to move from his standing position for any of the above goals, something that must have been noted by our opponents. Basically, hit the target and it's a goal.
Whilst Jaaskelainen looks far from reassuring in goal, at the other end of the pitch captain Kevin Nolan is currently a shadow of his former self. As calls for him to be dropped as a result of poor form increase, it remains to be seen how long Allardyce will persist with a player who is clearly struggling right now.
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Gave Norwich a way back into the game when they couldn't find one - and it's never good to see a 'keeper left flatfooted on a free kick.
Supported the attack well before the break but rarely got forward in the second half. Made a couple of important blocks to deny Norwich.
Enjoyed the freedom of Carrow Road in the first half but like Demel, was hemmed in thereafter.
There it is again - that one error per game that too often proves too costly. And he didn't even mean it this time...
Put in some sterling tackles but shouldn't have gone to ground when faced by the goalshy Fer.
Sprayed the ball around well without making too many incisive passes that really hurt the opposition. Lucky not to be punished when carelessly giving the ball away in his own third.
Worked hard but there's very little end product coming from Jack at the moment. Perhaps he'll just need a bit more time.
A bright start but faded away as the game wore on. A clever run earned him another goal to add to the list.
Woefully out of sorts and very lucky to stay on as long as he did.
Worked the flanks hard and looked lively - although again, an incisive touch is sorely lacking.
A busy first half could (and perhaps should) have brought him two goals to add to his assist for Morrison's strike. After the break he was - like the rest of his team - virtually anonymous.
Diame has been out of favour since failing to put in a shift at Burnley. There were few signs here that a corner had been turned.
CC currently looks a long way shy of full fitness. With his short-term deal up in January, he doesn't have long left to make a case for another contract.
Little time to have an effect on the game but he'll be happy with the appearance money nonetheless.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Joey O Brien
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: Jonathan Moss.
Man of the Match: Guy Demel.
West Ham United
Jussi Jaaskelainen, Guy Demel, Razvan Rat, James Collins, James Tomkins, Mark Noble, Jack Collison, Ravel Morrison, Joe Cole, Stewart Downing, Kevin Nolan.
Goals: Ravel Morrison 32 .
Booked: Kevin Nolan .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
John Ruddy, Russell Martin, Michael Turner, Ryan Bennett, Martin Olsson, Robert Snodgrass, Jonathan Howson, Leroy Fer, Anthony Pilkington, Johan Elmander, Gary Hooper.
Substitutes: Nathan Redmond (Anthony Pilkington 33), Bradley Johnson (Gary Hooper 87).
Subs not used: Steven Whittaker, Wes Hoolahan, Sebastien Bassong, Mark Bunn, Luciano Becchio.
Goals: Hooper (pen 54), Snodgrass (72), Fer (90+1).
Booked: None booked..
Sent Off: None sent off..