Saints Held By Hammers
Tues 14th Feb 2012
Southampton travelled to Upton Park for a top of the table clash of extreme importance to both them and the Hammers.
The game began with West Ham forcing a good save from Vaz Te in the opening minute. Hammers direct approach was causing a lot of problems to Saints and they could have had a penalty soon after but the referee turned the appeal down.
Saints were having a difficult time trying to get their game going but did make the occasional sortie forward into the West Ham half. The game continued in much the same vein until the 17th minute when a penalty was awarded for a foul by Billy Sharp on Mark Noble.
The decision looked harsh as their appeared to be no contact made and an altercation between Sharp and Matthew Taylor ended up with Sharp falling to the ground. With the assistant flagging for the offence Taylor was handed a red card and the he gave a yellow card to Sharp.
The penalty was finally taken in the 20th minute by Noble and he coolly slotted it past Kelvin Davis by sending him the wrong way. 1-0 to the Hammers and fully justified by their dominance up to that point.
The temperature was rising and tackles began flying in with Carlton Cole and Kelvin Davis getting a few in between them. Though down to 10 men West Ham were still lively and dangerous in attack though now Saints were matching them.
Shots were going in at both ends with some outstanding saves from Green and some good blocking at both ends thwarting the attackers. Tackles were still going in hard and on 28 minutes Cole was booked, followed in the 40th minute with Abdoulaye Faye getting away for a savage tackle on Sharp with only a yellow.
As the game neared half-time and with Saints doing more pressing Lallana took a tumble and was then booked for a blatant dive. It looked as though he had been expecting a tackle which made the theatrical dive look much worse.
The second half began with as much urgency as the first and chances were being made at both ends. Saints were now getting more of the ball but missed chances were costing them dear. Sharp missing another great chance as we searched for an equaliser.
West Ham pressure was ended unfairly by a Jack Cork foul causing him to also booked. From the free kick we conceded a corner and from that we saw Saints clear and race down the other end for Cork to shoot and force Green into another save.
In the 54th minute Jason Puncheon came on in place of Guly do Prado as we continued our search for a goal. Slowly more pressure was being put onto the Hammers defence but they stood firm. On 64 minutes Hammers brought on Nicky Maynard for Carlton Cole.
With Saints now in almost total command Hammers made another substitution on 70 minutes with Gary O'Niell replacing Ricardo Vaz Te. Early on Vaz Te had looked extremely lively as he began his career at Upton Park, but with Saints now dominating he looked a spent force.
Jos Hooiveldt then misdirected a great heading opportunity to level as pressure mounted. But then Billy Sharp was fouled by Abdoulaye Faye for the referee to award a free kick. Daniel Fox restarts play with the free kick which is flicked on to Hooiveldt who prods the ball home to make amends for his narrow miss moments earlier.
More and more pressure was applied by Saints with no further success forthcoming. Two quick substitutions followed with David Connolly coming on for Frazer Richardson who looked troubled by a niggle after a tackle minutes earlier, and Dean Hammond replacing Billy Sharp.
Still the action continued with Hammers throwing an occasional sortie forward and from one of those Jose Fonte foulled Nicky Maynard to earn himself Saints third yellow card of the game. Noble took the resulting free-kick which Davis saved. The game closed with Saints attacking yet again and forcing a save from Green.
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