West Ham United 2 Derby County 1

  • by Staff Writer
  • Saturday, 19th April 2008

A late Carlton Cole winner was enough to earn all three points against Derby County at the Boleyn Ground this afternoon.

Substitute Cole had been on the field for less than three minutes when he struck 13 minutes from time to end United's run of four games without a win.

However so unconvincing was the victory that a minority of fans still booed the team off at the final whistle - a clear indication of the dissatisfaction currently felt with manager Alan Curbishley and his tactics.

Some 20 minutes earlier those same fans had been chanting 'you don't know what you're doing' at Curbishley after he had decided to replace the ineffectual Freddie Sears with eventual match-winner Cole.

Yet it was the manager who had the last laugh as Cole scored the winning goal just three minutes after entering the fray - although that was clearly not good enough for some disappointed with the standard of football served up on the day.

The Hammers - who had started the game with the local trio of Tomkins, Noble and Sears for the first time - completely dominated the opening 20 minutes of the game and deservedly took the lead when Bobby Zamora nodded home a Lucas Neill free kick from close range.

But bar the goal chances for either side were few and far between ahead of the break - although the Hammers continued to dominate and look the most threatening. Meanwhile Derby had to wait until the 38th minute before seriously threatening Rob Green's goal with a Robbie Savage header that was tipped over by the England keeper.

The second half was a far different story and it was the visitors who controlled the game for long periods - much to the chagrin of an incresingly-impatient home crowd.

Having failed to make the most of their superiority United were always vulnerable and they paid the ultimate price on 65 minutes when former Hammer Tye Mears struck a deserved equaliser for the visitors.

Having escaped being hit on the counter-attack moments earlier thanks to Rob Green's alert goalkeeping there were no excuses for the Hammers as Mears raced through - again - to lift the ball over Green with not a single defender in sight.

The goal served to wake the Hammers from their second-half slumber and Mark Noble should have restored the lead when he could only head straight at another former Hammer, Roy Carroll, in the Derby goal from six yards having stolen a march on his marker.

Moments later Freddie Ljungberg was convinced that he was pulled down by Robbie Savage having raced clean through with only Carroll to beat although his please were ignored by the referee. Then, Bobby Zamora spurned a good chance from close range after a low cross by George McCartney.

Despite the pressure Alan Curbishley decided to ring the changes on 74 minutes by introducing Carlton Cole in place of young Freddie Sears who, in truth, had never got into the game.

And Curbishley showed that, despite claims to the contrary, he knew exactly what he was doing when Cole popped up in the six yard box to convert a low cross from Freddie Ljungberg which had followed an exquisite one two between the Swede and Mark Noble on the edge of the box.

The Hammers briefly threatened to put the game beyond Derby through opening goalscorer Zamora but he was twice denied by Carroll. However it was the Rams who ended the game looking the most likely to score and Robbie Savage should have grabbed a 92nd minute equaliser when gifted a free header on goal which he could only nod tamely over.

The final chance of the game fell to Kenny Miller but his snapshot from 12 yards was fired straight at a grateful Rob Green, who had been kept busier than he may have perhaps expected at the half-time interval.

The win keeps the Hammers in tenth place and a further two points away from Tottenham, who could only draw 1-1 at Wigan. Looking ahead, Blackburn - who are currently in action against Manchester United - are four points away with tonight's game in hand.

West Ham United: Green, Pantsil, Neill, Tomkins,

McCartney, Faubert, Parker, Noble, Ljungberg, Sears, Zamora.

Subs: Walker, Mullins, Solano, Boa Morte, Cole.

Derby County: Carroll, Mears, Stubbs, Todd, Leacock,

Jones, Ghaly, Savage, Lewis, Sterjovski, Miller.

Subs: Price, McEveley, Moore, Feilhaber, Villa.

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