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Aston Villa 1-0 West Ham Utd

Filed: Saturday, 9th May 2015
By: Staff Writer

West Ham slumped to yet another miserable - and entirely predictable - defeat against one of the Premier League's strugglers at Villa Park this afternoon.

A first half strike from Tom Cleverley was enough to secure a much-needed win for Villa, who are now four points clear of the drop zone with just two fixtures to play.

And what better opposition for them to face on an afternoon when they desperately needed to take all three points than a West Ham side who continue to appear disjointed, dispirited and disinterested?

The Irons' season, effectively over the moment David Sullivan was attacked by angry fans in the car park at West Brom in the FA Cup has lurched from one disappointment to another since that particular Valentine's Day massacre.

Since then, West Ham have managed to win just two games - both by a single goal - against Sunderland and Burnley. So badly have the goals dried up that as things stand, United have scored just three more goals this season than during the 2013/14 Premier League campaign.

Indeed, since the defeat at the Hawthorns - a total of 11 games - West Ham have scored a pitiful tally of just seven goals. With Carlton Cole, Enner Valencia and Nene looking lost without the additional firepower of Diafra Sakho and Andy Carroll, the writing was on the wall this afternoon from the moment Cleverley scored.

The Hammers started the game poorly and with an emphasis on defence (a strange decision, given the almost meaningless nature of the game). With Enner Valencia ploughing a lone furrow in attack - a role he simply fails to shine in - the only surprise was that it took the hosts a full 13 minutes to fashion a decent shot at goal.

Benteke and Delph then went close, before the deciding goal arrived. A break on the left-hand side saw Grealish find the byeline before pulling the ball back to Cleverley, in acres of space, to add the finishing touch.

That he was afforded so much room was due to marker Kevin Nolan - who had been tracking his run - shutting off a second too early, allowing the former Man United midfielder to roam into the box unattended.

Having barely made an impression ahead of the break Sam Allarydyce rang the changes, altering his team's shape to the 442 diamond that proved so fruitful in the first half of the season. The ineffective Nolan was hooked for Alex Song whilst Nene replaced the equally anonymous Morgan Amalfitano.

The new shape worked - to a degree, at least - for it took Villa until the 85th minute to fashion their first shot at goal following the half time interval. West Ham were not exactly raining shots down upon Shay Given though, and the Irish stopper rarely had to intervene; only once, when a James Collins header was looping under the crossbar was he forced to make a save.

Bar Collins' nod there were chances for Nene (a dipping volley inches too high) and ... Nene (another volley that narrowly missed its intended target) - although too often the Hammers failed to make the most of Villa's reluctance to break forward in numbers.

Valencia briefly thought he'd grabbed the equaliser when finding the net through Nene's delivery, although TV replays appeared to suggest the linesman was right - just! - to flag for offside.

Close, but no cigar: Valencia (centre of pic) is marginally offside as the ball is delivered

And in the end substitute Gabriel Agbonlahor should have wrapped the game with a glorious chance in the fourth minute of added-on time but a fantastic tackle from Hammer of the Year Aaron Cresswell meant the chance went begging.

Next up for West Ham is the visit of Everton for the final home league game of the season. If anyone can be bothered to turn up, that is.

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