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Hull City 2-2 West Ham United

Filed: Monday, 15th September 2014
By: Staff Writer

Big Sam's new-look Hammers came from behind twice to earn a point at the KC Stadium tonight - and it was the very least they deserved.

Much of the criticism aimed at manager Allardyce in recent months has centred on a perceived negative style of football, where attacking verve is stymied in preference for defensive stability. (Some, of course, just don't like him - which is fair enough.)

The loss of the (partly-mythical) 'West Ham way', an attacking philosophy with the onus very much on throwing caution to the wind - where defensive solidity is a secondary concern - is the antithesis of the style Allardyce's teams have become associated with throughout a long, eventful career.

It's unfortunate perhaps that this perception has shaped much of his time at the Boleyn Ground, where he has maintained his position since the summer of 2011 in the face of much adversity. However there were yet more signs tonight that Big Sam's West Ham can produce the kind of football many fans - including those in the Boardroom - wish to see.

A classic 'West Ham way' performance in many ways, the Irons conceded two soft goals - one either side of the break - but responded on both occasions before coming a gnat's wing away from snatching all three points in the last few seconds of extra time.

As a spectacle, the match was perhaps an unexpected treat for both neutrals and partisans alike. Shunted out to the Monday night slot where the less fashionable clubs often find themselves, these two teams provided an exhilarating spectacle in which both sides could have left with three points.

That neither did was probably the fairest outcome, although the Hammers certainly have reason to feel the more disgruntled of the two not to leave with a victory under their belt. Having enjoyed 60 per cent of possession, the Hammers racked up 16 shots at goal (albeit only four on target) to Hull's 11 (six on target), with 10 corners to City's meagre tally of three.

But what ultimately counts of course are the chances that end up in the back of the net - and although West Ham had gone close several times beforehand, it was the home side who drew first blood when Abel Hernandez - the Tiger's recent 10million signing from Palermo - stretched ahead of James Tomkins to steer home Elmohamady's 39th-minute cross.

It was the second successive game in which the Hammers had conceded on the stroke of half time, but the response couldn't have been better. Diafra Sakho, perhaps the best player on the park overall hinted at what was to come when he delivered two great balls from the right in the opening minutes of the second half.

When Enner Valencia, the much-discussed 12million man collected the ball on the edge of the City box five minutes after the restart there appeared to be little on; the movement from surrounding team mates was non-existent and he was well guarded by opposing defenders.

Then, touching the ball to his right, Valencia produced an extraordinary shot which, less than a second later, was bulging the back of Allan McGregor's net. Technically superb, the power required to fire a virtually dead ball at close to 80mph was the mark of a world-class finisher. West Ham's decision to part with 12million big ones vindicated, in one sweet stroke.

West Ham's joy at restoring parity was to last for just 14 minutes. Aaron Cresswell's throw towards goal from deep in his own half was perhaps ill-advised, certainly ill-judged; Cheikhou Kouyate lost out to Mo Diame and the midfielder, displaying the kind of talent that was too rarely seen at the Boleyn burst towards the penalty box before dispatching his effort into the far corner.

Hull's joy, like that of West Ham, was short-lived. Diafra Sakho, once again picking up the ball on the right cut inside before firing somewhat hopefully towards goal. On this occasion, McGregor failed to avert the former Metz striker's effort and could only watch helplessly as it rolled over the line - just three minutes after Diame's goal.

Sakho went close again five minutes later but McGregor was equal to it this time, tipping the Senegalese forward's looping header over the bar. However it was his Ecuadorian strike partner who almost won the game with just five seconds of the four added minutes remaining.

Stewart Downing, exceptional in a free(r) role tonight teased his way to the byline before delivering a dipping cross that Valencia forced goalwards. McGregor was beaten again, but former Tottenham defender Michael Dawson used his upper arm to clear the ball off the line - and secure a point for his new side.

Despite the disappointment at not snatching the win with that chance, there were far more positives for Big Sam to take out of tonight's performance than negatives. Whilst Sakho and Downing were the pick of the bunch, the entire performance was full of attacking intent - and the new players appear to be fitting in well.

Three more new signings made debuts tonight - Carl Jenkinson, Morgan Amalfitano and Alex Song, who at times looked a cut above anyone else on the pitch - giving Allardyce a major selection headache ahead of this weekend's visit of last season's Premier League runners-up, Liverpool.

With Matt Jarvis, Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll still to re-enter the equation, Allardyce now has genuine competition for places throughout the squad (with perhaps the exception of central defence). It bodes well for the immediate future of the club - as does tonight's thoroughly encouraging performance.

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